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I am a pastor’s daughter. I’ve seen firsthand the beauty and pain wrapped up in a life called to ministry for almost 30 years.

I remember the first time I heard someone say something bad about my dad. He and I were working, gathering music in his office one late afternoon, when I heard the harsh words of others.

I looked back at him with tears in my eyes, anger and sorrow stinging my face. It was the first time I remember wondering why he even did it. I wanted him to say something, to call them out, to make them feel sorry for their words.

Yet, there he sat. Calm. Compassionate. Merciful.

He knew who was speaking those words, yet week after week, I watched him love and serve them, as though they had never been heard. And I did the same.

As time went on, I began to notice more of the realities of ministry. I watched him pray over the vision God had given him. I witnessed him working hard to fulfill the vision. Then, I’d hear the disgruntled murmurs. I’d see people roll their eyes, and doubt his efforts.

I watched him pour into people, as they turned their back to him the moment they didn’t like what he had to say. I saw him on his knees praying for so many he genuinely loved. I witnessed the tears of pain that fell from his eyes.

Members would walk up right after service just to tell him how much they hated it. When I’d raise hell on a Saturday night, he would still get up with a heavy heart on Sunday to lead us in worship. Though there were times he didn’t understand God’s plan, he would still choose to trust Him, knowing His plan was good.

Yet, even in the midst of God’s will, even with a family that loved Jesus, even with all the joys of serving . . . ministry was HARD! Ministry hurt. Ministry has cost him . . . cost all of us . . . something. We have the scars to prove it.

The news of California pastor Andrew Stoecklein taking his own life hits far too close to home.

Though my daddy has never experienced depression or anxiety, he’s still felt the searing pain of following God’s will. He’s watched his family bear burdens of ministry. He’s soothed the cries of his daughters, hurt by the church. Yet, he has never wavered in his trust of God’s plan and the anointed calling on his life.

Pastors and their families are not exempt from pain. They are not exempt from guilt or shame. They are not exempt from financial strain. They are not exempt from family dysfunction. They are not perfect. They still sin. They always need grace.

As you walk into church next Sunday, look at your pastor, look over at his wife, watch his children. Look beyond the lead shepherd to the other shepherds and their families.

They are tired. They bear deep burdens. They wrestle with God. Yet, there they are—faithfully serving, unconditionally loving, forever trusting.

As you look upon your pastors, pray for them. Pray for their wives and their children. Invest in them as friends, view them as humans, love them as brothers.

And if you see one of them falling; if you feel a tug in your heart to call; if you notice their wife and children need love—minister to them as they have ministered to you.

Ministry has revealed the true depravity of man. Ministry has etched scars upon my heart. Ministry has placed heavy burdens upon my shoulders.

Yet, it was my Daddy, my pastor, who taught me how to love as Jesus, how to forgive as Jesus, how to serve as Jesus; how to live a life of worship before the throne, always trusting Jesus.

Originally published on Choosing Freelen 

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Arianna Freelen

Arianna is the wife of a rugged man and a mom of three little princesses. She is a photographer, professional furniture re-arranger, purger of all the things, Celine Dion karaoke queen, and Vanilla Dr. Pepper drinker. She loves to write about her Savior, her role as a wife and mother, and finds fulfillment with her arms full of those she loves most. You can learn more about her life at www.choosingfreelen.com and @choosingfreelen.

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