No one understands . . .

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David Epps

“Forsaken,” (adjective), “abandoned or deserted.” Most of us, somewhere in our lives, have been forsaken — abandoned … deserted — by those we thought were close to us. In fact I would say that all clergy, who have been in that task for awhile, have experienced being forsaken, and worse, by people they thought were close to them.

I read on social media that, “Being a pastor is just a walk in the park. It may be Jurassic Park, but it’s still a park.” I can’t tell you the number of times someone has said to me over the years, “I wish I had your job.” And, sometimes, my response has been, “I wish you did too.” I’m going to reveal some clergy secrets to you. Consider this:

• 90 percent of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week and 50 percent feel unable to meet the demands of the job.

• 70 percent of pastors feel grossly underpaid. In the U.S., 62.2 percent of churches do not have a full time pastor but are served by pastors who have a job that pays the bills. Sadly, there is still the idea that the prayer, “Lord, you keep ‘em humble and we’ll keep ‘em poor,” is a godly prayer. The average U.S. salary for a full-time pastor is a little over $39,000 a year.

Most pastors feel unprepared: 90 percent feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands and 90 percent of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.

Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression and 50 percent of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living. And yet, even without knowing what they will do for a living, 1,700 or so pastors leave the ministry each month.

Eighty percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families and 80 percent of clergy spouses feel the pastor is overworked and they feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.

Many pastors are lonely: 70 percent do not have someone — not a single person — they consider a close friend and 40 percent report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

And then there is this:

Fifty percent of the ministers starting out will not last five years. Only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.

And forsaken? If you Google, “how many pastors feel betrayed by a friend?” it will take less than one second to have 10,800,000 responses.

A recent article, whose title startled me, asks, “Why are so many pastors committing suicide?”

So, why am I sharing all this? To get you to feel sorry for pastors? No. We clergy people tend not to share any of this information with you. We have our pride after all, even if pride is considered a sin. Besides, pastors receive enough criticism without handing out additional ammunition.

I am sharing this so that you will know that those who serve you — your pastor, priest, or rabbi — understand life, stress, loneliness, heartache, loss, betrayal, financial uncertainty and all the sorrow that you encounter in life better than you think they do.

We, those of us in ministry who have seen some life, know what you feel, and how you hurt, and the shock of betrayal and of being abandoned and deserted. But, generally, we hide it all from you and even from each other — and we do that pretty well. We’re good at putting on our “game face” in public.

But far more important than what pastors understand about the human condition, Jesus Himself, understands us better than we know.

Hebrew 4:15, The Message Bible: “Now that we know what we have — Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God — let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all — all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.”

And though the reality is that He will never abandon or desert you, He knows what it’s like to feel that even God has forsaken you. After all, it was he who cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken (abandoned, deserted) me?

You do not need to hide from Him.

You do not need to put on a mask for Him.

You do not need to pretend in His presence to be something you aren’t or to hide your feelings, pain, anguish, disappointment, sorrow, and loneliness.

He knows who you are. He knows where you are.

He embraced the pain of the cross in order to be there for you. He is with you in the struggles.

Take the mercy, accept the help.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Diocese of the Mid-South. He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]