I was talking to a fallen pastor recently and something occurred to me that I had never really swelled on. One of the most common things that fallen pastors deal with during their restoration is the feeling of shame.
Shame doesn’t come from God. It’s a man made feeling. It’s a result of guilt we heap upon ourselves when we feel we haven’t been punished enough. Even after we have been forgiven by God, we tend to feel like we deserve punishment because of our sin. We feel we are unworthy of God’s grace after committing adultery, hurting our church, causing pain to our family and turning our back on God and our calling. So we tend to dwell upon our sin and spend hours in self-shame and thinking about how terrible we are and how we really must not be forgiven at all.
Theologically, we know we are forgiven. We know God has forgiven us. But deep down we don’t feel forgiven. We don’t appropriate God’s forgiveness because honestly, we just feel terrible about what we did. We are reminded daily of the consequences of our sin and can’t imagine ever feeling forgiven.
During the phone call with the fallen pastor, it hit me. Why do we ruminate on shame? Why do pastors especially do this? I believe it’s because of what we turned our back on – our calling.
The call of God to ministry is a huge part of a person’s life. And for whatever sinful reason, we made a conscious decision to turn our back on our spouse and God. We took the ministry, that thing that we loved so much, and we threw it away. And after the fall we realize we may never get it back. And when we reflect upon all of it, a lot of guys realize that they threw it all away for nothing.
I’ve seen guys lose their faith over this feeling. I’ve heard of men becoming suicidal over it. It’s one of the worst feelings for a fallen pastor to have. And yes, it’s his own fault. And yes, he got himself into that situation. But he still needs help and love and support.
So what can be done about this feeling? I think the fallen pastor needs to realize that through the fall, God can and will transform him into something wonderful. The beautiful thing about restoration is that when we fully submit to it, God makes us into something better than we were before.
For a lot of pastors I know that’s hard to believe. You probably feel like you were pretty great before. But I can tell you that every pastor I have met who submitted to a restorative process came through it more humble, a better preacher and more understanding of others than he was before.
Shame is the enemy of anyone who has committed any sin. It keeps us from fully realizing God’s perfect forgiveness and is allowing him to make us into who he wants us to be. He is always transforming us, sanctifying us and using every experience to make us his perfect treasure. Don’t allow the past to bring you down because he even uses our past to make us who he wants us to be.