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It was Sunday evening, and I'd just reached the safety of the vestry. We'd had an especially good service, with some committing their lives to Christ and others looking for counseling, ready to go forward in faith. I'd spoken to several of them, trying to help them on. But by now my mind was whirling, and every bone in my body seemed to be aching.
Just then, someone knocked on the door, and in came Alaine, one of the most helpful women in the fellowship. I asked her about a pre-baptism class she'd taken earlier in the day. "Fourteen were there," she said, beaming "That was more than we'd ever had before!" On she enthused about our blossoming fellowship, the conversions, and growth in numbers.
I listened, knowing in my head that it was true and yet feeling strangely numb. Her bright outlook merely deepened my gloom; I felt none of her joy. I was tired and empty. I stood there wondering if it was all worth it.
"Alistair, you must be thrilled with all that's happening!" That was it. Something snapped inside me, and self-control disappeared.
"Right now I feel like throwing myself under a bus," I blurted and promptly burst into tears.
Poor Alaine. Her pastor, whom she respected, at that moment should have been rejoicing with her at the answers to prayer and signs of God's blessing. Instead he was sobbing. All she could say was, "Oh, you poor soul," and she patted my shoulder and left.
Bless her-for weeks afterward, every time I saw her, she found something encouraging and positive to say about my ministry.
You don't have to be in the pastorate long to discover that ordination is no immunization against doubt. Although I know now that other pastors also battle doubt, and although I have discovered ways to deal with it, the questioning in my own heart sometimes frightens me.
At times, these doubts are of the most fundamental kind, concerning the very existence of God or the truth of the gospel: Is he really there? At other moments, they center ...