Navigating Personal Pain As Youth Leaders

We’ve all gotten that phone call or the text from a student asking for help. It’s what we do— point students towards the healing grace of God (Gal. 6:2). Youth leaders all over the world are shouldering the countless burdens of their students. But what happens when we face our own pain and burdens?

Learning how to deal with my own suffering has not been easy. As a student minister, I often believe that I must hide my struggles and make sure no one knows what I am dealing with. I suppress the pain.

We Are Not Alone

When I first started in ministry, I was told that pastors and church leaders can be some of the loneliest people. I didn’t believe this at first. However, the more I journey down this road, I have come to find this to be true.

As youth leaders, others are looking to us to be the example. Students are trusting us and modeling their lives after us. Parents are looking to us to equip their children and set a good example for them. What a great honor and privilege this is. However, there is something we must not overlook— there is a target on our backs, and the enemy wants us to fall, and he wants us to quit.

One of the enemy’s favorite tactics is to get us isolated from community. He did this when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4). Satan wants us to be alone, or at least to feel alone, because we were never meant to live apart from relationship with other people (Gen. 2:18).

No matter how alone we may feel, no believer is left to his or own devices. God is with us at all times, through the presence of His Holy Spirit. As born-again believers, God’s Spirit lives and dwells within us. This means that God knows the deepest desires, craving, and aching in our hearts (Ps. 63). God knows everything we will face and he provides peace to our hearts that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). Not only does God know our pain, but he suffered depths we cannot comprehend. In Jesus, God himself became flesh. He faced unimaginable physical pain and torture (Mark 15). God endured this so that he could be with us, so that in him, we would never be alone.

Youth leaders, we must remember God enters into the darkest valleys with us (Ps. 23). He is with us at all times. This is our hope through every trial.

The Sovereign and Good God is in Control

As Christians we have unshakable hope in any situation because of this truth: our good and sovereign God is in control. You might know this, you might teach it to your students every week, but are you believing this? In pain and struggle, we can easily forget the same truth we teach our students. No matter what we face, God is good and he is in control. God is working out all things for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28).

Perhaps the pain is financial stress, job stress, family difficulty, addiction, a recent death, or some other hard circumstance. Your suffering might have you in a fog. Remember, no matter what you face, you have unshakable hope because God is in control. There is a purpose and a plan behind everything you face. Even in the darkest moments, cling to our sovereign God, our rock and our redeemer, and rest, knowing that he is holding you (Rom. 8:38-39)

Surrender is a Lifelong and Life-Changing Discipline

Lastly, and perhaps the most difficult, we must surrender to our wise and loving God.

We love to think we are in control, myself included. We actually feel the need to be in control, but at best our authority is an illusion. Certainly, this is a reason why disappointments or the altering of our plans might be so uncomfortable. It is humbling to be reminded how powerless we are, but it is also freeing.

Realizing that we are not in charge forces us to do one of two things. We either grasp for control, which only leads to more stress and anxiety, or we ask the Spirit to help us surrender.

In my opinion, the discipline of full surrender is one of the greatest disciplines to practice as a leader. Jesus models this posture all throughout his ministry. In the Garden of Gethsemane, moments before he is about to endure horrific crucifixion, Jesus cries out, “Father, not my will, but yours be done” (Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42).

My wife and I have started a personal practice when we find ourselves in seasons of stress, pain, or disappointment. We will identify whatever is causing stress, pain, or discouragement. Then we say these words out loud, “I surrender all to God.” This does not magically solve all of our problems or minimize the battle, but it does redirect our hearts back to the one who is in control.

We are not in control, nor were we meant to be. At times, we will be disappointed, and we will endure painful seasons. As we face various trials and storms, let us cling to the truth that our God knows what you need. God knows your pain, He sees your disappointment, and He grieves with you. Let us lay our burdens down, at the feet of our Sovereign God. Surrender is a life-long and life-changing discipline, but this is where true freedom is found—at the feet of Jesus.

About The Author

Ben Hewitt serves as Associate Minister-Middle School Students at Dawson Baptist Church in Homewood, Alabama. He is a graduate of Samford University and is currently working on his M.Div through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ben is the host for The Live for More Podcast. In his spare time, Ben enjoys playing golf, reading, spending time with his wife, and getting blizzards from Dairy Queen.  

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