Like the lingering pressure behind the eyes that comes from driving too long, there’s a weariness hovering over many pastors and ministry leaders at the moment. And its presence is almost palpable. In many places, pastors are experiencing a degree of renormalization of church life as restrictions ease and people refill the pews, which is coinciding with the fatigue of navigating the complexity of the past 18 months. Whether it be political tensions, theological fracturing along online tribal lines, or just the compounded effect of leading through constant uncertainty, pastors are tired.
There are so many practical things that those of us who feel this weight can, and should, do. Practicing (and guarding) a weekly sabbath for our souls, taking time off to be present with our families, building honest friendships with people around whom we can drop our guard, and limiting and curating our social media involvement are just a few rhythms that go a long way in helping us embrace a marathon-mentality so that we may run long and run well.
But by themselves, they’re still not enough.
In our deepest moments of ministry fatigue, where we feel like we’re going in circles, where we flinch at the next message that comes in from someone wanting to talk, where we wonder why we should keep going, where we are peopled-out and fantasize about doing anything else (like becoming a farmer in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands)—it is in these moments that we most need to know the heart of Jesus toward us.
We need a clear vision of the Chief Shepherd, not only in the past tense gospel truths of what he has historically done for us (as essential and magnificent as these truths are!) but also in the present tense gospel truths of who he is for us right now. We need to know that Jesus, our great high priest, sympathizes with us in solidarity and intercedes for us continually.
The Solidarity of Jesus with Weary Leaders
Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Like a stethoscope, reaching all the way from our present location to the throne of heaven, this verse reveals to us the heartbeat of the risen Jesus. The Puritan Thomas Goodwin says that it “lets us feel how his heart beats and his affections yearn toward us, even now [as] he is in glory.” Incredibly, what we discover about Jesus in his present state of exalted glory is that his heart beats in solidarity with the hearts of his people.
And that includes you.
He sympathizes with every trouble, temptation, frustration, and drama you face in the ministry he has entrusted to your care. Sympathizing means co-suffering; it’s entering into the experience of another. Jesus is not out of touch with reality at any level, and that includes your present reality.
In other words, not only does your great high priest represent you and redeem you, he gets you. He gets the seductive whisper of temptation that wants to hurry ahead of the Father’s timing. He gets the exhaustion of pouring himself out for others. He gets the frustration of people committed to misunderstanding him. He gets what it means to feel the loneliness of abandonment and the heartbreak of betrayal.
That’s what it means when the text says, “in every respect [he] has been tempted as we are.” The difference, however, is that unlike us, Jesus aced every test. He was “yet without sin.”
Think about that. The sinless One sympathizes with what you’re going through. The Holy One is not rolling his eyes at you, tapping his foot at the present pace of your sanctification or fruitfulness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus, right now, is seated on a throne of grace and invites you to bring everything that troubles you to him (Heb. 4:16).
And it gets even better than that.
The Intercession of Jesus for Weary Leaders
Not only does Jesus sympathize with us, but he also intercedes for us. A few chapters later, the writer of Hebrews says, “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
That Jesus is seated on the throne doesn’t mean he’s inactive. On the contrary, Hebrews 7:25 shows that Jesus is actively and continually raising his voice on your behalf. Jesus is interceding for you, standing in the gap for you, and praying for you, because he’s committed to finishing the work he began in you.
And this isn’t something he does begrudgingly; he “lives” to intercede for his people! It’s his ongoing ministry for you, in all your frustration with yourself and the world around you.
In fact, between his ascension and his promised return, Jesus’s intercession for us is one of the ways (in addition to sending the Holy Spirit) that Jesus accomplishes his promise for his people, “I will never leave you” (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5).
The Savior Doesn’t Fail
When was the last time you really paused to consider this? The king of glory gets you entirely and has you on his heart. And from the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks with constancy on your behalf.
How would this next week, month, or year change for you if you became convinced that the Savior, who has never once failed to finish what he started, is more committed to his plan in your life than you are?
So press on, weary leader. You have the One who conquered death in your corner. And as Robert Murray McCheyne reminds us, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”