The Paradox of Grief and Joy In Ministry

0
46

Written by: Raphael Mnkandhla

Raphael serves as the lead pastor of City Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He was born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and is pursuing a PhD in Ministry at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Raphael is married to Heidi and they have three sons and two daughters.

This following content was originally published on Acts 29’s website, linked HERE.


After a roller-coaster week of ministry, a seasoned church member asked how I was doing. Without hesitation, I answered, “Grieving yet always rejoicing.” 

I spent the next few minutes explaining to her how God had used this phrase from 2 Corinthians 6:10 to help me gain perspective and reorient my heart concerning the nature of ministry. Like many others, that week was a cornucopia of circumstances that left me sorrowful and joyful.

One day, I’d spent a sweet time in the Word and prayer in the morning. I counseled a brother in Christ whose marriage was in trouble, visited a newborn at the hospital, prayed for a man whose body was being torn down by cancer, ate dinner with my family, and spoke at a youth camp that evening. 

As I drove home, it struck me how the day was a mixture of heartache and joy, or, as Paul put it, “grieving yet always rejoicing” (1 Cor. 6:10). He authored this phrase amid ministry hardships. The Corinthian church was under attack from false teachers. They were hostile toward Paul, undermining his message and authority due to his unimpressive appearance and speech.Sorrow and weakness will produce joy when they’re platforms for gospel proclamation and building up the church.CLICK TO TWEET

Paul could’ve authenticated his ministry in various ways. But for the Corinthians, he highlighted his sufferings. His commendation comes by great endurance, afflictions, hardships, difficulties, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and times of hunger” (2 Cor. 6:4–5). All this was done by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, sincere love, the word of truth, and the power of God (2 Cor. 6:6–7).

Our phrase “as grieving, yet always rejoicing” is found among the paradoxes that Paul argues furnish the Christian ministry in 2 Corinthians 6:8–10

  • glory and dishonor
  • slander and good report
  • regarded as deceivers yet true 
  • as unknown yet recognized 
  • as dying yet living
  • as being disciplined yet not killed
  • as grieving yet always rejoicing 
  • as poor yet enriching many
  • as having nothing yet possessing everything

Through it all, Paul remained steadfast. He was mindful that heartache and joy are everyday realities.

In ministry, our hearts ache with grief. 

Paul’s ministry was often marked by sorrow. He had a sour relationship with the Corinthian church—so painful he chose not to visit them (2 Cor. 2:1–5). He faced charges against him, his converts were going astray, and the credibility of his gospel was questioned. He writes with many tears out of a troubled and anguished heart (2 Cor. 2:4).

Still, Paul was able to distinguish between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. He experienced grief in his longing for Israel’s salvation (Rom. 9:2). He expressed the deep sorrow he would have experienced if Epaphroditus had died (Phil. 2:27). These show the typical ranges of how a minister can experience grief in his ministry.

Pastor, the frontlines of ministry will expose you to unimaginable depravity and suffering and will plunge your soul into heartache, grief, pain, suffering, sadness, and distress. Pastoral ministry can be one of sorrow. Constant grief emanates from things happening to you and your church. Yet, this is not all there is.

In ministry, joy is always accessible.

Joy can (and does) exist with grief simultaneously. The source of Paul’s joy was God (Rom. 15:13). Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and a characteristic of the kingdom (Rom. 14:17). Joy is experienced in the corporate gathering (2 Cor. 7:15Rom. 15:321 Cor. 16:17) and puts the believer in a hopeful, prayerful posture. But Paul’s exhortation to rejoice was not only for the church but for himself. Philippians 4:4 reminds us he “rejoiced in the Lord always.”For ministry leaders, sorrow and rejoicing are a paradoxical spiritual reality.CLICK TO TWEET

Pastor, “rejoicing always” doesn’t ignore reality. It embraces God’s gift of prayer and lament by clinging closely to his promises fulfilled in Christ. Our great assurance is that God turns our “mourning into dancing” (Ps. 30:11). John Bunyan illustrates this well in Pilgrim’s Progress—though it feels like we’re in the dungeon of despair, we have the key of promise. Just as the sun still shines on a cloudy day, joy is accessible in gloomy seasons.

In ministry, joy and sorrow exist paradoxically. 

For ministry leaders, sorrow and rejoicing are a paradoxical spiritual reality. Grief and joy are present simultaneously in this life. We shouldn’t lend either excessive attention. Paul reminds us that both joy and weeping have their place according to the situation (Rom. 12:15). 

Pastor, it’s healthy for grief to come from disappointments and misunderstandings. However, you must show your people how to grieve with hope (1Thess. 4:13). Rejoice in times of great favor and in life’s difficulties. Show that joy is deeply rooted in faith rather than feelings. Sorrow and weakness will produce joy when they’re platforms for gospel proclamation and building up the church (2 Cor. 13:9).

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here