I have many friends who are pastors or otherwise in spiritual leadership. This is primarily for them, although the rest of you are welcome to listen in.
I was reading Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students recently. He spoke candidly of his own "most painful experience with deep depression of spirit." He said:
"The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There may be here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust."
Ah, yes. We are but dust.
My pastoral brethren, your battle with despondency is not unusual nor is it a sign that the Lord looks on you with disapproval--no matter what your critics may say. It is often the lot of those in spiritual leadership.
The biblical spokesmen of God at times knew the darkness of an hour. Moses (Numbers 11:15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), and Jonah (Jonah 4:3) all went so far into darkness that they prayed that the Lord would take their lives from them.
You're in good company if that's you.
Brothers, the ultimate value of your labor is far beyond your present ability to see, so place no weight in your present judgment.
We sow seeds for a future harvest, not immediate plucking.
Not only that, our labor is in the realm of unseen hearts. We minister by faith, not by sight.
We labor for Christ, who will graciously assess our work infallibly from the perspective of eternity, not according to what may seem to be the meager results of time.
In other words, these--and a thousand others--are reason enough not to put too much trust in your own assessment of the value of your present labor.
You especially cannot rightly judge your work when you are under the weight of discouragement. No one sees anything clearly in the darkness, now do they?
Rather than let your present heaviness of spirit discourage you from your labor, let it instead have a strange, counterintuitive sense of refreshment for the task at hand.
You are treading where the truly great men of God have trod.
And it's not just Spurgeon, Moses, Elijah, or Jonah.
If our Lord could be a man of sorrows so that He could enter sympathetically into the trials of His people (Hebrews 2:17-18), perhaps your own present heavy spirit is merely that which prepares you for a better future ministry of consolation to the discouraged lambs that Christ brings to you.
Our Master has surely given you your present lot, and He will bring good from it in the end--no matter how much your present clouds obscure the sun from your view.
So persevere, my brother. Your labor is not in vain.
"For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints" (Hebrews 6:10).