Sometimes you are called to preach from the pit. Pain, suffering, grief, and sorrow are not reasons for the minister to back away from his calling to proclaim the word of God; they are often reasons to lean into it. Times of peace and comfort highlight certain truths as we study scripture, but there are other treasures that we can only mine with the shovel of suffering. It is not as if the Bible is incomprehensible without specific experiences, but when we are hurting, those same truths we glossed over in pleasant times flow over us as a balm of comfort in times of need.
Pastor, if you find yourself in the pit, it is not time to despair. Instead, it is time to look to see what God is about to do. A servant of God is never laid low without cause. The heavy hand of God may feel like it is crushing you, but what the Lord may be doing is pressing you into the depths of his word to let you know, as Corrie Ten Boom once said, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” While you are there, he may show you the power of several biblical truths you might have neglected in the past.
Once you have these truths in hand, do not expect Him to lift his heavy hand off you immediately. There is more work for you to do in the pit. He may need you to stay there to sing your song of hope in a minor key because he is going to use the brokenness in your voice to resonate deeply into the souls of sufferers under your charge.
I will leave you with this example from the life of Charles Spurgeon.
One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, `My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself.
On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, “I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life and preached as if you had been inside my soul.” By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay.
I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge? You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds.