I could not believe the text message on my phone.
A young therapist at my counseling center, one whom I trusted implicitly, a person into whom I had invested time and energy, simply walked away from me and her clients with not so much as a hint that she was thinking of leaving. (There’s a procedure for transitioning; we don’t just abandon clients.)
Of course, she had her reasons and the right to leave. Still, it hurt.
The Apostle Paul knew this kind of disappointment although in a much more intense way.
“For Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world…. “ (2 Timothy 4:10)
Earlier during Paul’s ministry, John Mark also, in Paul’s view, deserted him. Bitterly disappointed in the young man, Paul insisted that they should not take him along on the next trip.
Forsaken, deserted, abandoned or sometimes, simply disappointed.
Perhaps you have experienced pouring yourself into a leader – developing, discipling, encouraging and loving that leader – only to have them leave without notice or even say hurtful words about you.
Confusion, hurt, and betrayal swirl in the mind and heart. You feel the pain and sting of rejection along with the bewilderment of wondering what happened.
Experiences like these can leave us discouraged. After all, it takes a lot of time and commitment to develop and train leaders. You are emotionally invested. Their departure, especially a painful sudden one, can leave you and others hurting.
In fact, could this not be an aspect of entering into the suffering of Christ?
In situations like this, perhaps we can keep three things in mind:
1. It is God’s church. We do the work but it’s up to Him how it turns out.
2. Maintain and lean on peer relationships and other friendships during these times. The old saying ‘a sorrow shared is halved’ has merit. Nurturance from others helps heal the pain.
3. Remember that the way others relate to us is often a reflection of their relationship with God or acting out their own relational pain is some way.
Who knows, it’s possible we may have opportunity to restore and bring greater healing at some point. Paul eventually circled back around to working with John Mark!
What has helped you get through feeling deserted or abandoned by leaders or members you have nurtured? I would love to hear your comments below. Perhaps your tips may help another pastor!