I've been thinking about this for awhile. And I don't know that being a pastor is any different than any other job... Sure, there are aspects that make it unique, but in the end it's just what I do. Every job has it's good points and bad. But still, I was thinking about the hardest part of this job - pastoring a church; a group of people; a community. I know I probably come at it from a slightly different perspective than many who share this occupation with me, so these are particular to me. This is the way I see it...
The hardest thing about being a pastor is not the sermon. Certainly it is not easy coming up with a sermon every week; trying to be creative and interesting and relevant, and trying to show that God's Word somehow touches every life in some way - married, divorced, widowed, single, male, female, young, old, saintly and rebellious alike. But, really, all I have to do is find a Scripture, study over it, bathe it in prayer, and it often writes itself. So the sermon is far from the hardest thing about being a pastor.
The hardest thing about being a pastor is not the Sunday worship service either. Again, it probably takes more effort than many people realize, but in the end it comes down to putting together some songs and readings and the Holy Spirit takes over from there. Besides, in an hour it's over and done and everyone goes on with their life.
The hardest thing about being a pastor is not "running the church" either. Yes, it takes time and thought and prayer and patience. But I've found that it usually runs best when I stay out of the way; and there are often other people who do a much better job of taking care of details and whatnot than me anyway.
The hardest thing about being a pastor is not even the loneliness and isolation. Sure, this can be difficult at times. There are few people who understand what it's really like, and fewer still that you can talk about it with. Friends are hard to come by, and it seems a lot of people need to take out their anger at God on someone. But for me personally, I would probably not be all that different in any occupation and this would be an issue regardless. So it is not the hardest thing.
The hardest thing about being a pastor is not visiting with people either. I know it is probably more difficult for me than for many people, because I freak out so easy and get nervous when visiting with people face-to-face. But I usually settle down eventually, and most people are nice and try to put me at ease. So this is not at all the hardest thing.
To me, the hardest thing about being a pastor is... that feeling when I know there isn't anything at all that I can do to help someone. Praying for someone who's just been through a terrible tragedy and knowing I have no words or actions that will help. Seeing someone sitting in the congregation as their eyes begin to tear up and knowing that I can't touch them and let them know I care. Talking with someone who is afraid to even lift their eyes because of shame and guilt and being unable to get across that it's okay; that I understand; that there is still hope. Sensing when someone has taken a step forward but they're on the verge of two steps back because they think they're all alone. The hardest thing about being a pastor, really, is trusting God to work in people's lives without me. Trusting that He will make a way.
You would think trusting God would be the easiest thing for a pastor to do. And maybe for those who are good at this it is. But for me, I hate to see other people hurting. I hate to see people thinking they are all alone, that no one cares, that no one is there... And it's hard for me to trust God. There, I said it. It's hard. Not impossible. Just hard.
Lord, I know a lot of people who need you right now. People who are hurting and alone, and there is nothing at all that I can do for them. I am trying my best to trust you. Be God to them. Please. Now. And maybe help me trust you more too.