“A man’s suffering times are his best improving times.” -George Whitefield, Anglican priest, 1714-1770
For almost a decade Stephen Mansfield had been pastor of a near four thousand-member congregation that pursued the things of God. Then, amidst conflict and uproar, his pastorate came to an abrupt end. As Stephen describes that time, “Demons danced and angels wept.” He frankly speaks of that time as “the soul-deforming season from hell.” And when it was all over, it wasn’t over.
Pastor Mansfield kept replaying everything in his mind. Squeezed in a vise of pain and hostility, he was becoming angry and dangerous. Jabs at his enemies and even God were justified moral choices. Stephen voices his feelings with brutal honesty:
“It got worse. I wanted them to die. All of them. The ones who had hurt me, the ones who liked the ones who had hurt me, and the ones who sat silently by while the other ones hurt me. I wanted them to die and die horribly, and I wanted to do it myself.”
Attempting to bring stability to his life, Stephen went to a monastery to pray. He went right after Christmas, in the dead of winter. The few Trappist monks who remained couldn’t talk to him, as they were bound by a vow of silence.
Shortly thereafter, some caring pastors forcefully stepped into Stephen’s life to counsel him . He notes that the process was “torturous, unfair, embarrassing, and rude. It was a rough season of soul surgery, but it set him free!
Today’s question: How closely does Stephen Mansfield’s frank description of his anger mirror your response to your ministry downsizing or vocation loss? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “Religious offense syndrome”