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Weary, Burned Out, Broken, and Hopeful
A Review of Pastor, Jesus is Enough by Jeremy Writebol
Over the past couple of years, I’ve reviewed and recommended a rather eclectic collection of books, from the first century to yet-to-be-released books; huge tomes to plain and simple biographies. I do my best to recommend the books I think will be of particular help and interest to all of you reading, and this book is no exception. What stands out in this case, is that I have the great pleasure of commending to you not only the book, but also the author who penned it. Jeremy is a friend and a brother who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with since before I started the Raven’s Writing Desk. Jeremy was one of the driving forces of encouragement who got me started on this journey, and it is no stretch to say that I wouldn’t be where I am without him. When we first met I had recently been diagnosed with the illness I have suffered from ever since; I’m painfully aware of my brokenness both physical and personal. My patience, my perseverance and trust in God have been tested time and time again, and so reading this book—which takes the reader through Jesus’ words in Revelation 2-3—has felt rather poignant for me personally. Some books feel like lectures, others like poetry, and some rare volumes feel like sitting down with a friend and opening up the bible together—this book is firmly in the latter category.
The tagline for the book is “hope for the weary, the burned out & the broken” and though not all of us are pastors, that certainly speaks to each of us as Christians. We are constantly having to be reminded not to allow our experiences, our losses, and our sufferings to tempt us to believe that life has become hopeless, but rather that our hope in Jesus is reforged in furnaces such as these. Last night, the pain in my spine grew so great that I had to sit on the ground, back straight, and eyes closed during a church Bible study … whilst wearing a three-piece suit. I was the very image of a deflated proper broken British suffering gentleman. In the midst of my temporary inability to move, see, or interact as I usually would, instead I joined the woman in the passage in question, the Canaanite woman from Matthew 15:21-28 who, on her knees, begged: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.”
Jesus was enough for her. Jesus was enough—is enough—for me.
Over the past few years every pastor has been affected and at times battered by constant changes, by changing rules and regulations, by accusations and resignations. Churches have closed, staff and members have left, beloved brothers and sisters have deconstructed and some Pastors have borne it in a similar fashion; Dressed to the nines in the right outward appearance and perfectly prepared preaching, whilst feeling the weight of mortification and even shame dragging them down to the floor, eyes closed, praying for just enough strength to return to the pulpit again the following Sunday.
The Enoughness of Jesus
If that’s you, or if you love your Pastor—which I sincerely hope you do—this book is for you. As is often the case, when we begin work that the Lord has set out before us, we’ll be tested. Jeremy, with regard to this book, put it like this, “It's as if the Spirit was asking me if I had ears to hear. Did I really believe the enoughness of Jesus for my own life and ministry?” Jeremy echoes here the question on the heart of every Pastor I’ve ever spoken to. They might not put it like that, but it is always present. Pastors deal with family issues, death threats, hard questions, and utter lies. Pastors have false accusations come their way, and even harsh judgements about their beliefs, and the God whom we all love and serve. Some Pastors even deal with outright persecution, and some have their lives taken from them, or watch as others around them die for the faith.
Is Jesus enough?
Those are just the struggles from without, but what about those within? Failure to meet personal ministry goals, forgetting that new member’s name again(!), Sunday morning family arguments, temptations, lies, memories of better Pastors who stand in defiance against the Pastor in the mirror. Jeremy encourages you to keep “[your] eyes…fixed on Christ, who is enough to rescue us from our greatest failures, our worst sermons, our poor counseling, our weak prayers, and our deepest sorrows. Christ died for us! He is enough for us.”
Do you believe it?
An Old Revelation
I’m thrilled to say that this book is entirely un-revolutionary with regard to its core message and biblical basis, and I can’t stress how important that is. In a world in which we’re always looking for the next big thing, our new favourite film, the latest craze, as Christians we should always be looking back to that “old thing” the Bible. “Pastor, Jesus is Enough” brings a word which is sorely needed in the Church.
I remember a few years ago reading the Care of Souls by Harold Senkbeil, the message I went away with was “Shepherds should care for their sheep.” I can’t remember whether Senkbeil ever put it exactly like that or not, but the simplicity of his Biblical reminders about pastoral care, which should have been obvious, bowled me over at the time. Sadly, it wasn’t something I’d experienced in some time, and it would be a few years before I would be under such leadership again. In the years since I’ve had to remind myself when reading the Bible or other books inspired by the Bible, that the simplest truths can knock us for six, and it is often those basic truths that have the longest-lasting effects on our lives. Jeremy is open throughout the book about his own need for ongoing reminders that Jesus is enough, and his posture reminds me of that moment when a child discovers a new trick and can’t wait to show his friends how to do it too. Jeremy embodies childlikeness as a Pastor and invites others to do the same.
If you’re a Pastor reading this, I want you to know that while I don’t know your struggles, or the pain the last few years have caused you. What I can say, and what Jeremy would wholeheartedly affirm, is that this book is not enough, Jeremy is not enough, and this article is most certainly not enough.
There is, however, one who is.
Pastor, Jesus is Enough.
Jeremy has written this book to point beyond his own words, to words spoken by our Saviour, the only one who is enough. These words have passed through Jeremy, changing him, moulding him, and proving him through the furnace of testing. The result is a man beckoning others to sit with him before the throne, Bible open to the book of Revelation, reading together, learning together, weeping together, and working together on giving up human strength in return for the one whose power is perfected in weakness. Wherever you are, whatever you’re thinking right now, I implore you, pick up the book and read it for all it is worth.
Knowing that Jesus is Enough is one thing, believing it is quite another.
Grace and Peace,
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