Beginning about 100 AD, 150,000 poor and powerless Christians were interred in the “sleeping spaces” (dormir) of the Roman catacombs. Over 10,000 of those tombs were inscribed with epitaphs and very simple drawings capturing the exultant faith of Christians who had lived under constant threats for their faith.
I’ve never officiated at the funeral of a martyr. Well, on second thought, I have. Every Christian funeral is a martyrion, for the Greek word means witness, testimony. Those whose funerals we officiate haven’t been murdered for their faith in Jesus Christ but, even so, their testimony of faith was never more eloquent than at their funeral.
Did anyone prepare you in seminary for the routine rigor of dying? Even when we occasionally heard that pastoring would be hard I don’t think we got the message that it was lethal. And repetitive! Jesus said that all his followers must take up their cross. All Christians must engage in dying when we walk with Jesus. But I think ministry leaders, if their souls are sensitive, are subject to more dying, deeper dying, than many others.
Sometimes, trying to quiet our fears is like trying to tuck an octopus into bed. How many nights have you tried to sleep all tangled in your worries about the church, your family, your finances, or your own well-being? We need to know how to pray in those times because they won’t let go of us unless we do. We won’t be able to sing, “It is well with my soul,” without prayer. It’s always true, but you can’t always sing it.