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The Bait Bucket

The weather is warming up, so I’m thinking about wetting a hook! A fresh filling of the bait bucket with live bait always seems to have the promise of a hopeful day of fishing. The bucket of new and fresh bait signifies a day of high expectations of what might bite the bait, new stories to be told of the “biggest fish ever,” and exciting experiences to be shared with loved ones and friends. After all, we fish for bragging rights!

Proverbially, life can be like a fresh bucket of live bait. We have dreams we chase because we desire to make them come true. We take on challenges that inspire our best effort for success, and we embrace new adventures that require bravery and boldness. Our lives are often filled with rich experiences, the love of family, and the joy of friendship.

However, sometimes the bait bucket starts to stink; life becomes difficult. The seas can go from calm, to rough, to unbearable in a matter of a month or a moment. One phone call from the doctor’s office with a bad report, a child makes a heart-breaking decision, or an accident can quickly turn life upside down. So, what do you do when all of a sudden, life stinks like a bucket of bait that was left out in the sun too long? Where do you go and what do you do when your feet slip out from under you, and you lose your stable footing?

I write this article as a brother in ministry and a friend to those who are experiencing the stench of the bait-bucket life. The hardships of the ministry life hit all of us. I’ve heard it said, “You are either going into a difficult time, or you’re in the middle of difficult times, or you’re just coming out of difficulty.” I am not a professional counselor, just a fellow ministry leader, a pastor, that has spent some time around the stink of some old bait buckets over the years. I have no place to judge you for your hardship, so I offer you my hand of friendship and a few suggestions that have helped me over recent months and years. I cannot offer “Five Simple Steps” to fix the ministry hardships you face. Ministry and life are way to complex for such foolish and shallow quick fixes. Due to limited space for this article, let me start with a few key thoughts…

  • Find a friend. No Pastor Should Pastor Alone! You need someone in your life you can talk to openly and honestly. This person should be mature and wise and able to encourage you. You need to know this person has your best interest in mind. He or she will help you see your situation with clarity. (Proverbs 11:14; 19:20; 24:6). You won’t be the first, many turn to a trusted friend or mentor to find clarity and wisdom. They can help sort out unclear thoughts, emotions, and are often able to guide you through adverse circumstances. Seeking the help of another doesn’t make you weak, stupid or sick. It maybe the wisest thing you do. It has been for me.

  • Choose how you are going to face your hardship. Seems like we don’t have the luxury to choose most things in life, but we do get to choose our attitude and resolve to get out of the stinky bait bucket and back on your feet by the grace of God. I believe attitude is an internal self-determined response towards my external situation (James 1:2-3). Remember, life is messy, people often disappoint, and jobs/ministries come and go. We often experience difficult seasons that require firm footing, patience, and time to get past the most difficult days. Choosing your disposition, your attitude, is a good place to start getting your thoughts under control and taking charge of your circumstances.

  • Take your first step right now: In the strength of the Lord and by the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10) be intentional. It’s time to get out of the bait bucket and enjoy life again. Remember Psalm 119:105 “The word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

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