I have been faithfully following Christ since 2018. Prior to this, I knew of Jesus but not what it meant to live for him. I spent most of my adult life in rebellion to God doing everything in my power to create my own joy. This strategy failed and only led to despair. But God met me in this place and began to change my life drastically from an insecure, anxious, depressed and prideful addict to a man that by God’s grace is able to walk with others in the midst of their struggles as I share my own.
Initially my fire for the Lord brought tremendous excitement and joy. However, over time, the ministry I love so much became more of my identity than Christ. The success and/or failure of the people I walked with became more a source of my joy than Christ. The happiness of my wife had a greater impact on my happiness than my relationship with Jesus. Without realizing it, I slowly made idols of good, godly things as I pointed people to Jesus but failed to allow others to point me to him.
God, in his grace, began to teach me a beautiful thing: that as a believer, and especially as a leader, it is good to ask for help. I was so caught up in ministering to others that I had forgotten how to be ministered to, leading to a spiritual desert.
Last October, I wrote a letter to my church about this desert season. Even though I did not understand it, I felt grateful that despite feeling spiritually empty I knew God loved me where I was, as he loves them where they are. This desert was not a reflection of my love for God. I wasn’t turning to old habits to escape or feel. I knew God wanted to teach me something.
I encouraged others not to despise their desert, to be encouraged and to reach out, but I still had no idea what God wanted to teach me. A few months later, I finally realized I wasn’t letting people into what was actually going on in my heart.
My wife and I had been devastated by a miscarriage in July 2022. Although I supported my wife, talked to others, asked for prayer and did all the things that looked right, I did not share the depths of my hurt and anger. I did not share how I wrestled with God’s goodness or about my inability to experience the peace of Christ. I wanted to sit in joy with a smile instead of with tears. But God, in his grace and mercy, let me sit for what felt like forever, until I was ready to see what he had for me.
I learned it is okay to admit I am not okay when I am hurt and struggling. I tend to share just enough so others won’t ask what is really going on. But I learned my community is meant to hear the deepest groanings of my soul.
Wherever this may find you, I pray you know it is okay to not be okay. God is bigger than our feelings and questions. In all things, have a community where you actively and vulnerably share what is really going on, in the desert or the springs.
Often in ministry the greatest impact we have on others comes not from our greatest gifts but from our shortcomings. As we are honest, we give others permission to do the same. It’s in this place that the gospel speaks to us all.
Matthew Fabrizio is a recovery pastor/director of men’s spiritual formation at Neighborhood Church in Fresno, California. He and his wife, Megan, have been married since October 2020 and are resource (foster) parents to two teenagers. Fabrizio loves walking alongside people deep in struggle as they encounter the gospel together. When he is not working, he enjoys hiking with his wife and family, anything in water and golf.