Bridges next mentions one of the dearest encouragements of Christian ministry: the love and encouragement of the people we serve. It seems to come at the most needful moments. When it seems unbearable, God provides grace and strength through the hands and words of a friend who leaves a kind note, or comes by for lunch, or says, “I’ve been praying for you” (and I know its true). Such comforts overwhelm those who spread bitterness and slander. As Bridges writes, it is a “full compensation”.
The Christian minister may have an obligation to teach and to lead, but he can never think himself somehow apart from the people for whom he must answer. Too often pastors — and it is even worse for the wives of pastors — try to hold themselves aloof from the congregation. In so doing, the minister loses one of the dearest comforts God has given for the ministry:
The interest we possess in the affectionate sympathies of a beloved people is also a subordinate source of comfort and encouragement. Here we find a full compensation for the scorn of an ungodly world, and the secret spring of many an hour of support and enjoyment, by which we are carried forward in our painful course. The Christian and intelligent part of our flock well know, that we are “men of like passions with themselves,” that our path is strewn with snares, and our hearts are keenly wounded with sorrow and temptation. Christian sympathy engages them to communicate with our affliction.
Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry.