Many of us are very busy, overcommitted, and burdened. Some of us feel as if we are carrying the weight of it all on our shoulders. And yet, we want to stay fresh and alive for the long haul.
Taking steps to stay fresh for the long haul is important because too many people crash and burn.
Perhaps there have been too many disappointments and too many meetings in which the unthinkable happens. After a while, you become angry, bitter, and cynical.
Some of us know what it is to be angry. We are resentful of what happened behind closed doors in a church meeting, resentful of being treated unfairly, resentful of being underpaid, resentful of unkind words. Or, you are just tired. You are tired of being the point person. You are tired of having to be the responsible adult.
Some of us know what it is to feel self-doubt. You went to seminary and worked hard, but your ministry just hasn’t gone the way you thought it would. You hear some of your fellow ministers say their churches are doing well. Yet, so many of us are ministers who are disappointed and confused about the way things have turned out.
Some people begin to feel entitled and complacent. We feel like we deserve a life better than this. We may begin taking some shortcuts. Maybe these are shortcuts to quick pleasure. These moments of quick pleasure may become a secret. We rationalize that we deserve this after all we’ve been through. (Sounds like a rationalization from the father of lies.)
Some of us know what it is to feel lonely. To not have real friends. To feel as if no one in the church knows what we are going through or dealing with. In the meantime, some of us may realize that we really have not invested in our marriages in earlier years and we may not be that close to our wives/husbands.
A few suggestions that might be helpful in staying fresh.
Invest in lifelong learning. Sometimes we recognize that the world has changed. However, we are just too tired to retool and we wonder how we could have the energy to do this. Read. Listen to good podcasts. Take a class. Do something that will help you grow.
Invest in praying the Psalms. For a season, I read five Psalms aloud each morning and used them to help me pray. I underlined every word that described a name of God, a characteristic of God, or something God did. This practice greatly enriched my prayer life as I found myself praying for what I otherwise would not.
Notice how Jesus did his ministry. Notice that he walked away from ministry at times to pray. He even spent a whole night in prayer as he sought to make a decision. When Jesus was alone with God, he found the wisdom and awareness of when to say “no.”
Richard Foster wrote in Celebration of Discipline:
Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people or gifted people but for deep people.
Invest in your own emotional health. Deal with your emotions as Paul admonishes us, in Ephesians 4:31: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
When we don’t deal with our emotions, this neglect will be seen in a variety of ways:
- We may become very demanding people.
- We may quickly leave when there is conflict.
- We may develop a pattern of manipulating others.
- We may become quick-tempered, exploding at times.
- We might live with the constant anxiety that we are going to lose the approval of others.
Perhaps I am constantly explaining myself, questioning myself, defending myself, blaming others, or withdrawing from the people around me.
Eventually, we lose the emotional fire in our gut.
Invest in relationships.
- Give time and energy to your family. It is smart to put your family time on the calendar as an appointment. Don’t make a big deal about it, just do it.
- Surround yourself with a few people who add something to your life. Who is it that adds energy, life, and vitality to your life?
- Cultivate healthy relationships outside the church. Too many of us live in isolation. We are friendless and sometimes feel like we have no one with whom we can really talk. That is how some of us get into trouble. It is important to nurture same-gender relationships and remove the isolation.
Finally, it is in our weakness that we learn to rely on God. In your weakness, you are exposed. Maybe others can see that you don’t always know, that you are not always strong. Maybe you sometimes struggle at work. Yet, could it be that this is the moment to rely on God (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)?
This may be our finest hour as we learn to rely on God.