I didn't know how tired until I face planted in my lunch the next day. I dragged myself to the car, having to concentrate lifting my foot as high as the curb. I kept my eyes open long enough to crawl in my car, and I slept for two hours in a crowded parking lot. I realized jet lag was more than tired. This was beyond my control!
Burnout is much the same. I think of burnout this way…there's a dark recess of your mind that is the end of you. The bottom of the rope, the last step before the cliff, that moment just before you fall asleep...the end. That place is a different spot for different people. Some people have a deeper reserve and can take much more of what life can throw at them. Others have a shorter fuse and reach their spot of depletion sooner. Either way, burnout takes you to a tired that sleep doesn't fix.
I found that dark recess in my mind I didn't know existed until now. Burnout. I feel stupid and weak admitting I was there. The lack of admission was part of the reason I got there. Because I feel stupid and weak admitting I have this breaking point, and I let my actions and the actions of others break me.
Being in ministry means being about people.
Honestly, I like helping people. I don't say that to make myself seem all humble and servant-like. If you know me, you know servanthood does not come naturally to me. Being bossy on the other hand does come naturally to me. I like helping people realize stuff. I am addicted to that moment when a girl sitting in front of me has the realization she can walk in total freedom from the past bad choices she has made. Or that moment when my husband and I are working through marriage problems with another couple, and they realize sticking it out is far more rewarding than being a quitter. There's no drug or alcoholic beverage that tops the exhilaration of seeing someone turn around and change their behavior for the better. I'm addicted. I admit it. I love seeing people be happy and work out their problems and I LOVE that I get to lead people to God's Word and watch their lives unfold.
There is this turning point, though, when you are in the business of helping people, that often times you start taking in information only to pass it back out. You hear a great sermon, a wonderful song, a cool quote, and you think "I could use that in a blog post. I need to tell my pastor wife friend about this podcast. I need to share this book with my friend who needs to hear this. I need to livestream the sermon so this other person can hear it who is at home with a sick child." And before you know it, everything you take in is getting passed right through you to other people. Even your morning devotions become note-taking sessions for others. Nothing is sticking, nothing is getting snagged for YOU!
...before you know it, everything you take in is getting passed right through you to other people.
During this season of burnout and comeback, we took a sabbatical for three weeks. My husband Jack and I went to a different church one weekend. We wanted to go some place we could just go in and sit down and go to church. We haven't done that in something like 14 years. It was an amazing feeling. I had forgotten how much I love God's Church and His people. Now keep in mind, I was reading the book, "Leadership Pain" by Sam Chand while I was on sabbatical. Guess what the whole sermon was about that morning? You guessed it. Leadership pain.
God definitely had something for me that morning, but instantly I started the pass through. I thought of my friend who needed to hear a certain quote. I thought of all the people I knew who I wanted to hear this sermon. It was an incredible message. But I was in the middle of the pass-through, thinking of all the people I could minister to from this sermon when God so sweetly showed me...maybe it's just you who needs the ministry right now. He showed me how it was alright to let these words from Bishop Walker at Mt. Zion resonate with me, and only me, for that moment. Tears filled my eyes and I allowed myself for the next hour to just sit and soak it all in. I did not want to miss one moment God had for me. I stopped the pass-through and I snagged every morsel taking notes as quickly as my thumbs could type.
It truly was a wonderful feeling. So many of us in ministry want to see our church family succeed. We deeply want the best for them, so we get in this state of pass-through, not retaining any of the wisdom and knowledge we hear from others to teach us, lead us, and help us grow. We eventually become empty; nothing more than a slot machine. Put in a quarter, pull the lever, out comes the advice.
It's okay to keep the pass-throughs going. But take time to snag some for yourself. Or better yet, snag the whole thing for yourself; let it steep for a while; then continue the pass-through. I challenge all my pastor friends, counselor friends, pastor's wife friends to notice how often you go into pass-through mode. The next time you realize it, stop and think about what you're hearing or reading and how it can apply to YOUR life first, and you will take a step in guarding yourself against burnout.
This blog by Sheila Harper was posted on Dec 11, 2017 at Sanctuaryministrywives.com. Sheila and her husband, Jack, have been in full-time ministry at SaveOne since 2000. The couple planted a church in 2007, so Sheila has been a pastor’s wife for 10 years. Sheila and Jack have two sons, ages 27 & 29. "Neither are married, but I am looking for wives for them so I will be one step closer to having grandchildren," quips Sheila. When asked what shaped her ministry philosophy, Sheila answered, "Pain. Plain and simple. I started SaveOne from a place of wanting to make sure others didn’t experience the same pain I did after an abortion. I wanted everyone to know the truth of what abortion really does to you." As far as the church, "what shaped my ministry philosophy was realizing, if I’m not healthy I could derail my husband’s ministry. As a pastor’s wife I am possibly the most vulnerable in the whole church. I have to take time for soul care, and the whole church remains healthier because of it." Sheila enjoys "hiking, drinking coffee, hiking, reading, hiking, hanging in my hammock in the woods, and hiking" when she comes across some free time. Sheila's greatest passion in ministry comes from seeing people be transformed from the inside out. "When a person walks in and doesn’t know Jesus, gives his/her heart to Him, lets themselves be discipled, and their life start to come together….I don’t know of a greater joy than that."
It is not necessary to include every word written in my journal—it would take months of weekly posts to do so. What IS important, is for me to convey to you how big, how loving, how faithful, and how amazing our God is. If He can do this new thing in me, He can and will (if you let Him) do it for you. That is my prayer! If you would like to catch up with last week’s blog, click here.
Several days after my trip to the ER, my husband felt it necessary for the two of us to get away to a place of quiet and solitude for healing to begin. Restlessness and anxiety were something I could not shake. I thought I was losing my mind.
January 16, 2011, 9:11 P.M.
"I stood in a place I have never stood before, challenged to let God work through the process of healing my mind and restoring rest to my body. God led [a pastor] to send us a text sharing that while praying for us he felt led to have us read Psalm 27. Not knowing the specifics of [our] needs, he truly heard from the Lord. Verse 1 reads, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?' That chapter was meant for us!"
On the last morning of our get-away, we attended service at the church where this man pastored. Before his message, I went forward for prayer, claiming God's healing in my life. The message he preached penetrated my soul. The following morning I journaled:
January 17, 2011, 2:00 A.M.
“'The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.' Proverbs 18:21. In Jesus’ name, I take hold of the word you shared with Don and me…I am healed, in Jesus’ name. The things spoken to me through your Word are for me and I accept them, claim them, and stand upon them for they are life to me."
“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21.
However, the next night I again woke with anxiety, fear gripping my mind.
"I cast it (anxiety) on Jesus and I repent for allowing fear to take its grip on me. Lord, I give you every thought that would attempt to ‘exalt itself against the knowledge of Christ’ ['and take every thought captive to obey Christ,' 2 Corinthians 10:5.] For I know that You are able to keep [that] which I have committed unto You. I speak health over my mind, body and soul. I am healed and I walk in total VICTORY!"
"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ," 2 Corinthians 10:5
Here me out—I didn’t feel victorious at that point! I didn't feel healed. But, I knew the truth of God’s Word and by faith I began to declare my wholeness.
January 21, 2011, 12:40 A.M.
"Oh, Lord, you have spoken to my heart many times in many ways. I’m tired and weary and ready for rest. Yet, there must be something you need me to learn during these times in the night. I’m reminded of the scripture I read last night in Psalm 30, '…weeping lasts for the night…joy comes in the morning [my version]. I’m ready for 'the morning.' [Scriptures continue to come to my mind. Applying the principles of God's Word, I declare truth over specific areas of my life.]
"'Psalm 27:1, 'The Lord is my Light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?'
"'God’s Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.' Hebrews 4:12 ESV'"
God's Word is powerful! If you aren’t using this weapon of offense, you are missing out on the life that God designed for you.
January 22, 2011
"Lord, you have blessed me with Your Word. You have spoken TRUTH to my heart. I am encouraged as Your Holy Spirit has so beautifully led me to scripture to speak to [me]. I’m in a place I have never been before. I crave God’s presence; time with You. I need You more than ever before!"
What I hope I have conveyed to you through these few journal entries, is the importance God’s Word was (and is) to me. I had to read it, hold on to it, meditate on it, and live it. When the rubber hit the road, it was God’s Word that proved to be my lifeline. Godly counsel was certainly needed and helpful; a christian doctor to recognize a chemical imbalance was a benefit; but it was God through His Word, and by His Holy Spirit that I can say I am victorious.
I had to read it, hold on to it, meditate on it,
and live it.
For the next several months, I found myself gaining strength, struggling less with anxious thoughts. Daily, and eventually less frequently, I journaled what God was revealing to me. As I did, the heaviness began to lift. His Word was literally life to my entire being!
Would I ask to again walk the path God allowed me to walk? Probably not. Did I grow closer to Him through this time of desperation? Most certainly! And I wouldn't trade it for any earthly treasure. I'm truly grateful for His Word revealed in my life and the "new thing" that I hope always remains fresh within me.
For the past two weeks I have shared excerpts from my journal, thinking I would continue through January before ending. After reconsidering, I am closing with this last post. Next week, you will read a post from a blogger on the subject of burnout. Be sure to check it out.
Vicki Miller and her husband, Don, have been in full-time ministry, together, for more than 33 years. They have four daughters, three sons-in-law, and three grandsons who keep their lives full of joy and laughter. Having been a pastor's wife to the same congregation for more than 25 years, Vicki now enjoys ministering alongside her husband as they serve their district's ministers and their spouses. Traveling is a shared interest between them. Encouraging ministry wives in their unique role and their walk with Jesus is a passion of Vicki's. After serving Jesus most of her life, she says, "I am still amazed at the grace and goodness of God and I pray that I never get over it." For fun, she likes to read and work on DIY projects, but especially loves spending time with family and friends.
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“Are you saying no because of your weight?”
Those words caught me off guard and stung. I’m always amazed at the freedom some feel to say what they do.
Rather than respond with a full-frontal attack, I used gentle words so I could hide the hurt. “No, I just don’t want ice cream right now. Thanks, though.”
In that moment—at a dinner with old friends that should have been filled with joy and celebration—I found myself in a very tangling situation. I put on a brave face and pushed through. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin the evening for everyone else. But honestly, I’m so tired of just pushing through. Even more, I’m frustrated that my self-worth is still so easily tangled.
Isn’t there a point in our lives when insecurity shouldn’t knot us up anymore?
The shaming voice inside tells me I should be able to overcome it. And so often I agree:
The struggle to see the truth of our worth isn’t new. Chances are you’re intimately aware of the places you don’t feel like you “measure up.” And dare I say it’s a battle we’ll most likely carry to the grave because part of the human condition is wondering if we’re good enough.
Those insecurities cause us to take a sobering look at our life to see if we’ve been a success. We want to know we made a difference—our lives, our words, our actions—during our time here. We need to know we matter.
So we wonder… Am I raising my kids the right way? Have I been the kind of wife my husband needed? Am I doing enough to create healthy community and love on others well? Am I a good friend? Have I volunteered enough hours? Am I nurturing my relationship with Jesus enough? Do I handle our finances like I should? Am I as encouraging and affirming with my words as she is? Do my opinions and ideas matter?
We want to know we’ve contributed to the world in significant ways. Our hope is to know we’re beautiful in our own way, and others see it too. And we need to know that no matter what, we are valuable.
So when a careless comment tightens the tangle of worthlessness, it hurts so deep.
In my naivety, I thought I’d eventually grow out of insecurities. I assumed being an adult meant the craving for worldly acceptance and approval would stop. But for many of us, we are still getting tangled by the same ole people and the same stupid situations.
But here is what I’ve learned. Victory doesn’t mean we’ll never struggle with insecurity again. Victory means that when we feel the knot begin to tighten, we are quicker to see it and faster to take our tangle to God.
And even more, God never measures our value by the way we look, what we’ve accomplished, the money we have made, the health of our body, or any other worldly measuring stick. God values us simply because we’re His.
“You are the ones who make yourselves look right in other people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For the things that are considered of great value by people are worth nothing in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15 GNT)
What a beautiful reminder that God’s scales are not the same as the world's. And this scripture offers a powerful warning not to allow the world’s definition of success and beauty be the judge of our value and worth.
So how can we learn to see ourselves through the eyes of God?
Because when we do—when we truly untangle—words won’t hold the same power over us anymore. And when someone questions why we’re skipping dessert (or we get triggered in some other way), we’ll remember that God sees the beauty and complexity of our heart… and delights in His creation!
This blog post was written by Carey Scott for Propel Women in June, 2017. She is an author, speaker, and life coach, honest about her walk with the Lord…stumbles, fumbles and all. She is the author of Untangled, a book where she bravely shares her story of abuse, the insecurities birthed from it, and offers practical advice on how to live in freedom. Carey lives in Northern Colorado with her family. Learn more at CareyScott.org. You can also connect with her on Facebook,Twitter or Pinterest.
No matter how great of a minister, husband, leader or father he is, he’s not immune to adversity.
Church dilemmas erupt, leaving his leadership landscape shaken. Sin happens, either committed by him or against him. A friend that was life-giving awkwardly leaves the church. Exhaustion eventually affects his emotional stamina. The list continues.
Whether his struggle is private or public, as his wife you feel a version of his pain and walk in the aftershocks of his struggle.
How do we walk wisely with our husband in the landscape of his suffering?
Resist reacting with emotional solutions that bring temporary relief.
When he hurts, you hurt. Any path to relief, even if temporary, seems right in the moment. Job’s wife could only think of one thing to relieve her husband from his suffering – quit! “Curse God and die.” Let’s not rush to be too harsh on her. I’ve entertained saying, “quit” to my husband, too. Everything they had built together was gone! She had been the wife to the “greatest man of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). They both lost children, financial security and reputation in the community. And now she’s watching her suffering husband and probably thinking, “ENOUGH!” Yet, temporary relief doesn’t change reality.
Cling to the reality that God is sovereign in our suffering.
Pain in the present distorts our ability to comprehend anything beyond our present circumstances. Job and his wife didn’t have a clue that a conversation had occurred between God and Satan. While their circumstances were incredibly painful, there was another reality they weren’t privy to. And no amount of logic attempting to answer the question, “Why is this happening?” would have unveiled the real reason. God’s sovereignty shadows our suffering.
Recognize his vulnerability and the value of your strength.
In suffering our husband is more vulnerable than he may admit. He may flirt with quitting or react by isolating. Chuck Swindoll confessed, “Men are weakened when times of affliction hit…In our weakened condition we lose our objectivity, sometimes our stability. We become vulnerable and most men don’t know how to handle themselves in a vulnerable state of mind. We become – hard as it is to admit this – afraid. So in light of all this, hear me – we need your clear perspective, wisdom, and spiritual strength. We need your words of confidence and encouragement. We even find it hard to say, ‘I need you right now.’”
Be present, but don’t always talk.
A loving presence that is courageously resolute and unconditionally available speaks loudly. Sometimes, there are just no words that need to be said. Give him a safe place and space to process. At times he needs be alone. Other times, he needs you near without words. If he speaks, listen. A safe space is comfort to a hurting soul. Your presence in pain creates a deep, unspoken intimacy.
In the shadow of our leader-husband, we often default to his initiation in spiritual intimacy. However, we are in partnership on this journey. When my husband was in his own pit of despair I asked him, “What do you need from me?” His first answer was, “I need you to initiate praying because I just have no words.” Don’t ask if he wants to pray, just start praying out loud with him. Initiate ushering both of your hearts before the throne of God.
Discipline yourself to build-up strength reserve, now.
Adversity will come. You can’t fake strength. Those who possess it have built it from a disciplined conditioning of the heart. Build up strength and you will walk wisely beside him in his pain.
My church body is currently in the midst of one of the greatest tragedies I’ve ever seen. Our community is suffering, mourning and asking difficult questions.
It’s been one of the most exhausting weeks we’ve ever experienced in ministry. In many ways, we have felt unqualified for the task before us. Yet, my husband faithfully visited grieving family members, counseled church members in office and by phone, led our church staff through their sorrow and preached a funeral—all in a span of five days.
As a pastor’s wife, when tragedy strikes your church body, it strikes your husband’s heart and mind. In the overflow, it strikes your home. When so many have experienced a personal loss, your sufferings might be overlooked during a time of crisis. Rightly so. However, it does not diminish the difficulty of the days for you and your husband.
As we weather this current storm, we are clinging to truth in order to minister well and take care of our own bodies and souls. I pray these five actions we're taking provides you encouragement in whatever you also may be facing.
1. Recognize the spiritual battle.
Begin with Ephesians 6. Every tragedy involves people. At times, it’s easy to see a person as an enemy that caused your sorrow. It's better to avoid this temptation. The truth found in Ephesians 6 allows us to remove antagonists and protagonists from the narrative and rightly focus our eyes on and prayers against the devil’s schemes.
"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:11-13).
2. Soak in the gospel.
My husband and I have read and re-read Romans 8 together. Its reminders of what Christ has done for us, that the Spirit is alive in us and of how the Spirit and Christ intercede for us offer such sustaining grace.
No matter what we may face, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38).
And this too is what we have to offer others in their grief. As C.S. Lewis wrote in the introduction of The Problem with Pain, “when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”
3. Create temporary boundaries.
When your church body is in the midst of crisis, many are affected. Everyone and everything feels urgent. However, there are logistical and physical limits to you and your husband’s ability to respond to all requests for counsel while still maintaining your own rest and emotional energy.
Likely you and your husband will need to set boundaries with people for a period of time in order to minister to those truly affected. Tragedies will reveal those who are ill-equipped to handle trials. You will need wisdom to discern who they are and set boundaries.
My husband and I have done everything we can to rest well these days including cancelling some morning appointments and leaving housework undone. Some evenings, my husband turns off his phone for a few hours to be with our children. We do this because we know we will need physical strength to sustain our emotional strength.
Even though I spend most of my days at home, I ask for help on weeks like this. I call the sitter. I order take-out. I simplify our life as much as possible so that when my husband is home I can give him my emotional energy.
"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one" (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
5. Call in the troops.
This might not be able to happen right away, but as soon as possible, I seek to create life-giving scenarios for me and my husband. I invite over friends who are easy and understanding. I sit at a friend’s kitchen table and let the kids play. I ask our parents to come to town. Whatever others offer, take advantage of it. We are made for community and are strengthened by community.
In the midst of such sadness, God provided people who encourage me and my husband. We have seen how He sustains us through the prayers of those we didn’t know were praying. We have seen our church body serve and love and encourage each other in ways that blessed us as well. We can see God working in so many lives through this experience, redeeming what was meant for evil. We are left knowing He “will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Genesis 50:20; Philippians 1:6).
By Christian Fauth
We continue with this powerful, yet vulnerable entry from licensed minister, Christian Fauth. Last week she shared about her lifelong struggle with depression and the process to finding help.
To read last week's entry, click here.
Let's pick up where she left off...
I guess I’m writing this for two reasons. The first is for someone to know there is help. No matter what the problem or the pain, there are professionals that are waiting to give treatment to those who feel they are at their end. There are people, whether it is a church or other organization that will support those who need to know someone cares. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take that step and acknowledge a need for help.
The second reason I wanted to write this is because I want people to know there is hope. My story does not end with seeing a counselor every other week and taking medication daily. Early in 2014, a few months after my stay, I met with a friend and as we watched our children play at McDonalds I told her my story. She, in turn, told me how she too had struggled with depression, but God had healed her. Now, I knew God heals. God heals cancer. God makes the deaf hear. I had witnessed healings of others in my life. But did God heal mental illness?
Does God heal mental illness?
Over the next few months, I wrestled with this. I prayed. During the summer, I started getting sick when I took my medicine. I thought maybe the strength was just too high. But I talked to Carl and told him, “I think God is healing me.” In October, I had another doctor appointment. I shared with my doctor and she said she didn’t see a need for me to take the medication any longer! It has been a year and I still haven’t taken anti-depressants. This is the longest I have ever gone unmedicated since 2003.
Our family is happy. Our marriage is healthy. I am whole. Christ has set me free. I am healed.
I hesitated to write this. I don’t want people to think I am seeking fame or attention. After all, it took me two years to write this down for myself. However, I want to make God famous. I want to give Him the praise He is due. Revelation 12:11 says “and they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.”
Word of their testimony.
Part of this healing is sharing what God has done. I’ve kept it to myself for too long, unsure why God chose to heal me while others fight everyday. I still don’t know why, but I can’t just keep it to myself if there is someone who needs to hear of a hope and light in the darkness of this world. God can take you at your lowest point and He will carry you through. Today, I share that no matter where you are, no matter what you are going through, there is help, hope and healing.
Let me leave you with a few practical directives if you find yourself in a similar situation. What should you do if you find yourself feeling hopeless?
Christian Fauth and her husband, Carl, celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in June. They currently serve as worship pastors at Life 360 in Springfield, Missouri, where she also serves as the creative arts pastor. They have three "handsome, hilarious, and wonderful" boys. "I have shaped my ministry philosophy around growing up with mental illness in a pastor’s home and seeing the need for more vulnerability and honesty about what God can do, not in spite of but, through our struggles." When Christian finds free time, she likes to read design magazines and spend lots of time with family and friends. Her greatest passion? "My greatest passion is to see people connect with God and to know who they are in Christ."
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