Many times throughout life, we are called to be still. This call is prevalent throughout the Bible. A very well-known verse, Psalm 46:10, says, “Be still and know that I am God.” I have found this instruction to be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding of the biblical calls; I usually prefer issues to be solved immediately. I find it frustrating and painful to be still, as I would rather not suffer so long. Suffering is overwhelming; prolonged grief, is, at times, almost unbearable. But often, God calls us to inaction during the dark periods. Being still does not imply we stop our daily routine, rather we give our burdens to the Lord, allowing Him to navigate.
During a very stressful time in my life, the Lord impressed a message on my heart. He gave me an image of the two of us on a plane together. Even if you know me, you may not be aware that I did not like to fly. However, my job insists that I fly for 17-36 hours at a time—and often! During this time in my life, I felt so wasted by the stress and filled with such anxiety, the thought of allowing someone else to steer a plane that I must sit on was beyond overwhelming to me.
I became very acquainted with the people next to me on a flight. I had a coping system in place. I would apologize before take-off—letting the person next to me know that certainly during the flight, he or she would be holding my hand (and it may hurt!). I had chest pains; I could not breathe; I could not speak. The terror of that time was overwhelming—indeed, an example of my larger world.
When I received this message from God, I had to laugh—of course He chose an airplane! He has a sense of humor! God revealed this mental image of an airplane to me as a safe place where we could be near one another. In my mind, I needed to find that safe place—to allow my thoughts to rest, and to grieve and heal from the pain. So, God chose a plane.
In my mind, when I crawled into the plane, I was OK, but very weak. All the seats were open; I could choose to sit wherever I wanted. I found myself drawn to a well-worn co-pilot’s seat. I knew the Lord was in the Pilot’s chair. As we flew, God navigated all of the mine fields that appeared in the plane’s path. I sat still, very still, not even able to look over at the Pilot. I knew He was there, that was enough. I was not strong—I was too weak, too worn down by life, and thankful someone was steering. All around the plane, a great battle was underway. Arrows were trying to pierce through the aircraft. We could not see who was fighting off the arrows. God kept flying. I kept sitting—still.
As I sat in my seat, I suffered great pain—yet, God still flew. He was carrying me. He was fighting for me. After what seemed like a long while, I could finally turn my head—and look at my Pilot. That is all I could muster. I continued to be still. He continued to navigate . . . for the navigation we needed was beyond anything I could handle or control. After all, I didn’t know how to fly. I continued to be still. I gave up all control.
The plane—a place that once terrified me became a place for the biggest hand-over I had ever given the Lord. I was at my end, and He took it all for me.
I gave Him myself, my kids, family, others, finances, future, pain, hopes, dreams—and in return, He gave me peace—and the ability to continue to be still. He continues to navigate my joy and pain and carries my burdens as if they are a piece of luggage I can check under the plane. My burdens still exist, but they no longer weigh heavy in my arms. Mind you, I usually pack my luggage to the last ounce!
The verse God gave me through this time:
"I will fight for you; you need only be still." Exodus 14:14, NIV
Eventually, after much healing—we began to have conversations. I was too weak before, when I could only speak in what felt more like groans. I knew He could understand these. Now, after years of healing, we have plenty of chats. You see, we are flying this life together. I make plenty of suggestions. He listens—and even allows me to fly when I want to. I have found it much better to give Him the controls! After all, I want to serve Him.
Through stillness, the Lord works. Through stillness, the Lord heals. Through obedient stillness, the Lord will fight for you. It is as if God says to us, “Sit in that cockpit seat and let Me fly this plane. You can trust me, as I can navigate better than you can. You have an army of angels fighting on your behalf—fending off arrows and flames . . . though you have been—and still are in pain, I am in control.”
Certainly, at times we are called to action—but, sometimes when we hear these calls, they are refined in stillness before the Lord.
Article can be viewed at Her Green Room.
Amy grew up in Lynden, Washington. She attended Calvin College receiving a BA in Biblical Studies and Theology. After finishing college in 1997, she moved to Jerusalem, Israel, to attend Jerusalem University College. While there she pursued her MA at Jerusalem University College. Her area of study was in New Testament Backgrounds/Jewish History of the Second Temple Period. Amy lived in Israel for a total of 6 years, and two of their three children were born while living in Israel. After living in Israel, she moved with her family to Belgium where she taught classes at Continental Theological Seminary. After departing Continental, she moved to Springfield, Missouri, where she now works full time for the Center for Holy Lands Studies as the Director.
holistic beings with a spirit, body and soul. But how many of us truly connect the dots on a daily basis and realize the direct impact our emotions have on our physical health? When we aren’t feeling well, often our instinct is to relate the problem to a physical illness, what we’ve been eating and drinking, or whether we’ve been exercising and getting enough rest. But sometimes the deeper part of the problem—the root of it all—stems from negative emotions that we permit into our life.
So while you’re reading this article, I’m going to ask you to be honest with yourself about the kinds of thoughts and feelings you permit into your life. God wants you to feel strong and healthy. He also wants you around for the long haul. And for many of us, taking better care of ourselves emotionally needs to be just as important as how we care for our physical needs.
Seeing the Symptoms But Not the Problem
Years ago I became really sick. I was dealing with shortness of breath and just felt horrible. I couldn’t relax. Every muscle in my body felt like it was tied in knots, so I went through various rounds of medical tests. Eventually, the doctors found a tumor on one of my adrenal glands and I thought, Aha! That’s it! But then they said, “Actually, Joyce, this has probably been there all your life, and it’s not really doing you any harm.”
Even though it was good news, I was disappointed to find out there wasn’t anything physically wrong with me that I could blame for how badly I felt. It all came down to one thing: I was a workaholic, living as if I had no limitations.
We like to think we can handle everything. And sure, we can quote Philippians 4:13 all we want: We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. But God won’t strengthen us to do something that’s not His will for us to do.
When I learned how my emotions were affecting my overall health, I was forced to take an honest look at the problem. I knew if I didn’t learn to control my emotions, they’d continue to control me. And I couldn’t go on living that way.
Where to Start With Managing Your Emotions
The Bible is filled with Scriptures that warn us to guard our hearts against emotions such as fear, worry, anxiety, anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, grief and guilt. Yet most of us could name at least one or two that we’re struggling with right now. Maybe you’ve even been holding on to one of these for a long time. Well, now is the time to do something about it!
In John 8:31-32, Jesus says: “ If you abide in My word ... you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (AMP).
It’s easy to face the truth for or about someone else. For example, it’s easy for me to spot my husband Dave’s problems or my children’s problems. It’s more difficult for me to see my own problems, which means I have to seek the truth about me. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, each of us can face the truth, obey God’s Word and make positive changes for our own emotional well-being.
Some people pay big money for professional help but never find the answers they want to hear. I’m convinced this is because many of these people don’t really want to be helped; instead, they want someone to excuse them from the problem: “It’s not you. It’s other people in your life who are causing you problems and making you upset.”
I’m not saying that people don’t do things to us they shouldn’t do. People hurt us and it’s not right. But the bottom line is this: You cannot control what everybody else does, but you can control your reaction to it. It’s time to stop letting someone else’s bad behavior steal your joy.
It’s Hard to Admit That It’s Us!
I remember when my kids were young. I could spend the whole day at home, listening to music and singing praise and worship songs. But as soon as my kids came home from school, somebody would drop their books and somebody else would want something to eat, and then maybe they’d get in the refrigerator and spill something—and I became a totally different person.
I will never forget the time I was under the dining room table cleaning up spilled milk when the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “You know, Joyce, no matter how big of a fit you have, this milk is not going to run back up the table legs and into the glass, so you might as well learn how to go with the flow.”
At that moment I realized how my emotions and behavior were playing right into the devil’s hands.I decided it would stop right there. Since then, I’ve spent years studying the topic of emotions in depth, and I can share with you some good, sound advice to help you overcome negative emotions. Let’s take a look at three of the biggest: anger, guilt and grief.
Anger: Is It Ever OK to Be Angry?
When people mistreat you, it’s not wrong for you to feel anger. What’s wrong is to not manage the anger. In fact, the Bible tells us to do this quickly. Ephesians 4:26 says, “When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.”
The longer you hold on to anger, the more it eats away at you.You can try to pretend everything is OK for a while, but if you’re really not letting go, anger will slowly destroy you.
When you’re upset with someone else, I encourage you to ask God to show you how much mercy He gives you every day. At times, you’ll need to do that over and over again, because even when you’ve prayed all the right prayers and said all the right things, you can still feel as if there’s something missing: What’s wrong with me? I’m trying to forgive and I can’t!
We need to understand that forgiveness is not a feeling, it’s a decision.
When you make the decision to forgive, pray for your enemies and treat them with kindness because that’s what God’s Word tells us to do. Eventually, God will cause your feelings to catch up with your decision to forgive.
Guilt: Getting Back Up After It Gets You Down
Isaiah 53:4-6 says that Jesus not only bore our sins, He also washed away our guilt. It’s vital for us to understand this, because over time unresolved guilt will affect our mental health.
Not long ago I went to a mental institution in St. Louis to minister to the patients. I saw a woman there whom I’ll never forget. She was shuffling along down the hall with a big cross around her neck, and she kept muttering under her breath, “It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault.”
Jesus washed away our guilt because we were not created to carry that kind of burden. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
If you’re truly sorry in your heart, there is no reason for you to shuffle your way through life feeling guilty or ashamed. Jesus made a way for you to live free from condemnation. So if you are struggling in this area and frequently battle feelings of guilt, I encourage you to let this Scripture sink in until you receive true revelation about who you are in Christ.
Grief: What Keeps You From Getting on With Life
Grief is another powerful emotion that God wants us to learn to release. To be clear, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with grieving something or someone. The problem becomes when we cling to this emotion and allow it to control us and prevent us from moving into what God has planned for us. The key to victory is understanding the difference between a normal, balanced grieving process and a spirit of grief that will try to attach itself to us. One helps us get better with the passing of time; the other causes us to sink deeper and deeper into the pit of despair.
In Deuteronomy 34, when Moses died, the people were allowed to mourn his death for 30 days. Then the instruction came for them to move on. God does give us a period of time to work through our mourning, but if something or someone is gone and you can’t get them back, then you have to go on with your life. We need to give God a chance to mend our hearts.
Revelation 21:4 says, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away.” This Scripture may be referring to our time in heaven, but I believe it also applies to today—because as we walk in the Spirit, we can experience heaven here on earth. That includes allowing the Holy Spirit to comfort us in our time of grief, and then heal us so we can move on.
Your Emotions and Your Health
One of the most frequently quoted verses in the Bible instructs us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your way acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6, NKJV). What many people overlook, however, are the following verses connected to this passages: “Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord and turn [entirely] away from evil. It shall be health to your nerves and sinews, and marrow and moistening to your bones” (7-8, AMP, emphasis mine).
God connects our physical health to how we trust, acknowledge, revere and worship Him. Think about it: Each of those things is intrinsically tied to our emotional well-being, and by deciding to do each of them—regardless of if we feel like it—we supply God-given health to our physical bodies.
The reverse is true, then: When we allow emotions such as anger, guilt and grief to dominate our lives, our physical bodies are affected. With God’s help, however, you can learn to manage these and every other negative emotion that comes your way. This will take a measure of self-control on your part to succeed, because I can assure you there will always be things that try your emotions. But in Christ Jesus, you have the power to change your response.
You can rise above your emotions. After all, you are not what you feel.
And remember that in good times and in bad, it is God’s will for you to be emotionally healthy and constantly at peace.
our failures and mistakes. Some of the most impactful conversations in my life have come when someone I respect says, “Watch out for that pothole!” Here’s what I want to share in this post. I want to share two of the potholes that have tripped me up. My hope is that my mistakes might keep you from falling into the same potholes. So, here we go: Two of my biggest mistakes in ministry.
1. Making It About Me
When I entered into student ministry, I discovered a level of personal meaning and fulfillment that I’d never experienced in my life. I felt like I was doing what God created me to do. I loved it. Maybe you’ve been there.
Because of this, I went all in. I did everything. I was the teacher, I was the worship leader, I was the counselor, and I was the trainer. I took on all the roles. I spent five years in my first church having the time of my life. The ministry was effective. The ministry grew and I grew. There was just one problem. When I made the decision to leave, the ministry struggled. Why? Because I put myself I the center. I made it all about me — my skills, my presence, my personality. It was all about me.
In the years since that mistake I’ve reflected on the magnitude of my failure. My choosing to focus on myself instead of empowering others severely limited the effectiveness of the ministry. I robbed others of the privilege of exercising their gifts and I set the ministry up for a season of struggle when I left. I’d give just about anything to go back and redo those five years.
If I could offer a challenge to those of you who lead: Empower others! The lesson I missed was that the scope of your impact is exponentially increased when you empower others to lead.
Another challenge that a mentor if mine consistently talks about is this:
“What happens to the ministry when you get hit by a...truck?”
“Are you empowering and training others so that when the day (planned or unplanned) comes, the ministry will be in a position to keep moving?”
Let’s get practical:
Don’t make it all about you.
2. Burying My Frustrations
About nine years ago I discovered that I had developed a bitter, caustic and toxic attitude. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t life-giving. In fact, it was destructive. I found myself thinking, writing and saying things that shocked me.
“Where did that come from?!?”
Have you ever been there? If you’ve been in ministry for any length of time, I bet you have.
Here’s what I’ve learned about bitterness. It doesn’t flood into our hearts like a tsunami. It doesn’t rush into us, uninvited in a day. No, bitterness seeps into our hearts like a leaky faucet. It happens so slowly that we barely even notice.
In my case, the leaky faucet was my frustrations with volunteers, programs, decisions, parents, leadership and specifically, my decision to bury those frustrations. Each decision to stuff my frustrations down was a drop from a toxic, leaky faucet. Eventually, over several years, I finally woke up to the fact that I was angry and bitter.
It took a very long time to leech out all this toxicity. There were relational and ministry consequences. The big lesson I learned from this experience is this: There is a cost to burying your frustrations. It’s like drinking poison.
I’ve had to learn the discipline of embracing conflict. These days, I’m much more likely to vocalize my frustrations with staff members, volunteers and friends. I have learned that being honest with my frustrations is a far more healthy way to live and lead.
So, if you want to survive and thrive in ministry over the long-haul, I would plead with you to find ways to talk about your frustrations.
Perhaps you’re sensing the value of verbalizing your frustrations but you’re worried about going too far and being seen as “that guy” or “that girl” who is always negative. Here’s a suggestion: Instead of attacking, ask questions about your frustrations.
Here’s what I mean: Go directly to the person who is frustrating you and instead of accusing them of something, ask them questions. For example:
“I felt frustrated by your comments in the team meeting, could you share a bit more of what you meant? Maybe I’m not understanding you.”
“You haven’t been showing up on time lately. Is everything ok? Is there something I can help you with?”
“I don’t understand the purpose of this program. Can you help me understand the value?”
In my experience, asking, rather than attacking gives you an avenue to share your frustrations without putting others on the immediate defensive. And, if you’re able to regularly discuss your frustrations, you’ll begin to close that leaky faucet and protect yourself from developing a bitter and caustic attitude.
Making a Change
Let’s wrap this up. Two of my biggest mistakes in ministry have been making it all about me and burying my frustrations. Both of these mistakes led to deep regrets and seasons of ineffectiveness.
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).
repetitive, and others completely exhausting. It’s not that we don’t love what we do, but the pressure of performing is almost too much to bear. Sweet fellow sisters, can we all take a deep breath for just a moment? Let me look you in that beautiful face and tell you, “You are more than enough through Christ!”
You don’t just barely squeak by on the “approval meter.” You are altogether more than enough!
These words, to me, feel like rain on a parched land. They make me inhale, not just deeply in, but exhale out as well.
I am more than enough . . .
We can put that unicycle away now.
Honestly, I can blame a million things, people, or places for the pressure of performance in ministry that I’ve felt along the years, but recently I’ve discovered that most of the pressure has come from within. I’ve exhausted myself trying to strive to keep it all together. My “doing” has trumped my “being,” and I’ve been left trampled in return.
Last year, God asked me to enter a year of rest. The longer story may be how hard it was to finally comply, but I went through a complete and total undoing the first several months. Taking a break from the juggling act was killing me because I have now discovered it’s where I had for so long found my worth.
Who am I if I’m not doing all these things?
What worth do I have if I’m not helping or leading something?
I’m surely just a giant disappointment—to any and everyone, but especially the One who called me. Or was I really called?
In all honesty, approval grew silent from all in my life but a few entrusted souls—until heaven suddenly got louder. It was as if His applause was going wild over my being. For the first time in my life I was discovering what it meant to be loved and valued “just because!” I had become excellent at being a doer, but forgotten to be a daughter. One of my favorite passages about the Father is when He wildly and proudly exclaimed over Jesus, “This is my beloved Son; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NIV). Jesus hadn’t begun His public ministry yet; no one knew His name or followed His miraculous feats—but His Father was so proud and so pleased. Just because.
His pleasure and approval in my life is overflowing, and I’ve learned to just calm down. I’m living, and doing, and walking out of a place of rest these days. No longer do I feel the tremendous pressure to perform, to get it right, to keep the balls flying high. I’m learning to just wear one hat—the hat of “sonship.” It was a process which required a whole lot of undoing and maybe squirming for a bit, while people couldn’t understand why you’re no longer “doing” that thing, but it’s worth it.
My closest friend once told me as I struggled to let some things go, “Sons don’t put on a show; they live wildly from acceptance.” The pressure’s all off now. We only have one set of eyes to please—and He’s already crazy about us!