Freedom is never free.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
I’m not talking about the days you wake up and wish you could hit the snooze button a few more times. I’m not referring to days when you didn’t get enough sleep because you stayed up too late watching David Letterman. Those days are normal. For some they happen everyday.
I’m talking about the days when you don’t want to get out of bed, because you don’t think you can face the world outside the covers. I’m talking about days when it hurts to think about facing life.
Perhaps you’re like me, and you’ve had seasons where facing the day seems unbearable. It can last a day, a week, or months at a time. I’ve spoken about this before, but I went through a mini-depression a few years ago. My boys were leaving home, my father and Cheryl’s father died, and the stress of ministry was greater than ever. Some days it was all I could do to put on my pastor smile and keep going.
At times, the stress of life can cause a person to wish they didn’t have to face another day. In a world of constant changes, uncertainty, fear, trials and steady burnout, keeping your chin up and continuing to smile can often be a challenge. Has that ever been your story?
I wish we were better as a church and a society of realizing those times are natural, allowing people to be honest about them, and helping people through them rather than looking down on them because of their inner struggles. Even godly, people of extreme faith have times when they fell all is hopeless. (Read about Elijah and Paul for a couple of good Biblical examples.)
After years of experience, both personal and walking with others, here are a few suggestions for those times:
Get up and do something – No, you may not feel like it, but doing nothing during times of depression, mild or otherwise, almost never solves the problem. You may not be able to do what you need to do, and you certainly may need rest, but continuing a vegetative state of existence is not the right answer. Discipline yourself to get out of bed, be around people, and stay active.
Do the best you know how today – You may not be at 100%. You may only be 20% today. Okay, perhaps you only have 1% to give today. That’s okay. Give that. Do the best you can do today and don’t feel guilty about not doing all you normally would do. My guess is there’s probably something you can still do that will bring value to the people around you…yet another reason to get out of bed.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – This may mean professional help and don’t be ashamed of that. Most of us need professional counseling at some point in our life. But, also soak up energy from others for a season. It’s okay to need others. In fact, that’s one primary purpose of the body of Christ. We are to bear with one another during tougher times of life. Chances are you’ve been there for others when they needed help. Now let others be there for you. (Note: Relying on others should not be an excuse to ignore the other principles here. You still have personal responsibilities and ignoring them will not help you, but only enable you to continue in your current condition.)
Prepare and build – This is a time to practice healthy discipline, get consistent rest, exercise, eat healthfully, and prepare mentally and physically for a day when you feel better about your surroundings. Watch for the healing moments, the days when a smile comes easier and for the door of opportunities to open, which encourage you. Those are good days and you should be even more productive on those days. You’ll be able to celebrate your progress and, when repeated over time, it will help lift your spirits. God does heal when we submit our pain to Him. In these seasons, you’ll also learn to recognize the signs that a period like this is coming again. Store up that wisdom and experience to help others and yourself in other similar seasons of life.
Wait and listen – God will use these times of desperation to build you more into His heart and character. This should be a time of constant prayer, crying out to God for help. Many of the Psalms were written during times like this in the Psalmist’s life. Read a few of them. Don’t make drastic decisions during these days as you wait for God to speak clearly again.
You may now want to read my post “God WILL Allow More Than You Can Bear“.
Have you ever wished you could stay in bed and not face another day? Are you there now?
What steps have you taken to heal from times like these? What or who helped you the most?
Share your story so it will help others.
I love the story in Judges 6 where God called Gideon to save the Israelites from the land of Midian. Gideon was the weakest of his clan from the weakest clan, yet God chose to use him for a powerful leadership role for God’s people. You might read the story again HERE.
Consider a small part of Gideon’s conversation with angel of the Lord:
(I’ve embellished the story a bit to illustrate the way I view the story. My embellishment is in parenthesis.)
“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor”
“Well, please sir…(I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but) if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? …
…And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us…”
Imagine the scene. An angel shows up, which was usually a pretty scary part of the story, but instead of reacting in surprise, Gideon respectfully questions where God has been lately. He’s not disrespectful, but he is gut honest with the concerns he has with God.
Do you ever wonder where God is when life seems to be falling apart?
Do you ever question God’s involvement when He seems to be nowhere around?
Do you ever think things may never improve?
Gideon had those type questions, and he didn’t cover them up with phony praise, he let his concerns be known.
Yet God’s angel didn’t curse Gideon. Instead, God used Gideon, in spite of his doubts and fears.
“The Lord said to him, but I will be with you…” Judges 6:16 God simply pointed Gideon back to the faith he originally had in Him. That was not the end of Gideon’s fear or questioning, but it was the beginning of his journey back to complete faith.
Perhaps instead of continuing in our own doubts and fears, you and I should get gut honest with God. Maybe we should tell Him how we really feel. I’m not suggesting we become flippant towards a Holy God. That’s never a good idea. I’m suggesting we be honest with the God who already knows our heart and allow Him to restore our faith and strengthen us for the journey ahead. That often begins when we become real with God with who we are, who we are not, and who He is.
By the way, He knows your heart because He made your heart.
How are you at being honest with God?
It’s been a couple months since we did a Saturday night prayer chain. Is your life still in need of prayer?
This is simple. You leave a comment on this post, my faithful prayer warrior readers read it, and we pray. You can join the praying as well as the listing of requests too. Let’s pray for one another.
This time I’m praying:
What are you praying for?
How can we pray for you?
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Luke 11:9
I’ve always been considered a fairly disciplined person. There are certain disciplines that have made me who I am today. Lately, however, I’ve not felt as disciplined in each area of my life. I would excel in one area, but not in another. I’ve shared some of this here previously, but I went through a couple stressful years. That, coupled with an extremely busy period, distracted me from some of the disciplines I had done for so many years.
The only solution I know to remedy a lack of discipline is to add discipline. I also know that if I repeat a discipline long enough, it becomes a habit…part of the DNA of my daily life. With that in mind, I’m adding some discipline to my life. For the next 90 days, I’m attempting to improve in seven areas of discipline.
Eat – I am what I eat many times. When I over-eat or eat the wrong foods I gain unnecessary weight and don’t feel as well as I should. My goal here is to average eating between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day and to monitor the type foods I eat. (The LoseIt app helps with that. Read about it HERE.)
Pray – I know prayer is a life source. I’ve seen the results of prayer. Prayer doesn’t always change things the way I’d want them to bs, but prayer always changes me. It gives me strength, comfort and confidence. Why don’t I pray more? My goal is to pray throughout my day, recognizing God is with me always.
Read – I need to be regularly reading my Bible and supplementing it with Christian and leadership books. I can be legalistic about Bible reading, but the discipline I need is to read it for relationship (with God), not just for education. Part of being discipled by others happens as I read other work. My goal here is to always be reading through a Bible book I’m not preaching about, journal about my Bible reading and to read at least one chapter of another book every day.
Write – I’m introverted, so I process information many times by writing. I’m fairly disciplined with my blog, but I have some larger projects I should be working on. My goal here is to average one hour extra writing time per weekday. I may do that in a couple days per week, but want to maintain that as a total hours each week to write.
Exercise – I’ve written about this before HERE. I know well this is a secret to my productivity. My goal here is to run 4 days per week minimum and exercise with weights 2 or 3 days per week.
Sleep – I don’t need much sleep. If I’m not careful I’ll stay up too late at night working on projects. I never sleep late, so I end up getting too little sleep. My goal here is lights out by 10:30 and to take short power naps as needed…and not feel guilty about them.
Pause – Anyone who knows me well knows I have a hard time staying still long. I do take a “Sabbath” and believe everyone “rests” in their own way, but this is a discipline to have some time during the week where I do absolutely nothing. My goal here is to have a 2 to 3 hour time each week when I pause from all activities. (I can assure you this will be the hardest discipline to complete.)
I’m excited about living a more disciplined life.
Do you want to join me? Would you commit to disciplining yourself in each of these areas over the next 90 days? (You’ll be finished before Christmas.) You can change the details of each discipline…you may need more calories or less…you may choose a different exercise…etc… The key is to be disciplined in 7 critical areas of your life.
Which of this will be hardest for you to do?
Chances are good by now you’ve seen this. It happened down the road from me. I don’t know this pastor, but I may need to invite him to lunch sometime.
Just so you know, this is not a typical Tennessee prayer. It certainly brings attention to the fact that we do pray! 🙂
What thoughts come to your mind with this prayer?
Jehoshaphat was a great king, because he followed the ways of God. In an incredible example of humility, Jehoshaphat was willing to admit, in front of the people he was leading, that he didn’t have all the answers.
When facing a powerful rival nation, Jehoshaphat prayed a prayer. This week’s memory verse comes from that prayer.
Here is this week’s memory verse:
Do you ever feel overwhelmed, not knowing what step to take next? If you do, and if you want to join me this week in learning this short, simple prayer, simply comment on this post with the word “Amen!”
Together, this week, we’ll look to God for answers we do not have.
Dear church planter (and others)…
In the growth phase, everything is changing, life moves at rocket pace…
Somedays you don’t know whether you are coming or going…
It’s a bit overwhelming, stressful, even a bit scary at times…
I hear this often from new church plants and fast growing churches…
I feel (and identify with) your pain…
I see part of my calling to help church leaders during this time…
I pray you protect your heart and your family…
Let’s hope things never change…
Oh, don’t misunderstand, I hope you get better…
I hope you increase structure as needed…
I hope you can soon afford more staff…
I hope more volunteers are recruited…
I hope more people start financially contributing to the vision…
I hope you gain wisdom from others who have gone before you…
But I hope you never stop feeling somewhat overwhelmed…
I hope that the sense of facing the unknown never completely leaves you…
If you ever get to the point where you always know what to do next…
You’ve probably reached your threshold for growth…
You’ll no longer need to walk by faith…
You’ll soon become bored, perhaps even complacent…
And, that’s not the dream God called you to…
Growth and change is always uncomfortable, because it’s taking you into the unknown…
Dear church planter (and others), if the stress is from things going right…God is bringing new people…He’s stretching your leadership skills…He’s allowing you to encounter the messiness of extending love and grace to hurting people…He’s accomplishing His will through you…
Praise God…stay on your knees…and rejoice that He is displaying His glory!
Do you need to be reminded to enjoy the journey today?
This woman told our team that she prayed 40 years for a church to come to Compound Village where she lives in Sierra Leone. Africa for Jesus recently opened Believers Church and it is the first ever Christian Church in a village with over 3,000 people. I was amazed by her faith and consistent prayer.
For what or whom have you been continually praying?