Last year I nearly had an emotional breakdown. I was shocked that I was in this position. How can I have missed all the signs and ignored my feelings for so long? These were feelings of being trapped in a ministry with no way out. I felt isolated. It felt like there was no-one to help even though I had support groups. I felt I needed to get myself out of this place.
Truth is I couldn’t do it alone and, yes, I was crying out to God, but I wasn’t listening to his replies. My stress had become my crutch and there were many scape goats that I was blaming.
I had allowed false expectations of ministry, disappointments and hurt from Christian brothers and sisters to live in my soul. I hadn’t turned to Jesus the Healer and worked with His Spirit to begin to forgive and extinguish the pain and bring a fresh outpouring of His Spirit to fill the empty spaces.
Realising my need of the Saviour anew and Christian brothers and sisters to lay hands on me over time really helped. As did the reintroduction of a daily pattern of Bible reading, weekly Sabbath rest, weekly prayer soaking and Christian meditation, weekly prayer walks with our dog, monthly quiet days, and quarterly retreats. This isn’t a shopping list but they all helped me.
I found some really peaceful music on YouTube for prayer soaking and often I would just sleep. Psalm 127:2 describes the problem and the solution I found: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves”
Over time as I was regularly spending time with Father, Son and Holy Spirit and regularly having hands laid upon me in prayer, there was a shift in my mind-set. I finally realised it’s not my ministry, not my project, not my church, but His. What a relief! The peace of Jesus settled upon me as I reflected on Matthew 11: 28-30: “Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”
Please don’t wait, like me, until you’re almost burnt out to realise Jesus is the only one that will make the difference in ministry. It’s His ministry not yours. Please don’t isolate yourself; talk and pray with Christian brothers and sisters. There is hope and healing available as we allow the Holy Spirit to work on our hurts, disappointment and false expectations. Forgiveness is often linked to this as we break our chains connected to those who have hurt us (I can say more about forgiveness in my next blog!).
Having now put healthy habits in place, here are five things that have helped me (and might also help you) avoid burnout:
- Make spending time with God a daily habit – this ranks as the highest task above all else.
- Have a weekly Sabbath (which may not be a Sunday) and enjoy doing non-work things. I enjoy spending time with family or playing golf.
- Have a monthly quiet day where you stop and listen to God. For me prayer walking with my dog is wonderful.
- Have a quarterly retreat for at least two days, perhaps on a theme. Why not explore a creative art you’ve always wanted to do but have not had the time.
- Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. I have joined Slimming World which is training me in healthy eating. I aim to walk 8,000 steps a day and I’m now cycling to work too. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is vital to beating stress.