Pastors sometimes experience warning roars. In keeping with this automobile illustration we should heed the warning roars. I will share several roars I have observed over the years.
There is the roar of physical symptoms. Our bodies sometimes scream when we push them too far too fast. Symptoms could include, but are not limited to: shortness of breath, weight gain, lack of energy, dizziness, sleeplessness, and the like.
In a previous article I shared an occasion when I experienced chest pains. I assumed the pain was due to a heart condition. After visiting a cardiologist I was given assurance about my heart but warned about another condition. The cardiologist told me my condition was stress related. I could not understand this. I was pastoring a church, working on a doctors degree, fathering two elementary boys, and seeking to be a worthy husband. Stress!
There is the roar of emotional symptoms. Symptoms could include, but are not limited to: lethargy, feelings of discouragement or depression, desiring to chill out on worthless activities such as television, desiring to sleep excessively, wishing you could run away, temptation to sinful habits (knowing they are wrong), and the like.
When I was a young preacher it was expected that I preach three sermons a week, visit every family in the church regularly, be present at the hospital during all surgeries, perform all weddings, attend all sports activities in the community, and be present any time there was a workday at church. These expectations make me tired even now as I think of them. Some of these expectations may have been more prevalent, when I started serving in ministry forty years ago. (They could have been self-imposed.) I have described the expectations in order to get to the symptoms. During that phase of ministry I began to notice a sense of being overwhelmed. I felt hopeless. What a roar!
There is the roar of spiritual dryness. Symptoms could include, but are not limited to: no desire to pray,
worship, read the Bible, or minister in Jesus’ name. WOW! That is scary but real.
The first experience I had with burnout resulted in many of the symptoms listed above. Symptoms such as these give a deafening roar. The roar will keep you from hearing positive sounds.
The Psalmist once said, “In my distress I cried to the Lord, And He heard me.” (Ps. 120:1) The writer was distressed by “lying lips and from a deceitful tongue.” The roar was deafening to him.
My prayer is that all of us who serve in ministry will heed the roar before the breakdown occurs. God may be allowing a period of grace to address a real need.
As you face a new year, are there areas in your personal life that need a checkup (health, marriage, emotional dryness, discouragement, etc.) The New Year is a good time to make the necessary adjustments.