Clergy and mental health

Once upon a time, the world was perfect. There was no sin, no evil, no disappointment, no sorrow. That time, my friends, has been long gone.

I sat in my therapists office and let the question stuck in my throat for weeks on end, finally come tumbling out…

“But when will it get easier. I keep waiting for life to be easier.”

I knew life wasn’t made for easy. That even before sin in the world, easy wasn’t the goal.

So, why in the world was easy suddenly my goal?

Maybe because life had been hard, really hard. We had some junk. We had marriage junk, mental health junk, kid behavior junk, family junk. In fact, if there was a form of junk in existence, we probably had some connection with it. Or at least that’s how it felt.

I was ashamed. Deeply ashamed. Pastors were not supposed to have junk. Pastor’s wives were not supposed to have junk. Deaconesses weren’t supposed to have junk. Our families were not supposed to have junk spilling out our back pockets. We were supposed to hold it all together so that we could help other people with their junk. “Above reproach” in the depths of my mind, hidden from even myself, meant keeping it together, being above turmoil, above struggle…above the junk.

Then I opened my eyes.

This world- it’s been filled with junk since the tree in a garden and the fruit that changed everything. I am a part of that world. God, in fact, in John 17:15-17, asks me to hold on tight and walk fully immersed in this world bearing His Truth. Bearing His salvation.

You see, your pastor has some stuff. Every member of our church has some stuff. This is the world we live in, far from perfection, never easy, but full of people walking around bearing His salvation.

Above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2-6) isn’t in being the person without any junk, the pastor without any real life stuff to deal with, whether in himself, in his marriage, in his home, or in his family. It is about how we deal with those things. Do we ask for help? Do we take the time we need to get help? Do we avoid keeping secrets? Are we willing to take the risk to help our marriages and our families and our ministries, by admitting we have some stuff?

The devil loves destruction. Don’t for a minute pretend that he doesn’t want to eat us up and spit us out. He would love nothing more than for a church work family or even a whole congregation to implode because he convinced us to let darkness reign over the struggles of our lives.

1 Timothy 3:5 tells us – “…if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”

How does he manage? By asking for help. By admitting that he’s not perfect and making sure he gets the help he needs.

There are certainly instances in which someone can not be a pastor, it isn’t the best choice for him, or the church. And we need to be honest when that is the case, but the majority of the time only good things come from church workers and their families seeing a counselor, getting needed medication, and placing boundaries around their time and energy.

Surprise – your pastor has some stuff, your deaconess has some stuff, your dce has some stuff, your children’s ministry person, your teachers, your youth director…all have stuff.

Let’s build one another up and normalize the act of getting of help, asking for what we need. How much more likely are our parishioners to come for care, confession, and counseling if we, ourselves, utilize what’s available to us?

Life is full of junk – God promises to make all of it beautiful in His time. He restores us with His salvation, not just for a place called heaven, but for His kingdom today. Anything we have, Jesus Christ can handle. Run to Him. Ask Him for help. Let the Church be the place that loves us unconditionally and helps us rise up from the ashes of whatever Satan throws at us.

Need resources or help with something? Send me an email. This is what I do and I’m happy to help. Brothers and sisters, I’m praying as we minister and reach this fallen world together.

Tending the sheep

Sometimes ministry is hard, even being in a ministry family is hard at times. People say things, programs don’t go as planned, discouragement sets in. People say that ministry is full of joy and sorrow. This verse tells us that the Christian life will most certainly contain sorrow. It’s just reality, ministry life or not.

It’s not comforting- “For your sake we face death all day long…” (NIV).

Remember these two promises:

First, Christ is the sheep. On Good Friday, He was led to the slaughter for our sake. He took on this role willingly, on our behalf. God set the sin of the world on His shoulders, with the weight of the cross. He faced death, so that when we face it, we see Him. We see and draw in His strength, His sacrifice, His mercy. His willing Spirit is in us- there is the comfort. We are not only forgiven and set free by His cross, we are capable of His work, by His strength in death. More over, we are granted the freedom of the resurrection, so death has no sting, grave no victory.

Second, because of Christ’s victory on the cross, there is victory every day in ministry. Victory in simply being faithful to His work, through His Spirit. Victory in caring for one another, fellow sheep journeying to well watered pastures, through a parched desert land. Fellow sheep, take heart. He is at work in you.

God of even this…A God Who Sees

This last week has been pretty miserable. Like anyone in crisis, I feel like most of what I do is wait. Wait for an answer, wait for help, wait for things to get better…and…nothing.

Well, not nothing, but struggle can feel like a void of unchanging hopelessness. I know some of you have been there. I also know that some of you are standing on the other side. Some of you have shared your stories with me, of God working, of moving from hopeless to hopeful, of trust in God and Jesus’s time, healing the deep places of your heart. Our stories keep one another going on this journey, bringing the truth of light at the end of a tunnel and the reality of the other side.

Here, the middle of hopelessness, we meet Hagar. She seems like a pawn in someone else’s game. She is sent away with a skin of water and a loaf of bread. She sits away from the bush, unwilling to watch her son die. Here is hopelessness at its best.

But El Roi answers.

“The God who sees…”

He sees her pain. He sees her struggle. He sees her hunger. He sees her aching heart. I need to know that. I need to know that God sees me.

And so He shows me.

I had a friend cry with me yesterday. Cry. Audibly.

I have rarely felt so loved.

I had a friend tell me that he finally understood what Paul meant when he said he was suffering for another person. He felt my pain, our pain, as his own.

My sisters have told me countless times that they would lift my burden if there was any possible way they could.

I am not just given a loaf of bread and a skin of water, but meals come, food is served, and sometimes I don’t even know where it came from.

There are prayers said, sometimes in the wee hours of night, on our behalf.

This is one reason why God created the Church. This is the visible Church lifting up our arms, when we ourselves can not. This is the visible Church, wrapping their arms around me and letting me cry. This is the visible Church seeing through the compassionate lens of a Savior who came to redeem our crisises and heal our broken hearts.

This is a God who sees me, through you.

He sees each of us. It is His name. And He can not deny who He is. Whatever our pain, whatever our joy, whatever our struggle.

El Roi…He sees me. He sees my husband, my kids, my people. He sees, and that is my Hope each day.

He sees.