Aug 122017 15 Responses

The Breaking Point That Caused Me to Get Help

For nearly half a decade I’ve wanted to do a sermon series on the concept of rest. With each year the speed at which society functions increases. While it is acceptable for life to be busy, the faster we live the more we need times of intentional rest and renewal. This concept is one of the great gifts the Christian message brings to the world. I wanted to communicate those ideas, but I felt hypocritical in doing so.

One of the meaningful aspects of being a preacher is that God often forces the preacher to deal with an issue as he is preaching about it. While some might hypocritically speak about a topic without dealing with it in their own heart, most do not. A majority of pastors allow the text to deal with their hearts as much as they hope it deals with those who are listening.

Preaching is never built on the authority of the pastor’s life or experience. I don’t stand before a crowd on a Sunday saying, “Look at me, I’ve got this all figured out.” The authority of preaching is founded on God and His Word. However, any preacher worth listening to does feel a need to align their lives with what they are saying. They don’t need to be perfect, but they do need to be progressing toward the Biblical commands.

For this reason, while I’ve wanted to speak on rest for the past several years, I have not. I felt as though I would be too hypocritical in doing so. I would’ve been saying one thing but doing something else.

The Need for Help

When I look back over my career, the situation won’t even rank in the Top 25 of dicey situations I’ve dealt with. It was a serious circumstance. It needed to be handled wisely in order to treat everyone involved fairly and to protect the church as well. As a leader, that’s my job. But I wanted no part of it. All I could think of was, “I want to run.”

My awareness of a pending problem came a few years earlier. My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and eventually died. I never cried. We were extremely close, but emotionally I wasn’t present. It felt more like walking a family through the death of their loved one rather than experiencing my own loss. That situation got my attention.

In the following months, I paid close attention to my heart and energy. While I was generally happy, I noticed how quickly the smallest of circumstances could frustrate me. I developed some physical symptoms that doctors credited to stress. Eventually, I started experiencing high amounts of anxiety before my speaking engagements. Speaking was fine, but during the music, before the sermon, I would feel high levels of stress. I wanted to run. Any time my mind had time to be calm, I would feel stress. The only way to cope was to keep busy so I’d never have to think about what I was feeling.

On a weekly basis, my phone rings with people asking for referrals for jobs. During this time I received a call about a job. I gave a couple of suggestions and hung up. Then I called back saying I might be interested. It surprised the person I was calling, but it surprised me even more. While I wouldn’t be shocked to one day express my gifts in a different way, I never want to run from a job because of internal issues. I knew I needed help.

The help came when a routine leadership task felt overwhelming. I enjoy crisis management. My personality and strengths allow me to handle it well. But when this situation felt overwhelming, I knew I was in trouble. Without assistance, I was headed for trouble.

The Call for Help

So I got help. The primary form of assistance was professional counseling. I needed an outside perspective to help me identify the lies I was believing, the false stories I was telling myself, the poor coping mechanisms I was using, ways to avoid unnecessary stressors, and proper ways to handle stress I could not avoid.

The diagnosis wasn’t difficult. I was exhausted. The only way I knew to cope with stress was through distraction. Keep working and you don’t have to deal with the issues going on under the surface. So I worked. When that wasn’t enough, I would create a new task. As the euphoria of the next task wore off, I would add another (without deleting the first). Finally, I reached my limit.

I could either experience the negative consequences of my poor decisions or I could change. So I changed.

Now I’m Ready

Two years later, I’m better. I’m not fixed. No one is ever really fixed. But I’m in a much better place. The physical symptoms of stress are gone. Some aspects of leadership are still frustrating, but they aren’t overwhelming. I don’t feel trapped. I don’t want to run. Even though life has gotten busier, internally I have slowed down.

Now I’m ready to speak on the issues of rest, connection, and engagement without feeling like a hypocrite. I still don’t think I have it figured out and I’m not claiming others need to be like me. Instead, I’m ready to point to the truth which I have submitted to and encourage others to do the same.

Do you feel called to help others? John Brown University offers Christ-centered undergraduate programs in Psychology as well as a variety of Graduate Counseling degrees. Learn more about the grad counseling programs here.


15 Responses to The Breaking Point That Caused Me to Get Help

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