Aug 122017 13 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.


13 Responses to The Breaking Point That Caused Me to Get Help
  1. J. Parker Reply

    I think it’s especially hard for ministers to rest, because so many in the church expect them to be on call 24/7. And weekends, often a time of rest for people, are spent in preparation and execution of ministry with church services. Essentially, they’re work days. I’m glad you figured this out, at least to the point where you’re feeling good about things. Many blessings!

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thanks J. And of course you mean figured it out as in I’ve figured it out for today, I’ll be messed up again by tomorrow. Ha ha.

  2. Shannon Pigeon Reply

    I enjoyed the article, Kevin. Trying to share to FB but it won’t let me.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Crazy Facebook. Just go around to your friends and family and read the article to them. ha ha.

  3. Maria Alejandra Reply

    And can we have access to your preaching/sermon on rest?

  4. Ty Taylor Reply

    Wow Kevin you just had to do that didn’t you 🙂 I thought I was reading about myself , other than the pastoral parts ha. I seem to get myself caught up in all kinds of unrestful situations and I really needed this. I admire your wisdom and appreciate the way you convey situations into understandable words. Thank you. And yes ,, my sweet wife texted me the link , haha.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thanks, Ty. The specifics might be different for everybody, but there is a common theme in the lives of many people. We aren’t doing well to be human.

  5. Cosette Reply

    Thank you Kevin…your words bring life and hope to my busy soul.

  6. Ashley Reply

    I think the modern day church tries to be way more like Martha than like her sister Mary. We say we are not saved by works, and then we promptly fill up our calendar with stuff “for the Lord.” I know we all need to be doing something for God, but some of this takes away from what is really important.

  7. Lisa Manfred Reply

    I like all you articles, but this one may be the best. Thanks for the honesty. I think God is happy when we are truly able to be who he created us to be, not the irritable and stressed out people we often become by trying to do all the ” good things” for him, rather then the best, which may be just staying home with our family one night . I’m sure your wife and kids appreciate and enjoy more being around the relaxed you. I hope many read this article and implement some needed changes for them to have real peace, as I will be doing.

  8. Vonda Gardner Reply

    Kevin, I can certainly identify…through a period of two years, I struggled with two best friends and a Mother passing, while trying to build a house. Outside counseling was a must…I had to learn how to deal with grief, it has to be dealt with and not put on the back burner. It all brought me closer to God…..

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