Managing Ministry Stress

Managing Ministry Stress

By Jill Briscoe

Have you ever felt like a pooped prophet? Perhaps you have been diligently serving the Lord, but just doing too much of everything – running around and round in circles, until eventually you’ve met yourself coming back. Suddenly it all overwhelms you. If this is the case, watch out! You could end up flat on your face under a broom tree, just like Elijah.

It is one thing to be tired “in” the work of the Lord; it is quite another to be tired “of” the work itself. There is a difference, you know. When Elijah said, “ I’ve had it, Lord,” he meant it!

So the question is: how can we live tired and live well, so we don’t end up running on empty and all stressed out? 

Sometimes the Lord’s answer to our dilemma in managing ministry stress is a physical one. Many a time I have been flat on my face under my own broom tree, God has sent some practical expression of love to remind me that He cares. I have eaten not a few hot cakes from the hand of God in my time.

Once when this happened I had been traveling for two weeks straight. Somehow the tight schedule allowed only time for talking and not much for eating! Whenever it was mealtime, I found myself in one more airplane. On this particular day it was hot, it was summer, and I was tired and very hungry. My flight had been delayed, and by the time I arrived at the next conference center, I discovered that my hosts had gone to bed. I wandered around the dining room, hoping to find something to eat, but all the doors into the kitchen had been locked. “Lord,” I prayed, “I really don’t care what I eat, but I need something – and while I’m talking to you about this, I’ve got a yearning for peaches! Oh, for a lovely, refreshing, juicy peach!” Then I smiled. That was just the sort of prayer I counseled others against offering! I sighed, picked up my bags, and went to my assigned cabin.

When I arrived at my room, there were my hot cakes baked on coals! A basket of peaches sat on the doorstep smiling at me! I lifted them up and felt my loving Lord’s smile. Never before or since have I received a whole basked of delicious, fresh peaches. But He who was waiting round the corner of my desert met and provided a sweet touch that reminded me of His great love.

When you find yourself exhausted, burned out, stressed – look around for the hot cakes. If you take your time, you’ll smell the bread and be reminded of His care by some practical expression of concern through one of His children.

Notice, God did not feed His exhausted servant bitter herbs in order to punish him. He did not beat the already beaten man with a ministry stick and shout, “On your feet, you stupid coward, and share the four spiritual laws with Jezebel.” The Bible simply says that God touched Elijah with the loving words, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you” (I Kings 19:7).

When I lose my perspective on life because I’m stressed and running on empty, I can lose my perspective on God Himself. I need to be still and feel His loving touch and hear Him say to me, “Go to sleep, rest awhile the journey is too great for you.” Actually, I am the sort of person who always seems to need permission to go to sleep – to relax, to walk the fields, smell the flower, or recuperate. Unless “have fun” is entered on my weekly schedule, I’ll never have it!

Does that sound familiar? Has the journey suddenly become too great for you? Not because everything is all wrong with your relationship with God, but because everything has been all right and you’ve simply run yourself into the ground? What swept you off your feet and sent you hurrying away from your responsibilities? Actually, it matters not what did it, but only Who waits for you with hot cakes and cool water for your hungry, thirsty soul, assuring you of His love and great concern for your well-being.

A life in ministry presents its own unique stress and challenge. The tasks of ministry and the needs of people can be emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausting. Before you get too discouraged remember that God promises you His strength will always match any responsibility, however overwhelming it might seem. He says, “The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24), and he encourages Paul by saying, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”  Paul adds, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).  Our articles on managing ministry stress have been written with you in mind.  Please take a look and know that we are listening, encouraging and praying for you.    

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