This story begins in late 2004.
There were some great things were happening in my life at this time…
…The Red Sox finally won the World Series after 86 long years
…The Patriots won another Superbowl
… I had lost 70 pounds and gotten to the lowest weight I had been since High School
But there were some other things going on that were keeping me up at night.
…things at my 3 year old church plant weren’t going so well
…My mother-in-law had gone to be with the Lord unexpectedly
…After 8 years of marriage, my wife and I weren’t able to have kids
There are other things going on (good and bad), but I was starting to melt down under the pressure of everything.
Here’s the worst part: I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to talk to.
I believe this is where many pastors find themselves.
They are in a place where they need to open up and talk to someone, but they have no “safe place” to be vulnerable.
Someone once said that being a Pastor can be harmful to your soul. At my worst moment in 2004, I believed that statement to be true.
I felt everything slipping away.
I checked all of the “gauges” on the dashboard.
… I was reading my Bible daily
…I was praying regularly
…My relationship with Carey was great
…I had friends who loved me
Yet in spite of all that, I was falling apart at the seems.
So what did I do?
Thankfully, I had a pastor-friend who just had a nervous breakdown (that is a very strange sentence).
I’m not glad he had the breakdown. However, what we shared with me, saved my life.
One night after eating sushi, I began to open up to him and share with him what was happening in my life.
I told him about my challenges at church, Carey’s mom’s death, and the feeling that God had forgotten me when it came to having kids.
My friend listened and gave me a name and a telephone number.
He said, “Call this number. Do whatever the guy on the other end of the phone says.”
It turned out to be the number to a Christian counselor.
I went to see him later that week.
It was a weird feeling.
I have counseled thousands of people in my life, but I had never been on the other side of the desk.
I sat on the counselor’s couch and just cried.
I couldn’t even get a word out for 10 minutes.
Once I regained my composure, I opened up to him and shared what was happening in my life.
This counselor was a former pastor and a good man who took an interest in me and my wellbeing.
I went to see him every week for a few months and it was the best money I have ever spent.
I tell people going a counselor saved my life.
If you aren’t a Pastor, this seems pretty normal; going to someone to get help.
If you are a minister, you know how hard this is.
Pastors are looked at as the men who have all the answers.
We’re the ones who are supposed to have perfect families; perfect lives; and always know the right verse to solve any problem.
That’s just not the way it works.
So if you’re a Pastor, I want to encourage you to make sure you have 5 inputs in your life. I believe these are the things God use in my life to save me from the despair I was in.
#1 – Personal Bible Reading
I was reading the Bible regularly during my dark time. While that alone didn’t pull me out, I believe ignoring God’s Word would have put me in a much worse place.
#2 – Personal Prayer
Prayer has always been a challenge for me. I more of a doer than a contemplative type. However, constant communication with the Lord was so important even if at the time I felt like my prayers weren’t getting passed the ceiling.
#3 – Real Friends
Pastors need real friends who aren’t impressed by them. I need friends who don’t think of me as “Pastor Bob”. The larger our church gets, the harder this is. It means I need to cherish the friends I have and seek out life-giving relationships all the more.
#4 – Real Mentors
This is one of the things I was missing in my life. Today, I have one person who is like a dad to me and this is one of the relationships that mean the most to me.
#5 – Professional Help
I believe seeing a counselor is a great investment of time and resources. While I haven’t seen a counselor in nearly a decade, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. Sometimes the challenges of life are so great that we need someone who will walk with us, tell what we don’t want to hear, and lovingly push us to break through.
I look back at late 2004 as the worst season of my life. Yet, it was the most important time of my life. What I learned about the nature of God changed my life and ministry forever. What I learned about my past and how to deal with it permanently altered me for the better. God used that season of my life to reveal idols in my life that I didn’t even know I had.
Whenever I talk about this, I tell people, “It was the greatest season of growth in my life, but I wouldn’t want to go through it again.”
Here’s the bottom line: If you’re a Pastor who wants to finish well, you need to pace yourself. You need the right people in your life. You need to deal with your junk and allow God’s healing in your life. God loves you beyond what you do for Him in ministry. He loves you, period. He wants to work in you if you’ll allow Him. If you need help, get it. If you need friends, reach out. If you need Him, call on Him. He’s waiting.