“So I’m not normally a stressed-out person” I proclaimed from the pulpit a few years ago. My best friend happened to be sitting next to my wife as I spoke and he leaned over and whispered “false!”
When they told me the story later they both were laughing. It was then I realized I had a supermassive black hole-sized blind spot in my life. I was an anxious person and didn’t even know it.
The first six months of my first born’s life were tough. Our baby was struggling to breastfeed and losing weight. He slept terribly at night due to eczema. My wife had postpartum anxiety and if that’s a thing dads can have, then I had it too. Those six months were the hardest of our marriage. We fought constantly with little relief. I told myself this was just a normal part of having a newborn and it would pass. The circumstances did pass, but the anxiety problem did not.
What I realize now is that most of my life I’ve been a “high-functioning” anxious person, meaning I’ve always had unhealthy amounts of anxiety but have largely learned to keep it repressed. However the stress of having a newborn, the pressures of a new (and intimidating) ministry job I’d taken, and some painful trauma surfacing from my past combined into a perfect storm of overwhelming, out-of-control anxiety.
That anxiety nearly wrecked my ministry.
I’ve talked with enough pastors to know I’m far from alone in this struggle. As a matter of fact, most pastors I know feel the pressure of their job so deeply it becomes disruptive to their lives. Here are a handful of ways anxiety shows up in the life of a pastor:
You find yourself unable to sleep at night, mind racing, thinking about work
You feel like there’s an uncomfortable pressure in your chest or your body is surging with too much energy
You find yourself fearing interactions with your congregation because you don’t know if you can give them what they want from you
You feel like you have a hard time taking deep breaths
You experience out-of-control anger/frustration disproportionate to what’s happening around you
You work hours that are too long doing too much because you fear if you don’t, everything will fall apart
You find you’re “self-medicating” with alcohol, over-eating, pornography, or some other substance to help yourself relax
If you’re reading through this list and thinking okay yeah, maybe, then I want you to know that not only are you not alone, God has something so much better for you. He doesn’t want you to live like this. Here are three ways to find freedom from the out-of-control anxiety problem in your life.