The following journal entries describe what I was experiencing just prior to my six month sabbatical which began in March of 2010. The dark night of the soul was a difficult place for me. God allowed me to be sifted. At the time, I did not fully understand what I was going through. That understanding came months later:
How I desire to see you stretch forth your arm and your holy hand. We need to be touched by your love.
Some of what I have been experiencing, I don’t want to forget because I want to be able to identify with other pastors who are (or have) experiencing a similar burn-out or depression. I know that I am not the only one experiencing this.
- Decision-making difficult, even in the littlest things.
- Hiding from people I used to enjoy (and from those I don’t enjoy at all)
- Numbness of mind (difficulty focusing, holding details in mind)
- Short-term memory loss (intermittent)
- Desire to not do anything
- Extreme tiredness most of the time
- Seems like a heavy blanket of exhaustion covers me from time to time lasting a couple of days. Then lifts for a time. Only to return again.
“As one who knows righteousness, who has Your law in my heart, may I not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their revilings.” (Isaiah 51:7)
In the future (near or far) as more and more people deny you and my Savior, Father manifest in me the grace and love I need to lead many to you. May my most fruitful days be yet ahead. I will not look behind except at your command, to see what great things you have accomplished by your hand for your glory. I don’t want to get stuck in my “stuff.” I want to be free from it, standing solidly in the forgiveness and grace purchased for me by Jesus. Let me enter fully into my sonship. May I bring a sense of the family to everyone I meet. May I always cheer the best in them. And may I always call them higher (this thought inspired by a short-short film: The Butterfly Circus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anR_7zM0Pkc).
I want to be like the circus owner who saw the best in people and drew it to the surface. Lord, please let me have your eyes with people. May I always affirm their BEST. May I always point them to you in themselves. Thank you Father.
Lord help me this morning to share what will build up all who hear.
Amazing how down I’ve been the last two days. That heavy, oppressive weight that comes upon me. I get so physically and emotionally tired that I feel totally immobile.
Just when I think I’m ready for anything the Lord wants to use me in, I feel that he’s finished using me. I told Marcy today that I sometimes feel like I have imagined that God has some great purpose for my life. And perhaps what the Father is showing me is that such a notion is full of pride. And has been the source of much ineffectiveness in ministry. Marcy believes that God is refining us and that He does have an important assignment for me to carry out. I don’t know. I’m too tired and disappointed, discouraged and troubled by my lack of interest in ministry. I feel like pulling my plane into the hangar. I’ve thought much about retirement, but know that I can’t afford it, nor would I truly be happy unless the Lord commanded it.
I’m extremely disappointed that all the years of writing my book seem to have been a waste. Perhaps several hundred copies have sold. But I have received only two or three emails or messages that the book has had a positive impact. Others have been silent. I cannot think of investing another couple of years for the same result. All my dreams have failed. Now I need a Savior again. To save me from my disappointment and discouragement.
I can’t think anymore about this. It’s too overwhelming.
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David, crucified people don’t struggle. They don’t strive to figure things out. They’re DEAD! They live only for revelation. They are at peace. They rest in me. They wait for my word and then walk in it. You must surrender. Cease your striving. Wait in my presence. Be still and KNOW that I am the Lord. Go off by yourself and be quiet. Be still. Stop thinking about yourself and your future. Enjoy me. Be with me. Enjoy the quiet and enter my rest.
* * *
Thank you Father.
The sabbatical given to me by my church-family, gave me the time I needed to rest, reflect, and be refreshed. My wife, Marcy, and I had extended time to go to the mountains and the shore, visit friends and family, and spend unhurried time with the Lord. We came back from our sabbatical renewed and ready to serve from a more solid center–anchored in the love of the Father. He was refining, by allowing the enemy to sift me. I now understand that anyone who wants to know the deep love of God must pass through the valley of the shadow of death. This is the valley the produces trust, endurance, and perseverance.
Confession time: I’m 61, a pastor, and I hate intentional exercise! I love exercise that I do not know about. The kind when you just wake up sore the next day and scratch your head thinking—gee, I wonder why I’m so sore? The idea of planning time to go drive somewhere, get into a smelly locker room, get into shorts and sneakers, walk, lift, run, sweat, drink water, back into a smelly locker room, hot, sweating, take a shower and get dressed (a second time now, because I was showered and dressed before I got to my place of exercise) just does not ring my chime. But that’s not all. At the same time, eating habits have to change.
And, everything I used to like to eat had too much fat in it. No matter what I named, Marcy told me it had way too much fat in it. Or too many calories. Of course, those things that I could eat plenty of, rabbits and woodchucks ate.
But about two years ago now, the Lord pointed it out in vivid, unmistakable terms that I was not “fit” for ministry. If revival broke out I would not withstand the rigors of long hours, intense discipleship sessions, leadership coaching, or protracted meetings.
As a pastor, I spent many hours daily sitting–at my desk, in my cars, in waiting rooms, and in homes and businesses. I became convinced that I needed to get hold of my lifestyle and habits or I would continue to be unfit for ministry. Have you ever thought that the revival you’re praying for might not be poured out because you’re unfit and would not survive it? (Just kidding! Don’t go on a guilt-trip here.)
Granted the Apostle Paul said that godliness is the ultimate fitness, nonetheless, he DID say that physical fitness had some benefits. So . . . how did I get started exercising.
First, I confessed my failure to maintain the temple. We all know that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? My lethargy and physical laxity was sin. Of course, my wife reminded me regularly. I remember thinking: exercise, health-food, that’s just Marcy’s thing. I therefore simply acknowledged it and turned, right? NO! I tried every way I could to get out from under the need to turn, to change. One day, I was praying and the Lord presented this topic to my mind again. I thought Well Lord, when You tell me to, I’ll exercise.
What I did not expect was the answer I heard in my mind: I already did tell you.
There was a long pause. Then I heard Marcy’s voice again in my mind. “You know honey, you need to get some exercise today. You’ve really been sitting a while. I want you around for a few years.”
David, I speak through your wife more than you care to acknowledge.
Second, I asked God to give me the will and motivation to change BOTH my eating and exercise patterns. This didn’t really happen right away. No, instead we got a diagnosis on Marcy. She had breast-cancer. We began to research and pray. The Lord led us to drastically change our eating choices. We needed to strengthen her immune system (the only system God created to heal the body). I wish I could say that I simply CHOSE to eat better. But what really happened was the God had to give me the grace to eat the things that would make us more healthy. I truly could not have given up my ice cream or steak or meats without his grace. And now, we meet people all the time who given the choice between bad health controlled by medications or health supported by healthy choices in food, they choose medicine, doctors, and hospitals (in the form of high-fat, low nutrient foods). I almost couldn’t believe my ears when a mother wanted prayer for her son who suffered from many conditions that could have disappeared completely by going off dairy and meats, but she said she could never do that. WOW!!! Amazing!
Marcy and I have adopted what we see as a biblical menu. We eat vegetables, fruits, and grains. We both include wild fish and I include some lamb (on occasion). By the way, this doesn’t mean that if you aren’t eating as we are that you are on an un-biblical menu. What it means for us is that we have adopted a biblical precedent and example to follow for us (Gen.1:29; Dan. 1:8-16). As far as God is concerned, He gives freedom in the area of eating, however I believe that he had an ORIGINAL intent (Gen.1:29–though I concede that he permits exception following banishment from Eden). So Marcy and I thought, what if eating the way God originally intended could improve our health and well-being. We decided that we at least needed to try if we were going to strengthen her immune system and restore health to us both.
Third, I joined a fitness club. [If you can’t afford it, ask the church to invest in your health in that way (if you’re too timid to ask, email me and I’ll ask for you)]. Make sure the club offers FREE coaching. My trainer taught me a couple of GREAT things: 1. Get started on a walker and on simple routines that build the bigger leg muscles first. 2. DO NOT DO EXCERCISES THAT YOU HATE!! I hate sit-ups? I don’t do them. I enjoy walking and hiking. So that is what I do, either on a treadmill or outside where you can focus on the beauty instead of the pain. Do those exercises and use those machines that you enjoy–did I say “enjoy?” Sorry. 3. Be consistent. I’m still working on this. Honestly, I still work on getting started at all. But I do more now than before. I’m asking for God’s grace. The same grace he gave me to eliminate dairy, meats, and unhealthy foods from my menu. We need people praying for and with us about this. 4. Exercise with someone. It’s always easier to keep up a regime if you know someone else is doing it with you. You can’t find anyone in your circle of pastors or friends? Then join with me in your imagination. Let’s work together to get “fit for ministry.”