The COVID numbers are receding, but the challenges are not. There are still stresses on many fronts, and numerous clouds hang over whatever recovery will look like as it evolves. Many questions remain.
Stress, anxiety, and uncertainty co-mingled with changing norms, lost opportunities, or extreme overwork creates the ideal environment for discouragement, despair, and depression.
I’ve talked with a number of pastors in recent months who shared their weariness. I think we’re all weary, but the pastorate carries unique challenges.
In the words of one pastor, “I feel like I had to work four times harder when COVID hit.”
Pastors, you are the ones who people turn to for help and assurance, so you have to be OK, right? There’s been a stigma around mental health to the detriment of many pastors.
Psychologists suggest there is a mental health scale that runs from depressed to flourishing, and somewhere in between is a place called “languishing” where my guess is many of us have fallen at some point during the last year.
It’s not depression but more like a lack of energy and enthusiasm towards what we are doing, and we just can’t seem to gain momentum.
But there’s nothing new under the sun, and I hope that can be an encouragement to you. If you have felt weary and heavy-laden during this stressful time, you are in good company. We see all through the Psalms that the man after God’s own heart suffered greatly and was desperate for God’s presence, help, and deliverance.
“But I am poor and needy, hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!” Psalm 70:5
At The Noble Man Tailgate in Charlottesville, Pastor Gordon Fields referred to the 23rd Psalm as “the I, me, my passage.” David wrote this in a time of personal challenge to the Great Shepherd who knows his sheep, and in every line, we see the goodness He pours out to each one of us.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
For you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I learned a new slang term this week: “Touch some grass.” It does not mean to go in search of marijuana to ease your stress, but rather to get outdoors and enjoy creation. I know it does me well personally to be outside looking at trees and admiring the sky, celebrating the creativity of God, and remembering that regardless of current challenges I am known to God.
He knows me. He knows my name. He is aware of my challenges and my joys. He is my Shepherd.
Is it any wonder that it boosts mental health to reconnect with the Creator?
Read through the great Psalm again and be reminded that we serve a God who knows us personally. Better yet, go outside and “touch some grass” as you meditate on Psalm 23!
Jarrod Jones is a pastor and mental health advocate, a mission birthed from his own personal struggles. He’s been a keynote speaker at our conferences, and he offers many helpful resources. In your journey of mental health, don’t wait until languishing moves into full-blown depression, and “touching some grass” no longer is enough to revive your soul.
Check the resources below or call for help. We are praying for you as you shepherd your flock and lead others through the challenges before us.
A Noble Man Facing Burnout – Workshop by Jarrod Jones
13 Ways to Ruin Your Life by Jarrod Jones
Why We Should Keep Talking About Mental Illness by Jarrod Jones
How I Live and Lead with Mental Illness – Word of Life Podcast with Jonathan Phillips: Ep. 65 Depression and Mental Illness with Pastor Jarrod Jones
Resources from Other Leaders:
10 Resolutions for Mental Health | Desiring God by John Piper
Is All Rest Sabbath Rest? by Jen Wilkin