How we Miss the Point of Adversity & Pain

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I talked about the point of pain and adversity, and how God turns our pain and adversity into joy over the last two weeks at Revolution Church. You can listen to part 1 and part 2 by clicking the links.

Often, one of our struggles in pain and adversity is that we look for things that are not promised.

While God does give us answers as to why things happen the way they do, He doesn’t always. Not only doesn’t he always answer the “why is this happening” question, when he does, it is rarely on our timetable.

We aren’t promised answers. We are however promised that we can have joy (John 16:24), we can have wisdom (James 1:5), we can have God’s presence and peace (Philippians 4:7).

Here is our problem with that: we aren’t always content to have God’s joy, wisdom and peace. We want answers.

It is this desire for answers, this searching for answers (while not wrong) that causes us to miss the point of adversity and what God is doing in it, through it and seeking to accomplish.

In short, we ask and seek the wrong the things.

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Top Posts of July 2012

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for the last month:

  1. My Journey of Losing Weight
  2. Burnout Series Part 4: Finding Your Way out of Burnout
  3. Some Thoughts on Body Image & the Idol of Food
  4. Burnout Series Part 1: How to Burnout
  5. What “Be Still” Means
  6. Revolution Church is Moving
  7. Burnout Series Part 2: How You Know if you are Burned Out
  8. Meet Nehemiah James Andrew (Updated)
  9. Don’t Forget
  10. Today Ava is 7

Burnout Series

Last week, I did a series on burnout, stress and fatigue. If you missed any of them, you can read the whole series below. You can also listen to a recent sermon I gave on rest, rhythm and burnout here.

  1. How to Burnout
  2. How to Know if You are Burned Out
  3. Make Rhythm Your Goal, Balance is Impossible
  4. Finding Your Way out of Burnout
Here are a few books that helped me in my journey:

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Burnout Series Part 4: Finding Your Way out of Burnout

I preached on rest, rhythm and burnout this past weekend at church and thought I’d share some more thoughts on it this week for my blog readers. You can listen to my sermon here if you missed it.

Over this past week I’ve shared some things I’ve learned about stress, adrenaline, fatigue and burnout. You can read part 1, part 2 and part 3 if you missed them. All of this can be overwhelming and when you are tired, fatigued, burned out, you feel helpless. The things that used to energize you, excite you, bring you passion no longer do. Your family walks on egg shells around you, those who work with you avoid you. You are angry, resentful, depressed, your mood swings move from one extreme to the next in a matter of seconds.

For many leaders and most Americans, this described your mood yesterday.

Today, I want to move out of the darkness many people feel and live with everyday to a place of wholeness and living the way we are designed to live. Here are some of the things I did starting in February of 2012:

  1. Admit your sin. Most people, if not all, burn out because of sin. They may work themselves too hard, not taking a vacation because of fear of man issues, seeking the approval of those around them. They may live in such a way that they don’t ask for help because they want to prove something. That is simply sin. Many pastors lead their churches as if they grow the church, when Jesus told us He is the one who builds it (Matthew 16:18).
  2. Ask for help. Mike was the first one to challenge me on how I was feeling because I kept it hidden. No one knew how I was feeling, I was too afraid to admit I was tired and had nothing left to give. Mike would ask me each week how I was doing and every week I would tell him how tired I was or how unmotivated I was feeling. Finally, he looked me in the eye and asked, “What is going on?” At that moment, I asked for help. My elders told me to take 2 weeks off from preaching and figure out what happened and get myself on track. I talked with my doctor, Katie, read some books and talked to other leaders. This moment I believed saved me.
  3. Realize the work it will take. You didn’t get to this place of fatigue or burnout over night. You won’t get out of it over night. Pastors know this but don’t believe it. When I counsel a couple and they tell me about 10 years of an unhealthy relationship and I let them know it will take years to change their marriage, they look at me in disbelief. You have been running at this pace, not trusting in the sovereignty of God for possibly years. You will have to unlearn some things.
  4. Repent to those around you. If you are a leader of a church or a business, your burnout will affect your church or business. The problem is that you won’t notice it for months. While I began a journey to health in March of 2012, we felt the affects of my pace well into the summer of 2012. This was seen in a lack of clarity among our church and a lack of excitement. As the leader, you set the tone for your team and your church.
  5. Make a plan. Too many people seek to change their lives without a plan. My coach asked me, “What is your plan for this to not become a lifestyle and to keep it from happening again?”
Here’s my plan that I’ve stuck to:
  1. Do what energizes me and avoid what robs me of energy. Certain people, jobs and places rob you of energy and certain people, jobs and places give you energy. Know what they are and do whatever you can to do the things and be around the people that energize you.
  2. Exercise and retreat days. Exercise at least 3-4 days a week, sleep at least 8 hours a night and take a monthly retreat day are crucial to my health and pace.
  3. You can’t save your life or your church.  Jesus does this and you didn’t die on the cross for anyone so stop trying to be Jesus.
  4. See food as fuel. In the last year, I’ve done more and more research into seeing food as fuel instead of just eating what I like to eat. Certain foods energize you and rebuild your adrenal glands, eat those, eat at the right times of the day, drink lots of water.
  5. Live in rhythm and forget balance. As I said the other day, balance is impossible and not really biblical. We are to live a life of rhythm. Depending on your life stage, your job, you have a certain rhythm. For me, August to October are busy, Christmas is busy, January to May are busy. My down times are November until Christmas and May through July. This means I plan my calendar accordingly. Katie and I talk about the busy seasons, we make changes in our life because of those busy seasons and then we enjoy the slower seasons. This changes as your kids get older and you need to understand this.
If you’ve burned out, what are some things you’ve done to find health?

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Burnout Series Part 3: Make Rhythm Your Goal, Balance is Impossible

I preached on rest, rhythm and burnout this past weekend at church and thought I’d share some more thoughts on it this week for my blog readers. You can listen to my sermon here if you missed it.

All of us live in seasons. We don’t often think that way or talk in that way though. I think when we don’t, we make a huge error. Last December, I was doing a leadership coaching call with my coach and I was explaining the tiredness I was feeling. I explained it away that it was just a season and tried to move on. As a good coach, he pressed on it and asked, “How do I know this is a season and not a pattern?”

Here’s the difference. A season is something that ends. We all have busy days, weeks, months. Each profession has a busy season. Tax workers are busy in the spring. Teachers have a rhythm, the moving industry is busy in the summer. Pastors are busy in September, Christmas, January, Easter. Those are high points in the church year.

A pattern is when it becomes way of life.

Many people live with the illusion that they are searching for balance. What does balance even mean? How do you know if you’ve achieved it? Nowhere in Scripture are we told to live a balanced life. Instead, God shows the nation of Israel in the Old Testament a rhythm. Work and rest, stress and release is how it is put in one book. Our problem is that we don’t make allowances for the season we are in. When we come out of a busy season, we simply head right back into another busy season, we lack the restraint to slow down, to live in a slower season for a while. Sometimes it is out of necessity, other times it is out of sin and a desire to not slow down.

Since making some of the changes I’ve made in my life and I’ll share on Friday what those changes have been, one of them has been for Katie and I to be more aware of the season we are in.

For example, May of 2012 was a busy month. I was working on recording 3 sermon videos to be used in June, we had a lot of people into our house, a lot of meetings to get ready for our move as a church, finishing up school for the kids. We knew going into May that the goal of May was to make it to June when I was on my preaching break, we took some family vacation time.

The problem hits, when we are unaware of the season we are in. Two years ago, I would’ve moved out of the month of May and continued hitting on all cylinders.

What season are you in right now? Is it a busy season? What does rhythm look like in your family, the life stage that you are in right now? Rhythm will look different for someone who is single, someone with small kids or empty nesters. Stop shooting for balance and live in rhythm.

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Burnout Series Part 2: How You Know if you are Burned Out

I preached on rest, rhythm and burnout this past weekend at church and thought I’d share some more thoughts on it this week for my blog readers. You can listen to my sermon here if you missed it.

Yesterday, I shared how to burnout. Today, I want to unpack how you know if you are burned out. The reality that most Americans are experiencing burnout or fatigue of some kind, they are just ignoring it.

Fatigue, burnout. While similar to being tired, it is quite different. When you are tired, simply taking a nap can fix it. Fatigue and burnout take something different.

Here some common clues:

  1. What used to be easy is now difficult.
  2. Difficulty falling asleep.
  3. Difficulty getting up in the morning.
  4. Tired in the middle of the afternoon.
  5. Low energy when it comes to exercise or sex.

The following are ones from a series Sojourn Network did on the topic:

  1. Inner restlessness with an underlying sense of anxiety which leads to a defensive, angry spirit.
  2. Deep emotional weariness leading to obsessive or scattered thoughts.
  3. The waning of relational intimacy and a growing fantasy world (especially as it relates to our sexuality).
  4. Numbness of soul so that people become tedious to us and we haven’t the internal energy to give attention to their deepest needs.
  5. Feelings of boredom, melancholy, and depression in response to a growing hopelessness.
  6. We pretend … we live more into our image than our true sense of identity with God.
  7. Our spiritual practices are at best random and replaced by life’s demands so that our spiritual life has a serious lack of enthusiasm and love for Christ.

Some of the things that come easy for me as it relates to life and leadership are making decisions, preaching, reading, exercising.

Here are some of the warning signs I saw in my life during this time:

  1. Katie and I went to a movie theater. On the way there, we debated between 2 movies that started 5 minutes apart, but I couldn’t settle on what I wanted to see. We went into one theater. Over the course of 7 minutes, we changed theaters 5 times. I just couldn’t decide what I wanted to see. About an hour into the movie I got mad that we didn’t go and see the other movie.
  2. I found myself in between services at Revolution hanging out in the back. My desire to talk to people was at an unbelievable low point.
  3. I had little desire to prep my sermons, think ahead.
  4. My vision for Revolution became very cloudy and reactionary instead of proactive. I couldn’t decide what series to preach on and went back and forth multiple times.
  5. Some of my regular practices of exercise slowed down.
  6. I didn’t take a retreat for almost 6 months.

The reality for me right around the first of the year, 2012, was that I was hitting a wall. After 3 years of church planting, running at a fast pace, I was toast.

Does any of this resonate with you? What things have you experienced that are signs you are burning out?

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Monday’s with my Old Pastor

I read Monday’s with my Old Pastor: Sometimes all we Need is a Reminder from Someone who has Walked Before Us (kindle version) by Jose Luis Navajo a few months ago when I was in a really dry time spiritually and tired emotionally. It was perfect timing for me. It comes out this week, so that’s why I’m sharing my review of it.

In short, if you are feeling tired emotionally, dry spiritually. This is a book worth picking up. It follows the journey of a 30-something pastor who is tired, on the edge of burnout and quitting ministry and he spends every monday with his old pastor who is in his 80’s and retired from ministry. The book is simply the conversations they have. It is a fast and encouraging read, being able to peer into the hearts of two men who wrestle through faith, doubt, hurt, leadership and finding their way.

It is also a great look at the journey of getting older and what that means for our lives. All in all, this was a great book. Right now, it is at the top of my list of books for 2012.

Here are a few things that jumped out to me:

  • To be called by God is, beyond any doubt, the highest vocation to which someone can aspire. But serving him implies entering a battle, and it is wise to remember that in a battle there are no soldiers without wounds.
  • The darkest hour of the night is the one that comes just before the dawn, and that there is no winter – no matter how harsh and long it may seem – that doesn’t turn into a lush spring.
  • Old age is like climbing a large mountain. The higher you get, the more tired and breathless you become, but your sight becomes more free and the view more extensive and serene.
  • Because the passage of time has caused me to understand that in every desert there is a cross that brings restoration. It’s only a question of looking for it and taking shelter in its shade.
  • Living in the shade of the cross preserves not only one’s personal life but also one’s marriage.
  • Life doesn’t start when you’re twenty, or when you’re forty. Life starts at calvary. And that’s where fruitful service begins as well. Let the cross be so present in you that it becomes your way of life and your rest.
  • Only God exists, only God knows, only God is able…Only God is the true wise one.
  • If God is not love, it’s not worth him existing.
  • We who serve God often confuse success with victory.
  • We are not involved in a business, but rather a war. And God loves his soldiers much more than the results.
  • God is not focused on our productivity, but rather our life. He loves fellowship much more than production. He prefers to have friends over servants. God is more pleased to look on clean hands rather than full hands.
  • Grace is love in action.
  • Those who hurt you the most need God the most.
  • The day we stop loving people is the day we stop serving them.
  • Do not make changes during times of storm.
  • The dark nights of the soul, the times of storms, the winds that shake us up…these are times when we must abide and trust, not make decisions.
  • Not one decision made in the middle of the night will be a right one.
  • Never give up, because those who give up in the middle of winter will never enjoy another spring.
  • What we may consider unpleasant storms often are gusts of winds that redirect our ship to important ports that we never would have reached if we had had a pleasant crossing.
  • For young people, death is a shipwreck, but for old people it is reaching port.
  • A true winner is not someone who does not see difficulties, but rather one who is not frightened by them and does not retreat or turn back.
  • When God erases something, it’s because he is going to write something new.
  • Love your wife, and do it in such a manner that infidelity is not an option; and that the possibility of betraying her never enters your mind.
  • In every marriage, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, the grounds for marriage.
  • Taking care of your family is taking care of your church.
  • To love is to find your own happiness in the happiness of another.
  • If you want a healthy and solid church, do not focus on what astounds, but rather on what transforms.

Links for a (Slow) Monday Afternoon

  1. How to be productive on a Monday
  2. Michael Hyatt on How to keep moving when you’ve hit a wall
  3. Get a free chapter from Matt Chandler’s first book The Explicit GospelTo read my review of the book, go here
  4. Most large churches struggle to transition from the founding pastor or a well known pastor, this one seems like it is going right the way
  5. Sin does not stay secret
  6. Luma Simms on Raising gospel centered children
  7. How exercise makes you more productive
  8. Craig Chappelow on The fatal flaw of most leaders

Links of the Week

  1. Michael Horton on What is the Church’s Mission?
  2. Grace Driscoll on Being a ministry wife. This is a helpful series for the wife of a pastor, and for those who attend church to understand what it is like to be married to a ministry leader.
  3. Zombies, wine and Christian music.
  4. Mary Kassian on 7 misconceptions of submission. This was good timing for me as I’m preaching on Titus 2 this week.
  5. 12 things a leader CANNOT do.
  6. Ron Edmondson on How to have less stress. Living in this reality right now.
  7. Are you an internet busy body?
  8. Tony Dungy on Accountability and Penn State.
  9. Women have sex out of obligation.

Links of the Week

  1. Harvard Business on 8 ways to communicate your strategy.
  2. Dispelling myths of expositional preaching. I love expositional preaching and these are definitely myths.
  3. Leadership network on Finding and developing a campus pastor.
  4. Shaun King on Stressed out pastors, crazy sins, and the death of pastor Zach Tims. This is a great, and sad look at what it can be like for pastors and how a church can help.
  5. 13 things Perry Noble would tell church planters. Great list here for planters or those thinking about it.
  6. Joe Thorn on Preaching like a man on fire.
  7. Tim Chester on 12 reasons to give up porn.
  8. Glenn Stanton on The link between premarital sex and divorce.
  9. Can parents make faith for their kids last?
  10. Tim Chester on Is your dining room table on mission?
  11. Jen Smidt on A wife’s testing ground.
  12. Great singleness, great marriage & great sex.
  13. Bob Franquiz on Why you have no leaders in your church.