By Krissie Garland
I received a phone call the other day…
This is never a good way to start a conversation when you’re in the ministry. Growing up a pastor’s kid and being a pastor’s wife for so many years, phone calls immediately gave me anxiety. They continue to make my heart stop a beat, to this day. A respected friend tagged it “PTMSD” Post Traumatic Ministry Stress Disorder. Many of you who are reading this can relate to this type of anxiety. The unknown of what will happen next, the fear of who will stand by you, the question of how it will affect your family and your spouse’s job are all real possibilities.
The definition of anxiety is as follows: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” However, when the definition invites its way into our own personal lives and stories, it doesn’t quite describe the crippling fear that so many of us face when the “unknowns” become our reality.
I am reminded of this anxiety every time I turn on the news or open my phone or computer–the panic of the unknown and the jolt of our greatest fears coming true. I did receive a phone call the other day from a young pastor and his wife. This young pastor was forced to cut his childcare workers and take a pay decrease due to the virus, COVID-19. Unless you are in the midst of ministry, most people wouldn’t think of the stress, the helplessness, and the fears that we face serving in a church. The church is still held to the same high standards that we always were. Now, we are expected to completely change the way we do church because everything has changed around us, and so much has changed in such a short time! Yet through this change, and in this crisis, there is forced surrender to things we can’t control.
Here’s the other side to it: In that surrender, we find ourselves in a place where there is an opportunity—an opportunity to give it to the Lord, an opportunity to minister without walls, an opportunity to grow spiritually, and an opportunity to serve in new and inventive ways. In our surrender, forced or chosen, we can remember that no season is wasted and we can proclaim the truths of Scripture. We now have the chance to live out what we spend our life teaching others. One of the best things I’ve learned in my lifetime of ministry is that surrender is not giving up. It is giving in to God’s plan. The same God we know in the good, will be the same in the bad. During this time, I’m constantly proclaiming these truths over my life, over the lives of pastors and their families, and over the lives of friends and family:
Psalm 94:19 – “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”
Hebrews 12:2-3 – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
I don’t know your individual stories. I may not even understand them, because I do not walk in your shoes. I do know that we have at least one thing in common: no matter how difficult our circumstance may be, we each serve the Lord Jesus, who …“is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
As a counselor, I work with anxiety on a daily basis. I work with pastor’s families, laypeople, Christians, and non-Christians. I often struggle with anxiety. Sometimes it can get so bad that you feel that nothing will make it lessen or go away. But as many can testify, it can go away and usually does. I encourage you to utilize some tools suggested below. Make your own list of things that may help you when you’re feeling like your anxiety is affecting you. Remember that our ministry, Care for Pastors, will pray for you as you are going through these changes and challenging times.
In this together.
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Tools to help with Anxiety:
- Identify it as anxiety and say it out loud to the Lord
- Write it down and/or journal about it
- Prayer/Meditation: See example below
- Deep Breathing: See example below
- Walk outside
- Call a friend
- Speak with a Counselor
- Share or reach out to the women on The Confidante
- Utilize Care for Pastors Resources
Exercises for you to download: