We all have moments when we feel like the demands of ministry are too much. We’re ready to quit. Over the past 18 months, many of us have felt that way more than any other time in our lives. Ministry is tough—and it’s getting tougher.
It’s not physical fatigue that bothers most of us. Sleep and relaxation can help, but rest alone can’t solve emotional exhaustion.
That’s why I want to share with you four biblical principles for how to handle emotional exhaustion in your ministry:
Honestly tell God what you’re feeling.
Don’t start by telling God what you should be feeling. Start by telling him what you are feeling. Feeling discouraged or exhausted? Tell God exactly how you feel. Dump everything on him. He can handle it!
The Bible says, “Unload all your burden on to him, since he is concerned about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NJT). Sometimes it’s tough to unburden ourselves on God because we really don’t understand who he is. But the truth is:
- God already knows everything we feel.
- God understands our feelings better than we do.
- God loves to listen to us.
Because we can believe these three truths, the Bible tells us: “Pour out your feelings to the Lord, as you would pour water out of a jug” (Lamentations 2:19 CEV). If you haven’t been doing that already, start here.
Humbly ask God for strength.
You’re emotionally exhausted because you’re out of strength. We tend to look for quick solutions or to other people to give us the strength we need to tackle today’s concerns. All the while, God is waiting to give real strength to us. According to 1 Chronicles 16:11, we must “pursue the Lord and his strength; seek his face always!” (CEB).
You need God’s strength every moment of your day. You need his strength when you’re preparing a sermon, counseling someone, or playing with your children. We need to ask him for this strength. The Bible tells us that we don’t have because we don’t ask. Twenty times in the New Testament, we’re commanded to ask God in prayer.
Jesus tells us, “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7 CEB). When you feel emotionally exhausted, keep asking God for strength every single day.
Gratefully thank God for all that’s good despite the bad.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). We can show gratitude in all circumstances.
But that doesn’t mean we must be thankful for all circumstances. You don’t need to be thankful for evil or sickness. There are many things you shouldn’t be thankful for. But you can develop an attitude of gratitude even in the middle of it all.
One of the most helpful disciplines you can employ during emotionally exhausting periods is to develop a gratitude list. Sit down for five minutes a day and write down everything you’re thankful for. This simple exercise will strengthen your soul.
Constantly keep your focus on God.
It’s easy to get distracted by less important matters—such as the news and gossip. Ministry doesn’t isolate us from those temptations. But in order to conserve the strength we’ll need to make it through exhausting periods of our lives, we must focus on what matters most—God.
Jesus did this while he was on the cross. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus modeled for us how to endure suffering by focusing on God and his future with him.
The Bible tells us to “run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT).
What are you thinking about most often during these tough times? Do you have your mind on what the experts are saying or on what God is saying? Whatever you think about the most is your focus. Jesus endured the cross by focusing on the future glory beyond the cross. In the same way, we can’t survive the difficulties of life without an eternal perspective.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (NLT)
Those three verses are a powerful reminder of how we should face trouble in this world. They remind us to (1) refresh ourselves regularly in God’s Word, (2) remember that our problems are just temporary, and (3) recognize that God is using our pain to build our character.
So, pastor, you may feel like giving up, but you’re not alone. Tell God how you feel. Ask him for strength. Be grateful. Focus on Jesus.
God has not forgotten you.