We live in an age where we check our temperatures to go to work, school, the dentist, and even inside a restaurant. This external thermometer gauges how healthy our physical body is, but is no help in gauging our mental and emotional health. Unfortunately, there is no medical instrument that can check mental health, but there are things we can do personally to keep track of our emotional wellness.
Depression is a real thing. You may try to hide it, ignore it, or brush it off. That doesn’t change it. It just makes it worse. The suicide rate among those in ministry is increasing. Isolation, self-expectations, high stakes responsibility, and an ever-changing environment can lead to feeling overwhelmed and ineffective.
What thermometer do we use to track our mental temperature?
Ask yourself these questions:
Do You Battle Alone?
The road we travel in ministry will be filled with potholes and speed bumps, and it often feels like we are alone. I can honestly tell you friend that you are not alone. Many others are on the same path. Satan wants us to feel isolated from our cheerleaders and from the Lord, which leads us to question our calling, qualifications, and impact. The challenge comes when in conversation with our inner circle; do we choose to be fake or vulnerable?
A couple of months ago, I was feeling down because of looming life changes with my daughters going away to college in a pandemic. I shared my struggle with a close friend. She not only listened to me but challenged me with thoughtful questions. Although it may feel counterculture to run towards others when we are struggling, that’s exactly what we need to do. Isolation is self-defeating; surrounding yourself with godly influencers is freeing. Who is walking with you? Send a text today to plan a time to talk and catch up. She needs you as much as you need her.
Another thought. How is your relationship with God? Are you keeping a daily appointment with Jesus despite how you feel? It’s easy not to make time for our Creator when things aren’t going our way. To feel distant and even distrustful, forgetting that God is “… able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV). Instead, run towards Him. Read the Bible and talk to the Lord. Get a mentor who will walk through passages with you and hold you accountable. Being intentional in pursuing your relationship with Christ will counter the distant feeling that distracts us from His mission and purpose.
Are Your Fears and Worries Paralyzing?
The day before my girls moved into college, I finally found Clorox wipes! It was a celebration in our house. That might seem like a small thing to you, but to me, it was gold. It was important to me to arm my girls with as many cleaning supplies as possible so they could stay healthy or at least sanitized when leaving the nest.
What are your fears, worries, and concerns? Do you dwell on them, continually searching for earthly solutions every free moment? I will confess that I became preoccupied with looking for Clorox wipes leading up to their departure. All I could imagine were germs on every surface, waiting to attack my precious gems! What are you obsessing over today? What are you holding onto that God wants you to place in His hands as an act of faith? Honestly, mine was my precious gems, my girls. I had to evaluate my heart and ask myself, do I trust the Lord to take care of them when I’m not around? If I’m honest, they aren’t healthy and thriving because I did anything anyway. They are healthy and thriving because the Father willed it.
I’ll ask it again. What are you holding onto that God is saying have faith in me, my child? In Matthew 6:25-26, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Yes, you are much more valuable.
Do You Feel a Chronic Sadness that Won’t Go Away?
With life-change, comes grief. Dare I say, with a pandemic, comes grief as well? Most of us have experienced loss in some way during 2020: Jobs, schedule, face-to-face education, vacation, time with extended family, and even loss of loved ones. So, how are you doing with all of that? Are you rolling with the punches, or is it debilitating? There’s no right answer for how long is too long for sadness to hang around. If sadness is situational and temporary, look for practical and spiritual ways to combat it, but if it becomes chronic, seek professional help.
One way to combat it is by checking our perspective. When change comes, perspective matters. It is effortless to focus on the hard, the annoyances, the struggle. What is more challenging is what we should be doing more of–focusing on Christ. When we focus on Christ, it enables us to see blessings more. A blessing may be more difficult to spot otherwise. A blessing may look like an answered prayer, an unexpected meal out, or much needed time to yourself. Our perspective filters the lens of life.
Which perspective best describes you?
Our family was running at full speed with very little time together pre-pandemic, and now we get to enjoy each other more.
Our family was so busy pre-pandemic that we lived separate lives, but that’s how I liked it. Now we are just in each other’s way, and I can’t stand it.
How can we shift the narrative of our perspective? What practical steps can we take to focus more on Christ and our blessings than our circumstances?
Do You Believe the Lie that You Aren’t Enough?
Negative self-talk is a bad habit. Most of us relive conversations and decisions often, wishing we would have said or done something differently. This is not abnormal unless it is the dominant thought instead of the exception. Slowly, when these thoughts are prominent, they begin to hinder us from moving forward, sharing ideas, building relationships, and being creative. We begin to care more about what others think and less about what God thinks. This is dangerous because we aren’t to please man on this earth. We are to please God. God created us with a personality, intelligence, creativity, and drive. In Psalms 139:14, David reminds us how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made…”. Memorize and repeat this passage when the enemy repeatedly brings your faults and failures to the forefront.
Times are tough and society can be toxic. I am thankful for a spiritual community that rallies and supports its people. We are not alone. Life is not a competition. So, find a pastor’s wife in need of community and be her friend. We need each other like never before.
Disclaimer: This article is not written from a clinical perspective. It is crucial to check your mental health just like you would your physical health. Please see your doctor if you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. You can also find local trusted Christian Counselors from spiritual leaders, seminary connections, State Conventions, Associations, and trusted contacts.