Once upon a time, the world was perfect. There was no sin, no evil, no disappointment, no sorrow. That time, my friends, has been long gone.
I sat in my therapists office and let the question stuck in my throat for weeks on end, finally come tumbling out…
“But when will it get easier. I keep waiting for life to be easier.”
I knew life wasn’t made for easy, that even before sin entered the world, easy wasn’t the goal.
So, why in the world was easy my goal?
Maybe because life had been hard, really hard. We had some stuff. We had marriage stuff, mental health stuff, kid behavior stuff, and family stuff. In fact, if there was a form of junky stuff in existence, we probably had some connection to it. Or at least that’s how it felt in the middle of it.
I was ashamed. Deeply ashamed. Pastors were not supposed to have stuff. Pastor’s wives were not supposed to have stuff. Leaders weren’t supposed to have stuff. Our families were not supposed to have junky stuff spilling out of our back pockets. We were supposed to hold it all together so that we could help other people with their stuff.
“Above reproach,” those words from 1 Timothy 3:2-6, echoed in the depths of my mind. Deep down, hidden from even myself, I subconsciously believed meant to be above turmoil and above the struggles. Then, I opened my eyes.
This world- it’s been filled with the stuff of life, its joys and it’s sorrows, since the tree in the garden and the fruit that changed everything. I am a part of this world. Here is reality:
Your pastor has some stuff.
Every member of your church, and my church, has some stuff.
This is the world we live in, far from perfection, never easy, but full of people walking around either carrying hope or desperately needing that hope.
Above reproach isn’t in being the person, or the pastor, without any real life stuff to deal with - whether in themselves, in their marriage, in their homes, or in their family. Above reproach is about how we deal with those things. Do we ask for help? Do we take the time we need to get help? Do we avoid keeping secrets? Are we willing to take the risk to help our marriages and our families and our ministries by admitting we have some stuff?
The devil loves destruction. Don’t for a minute pretend that he doesn’t want to eat us up and spit us out. He would love nothing more than for a church work family or even a whole congregation to implode because he convinced us to let darkness reign over the struggles of our lives.
1 Timothy 3:5 tells us – “…if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”
How does a pastor manage?
How does pastor’s family manage?
By asking for help.
By admitting that they’re not perfect, just like the rest of us, and making sure they gets the help they need.
There are certainly instances in which someone can or should take a break, re-coop, refresh, or step down from being a pastor. And we need to be honest with one another, in great graciousness and kindness, as the Body of Christ supporting one another when this is the case. There should also be no shame in taking a moment or stepping down. However, those cases where this is necessary are actually pretty rare. The majority of the time only good things come from pastors, church workers, and their families seeing a therapist, getting needed medication, adding some extra boundaries to their time and energy, while they continue to serve their churches.
Dear Church, let’s build one another up and normalize the act of getting help and asking for what we need. How much more likely is the person sitting in the chairs of the church likely to come for care, confession, and counseling if the workers themselves utilize the help available to us?
Life is full of struggles – God promises to make all of it beautiful in His time. He restores us with His salvation, not just for a place called heaven, but for His kingdom today. Anything we have, Jesus Christ can handle. May the Church be the place that loves us unconditionally and offers safety when we need it to rise up from the ashes of whatever Satan throws at us.
Need more resources?
Check out our Mental Health Page for articles, interviews, and more.
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is good and full of helpful resources.
Fresh Hope for Mental Health has mental health resources just for pastors and church workers.
Check into a Mental Health First Aid workshop and make the world a better place with zero stigma.
Go local. Call up a therapist. Just try it. Don’t like it? Try a different one.
Talk to someone.
Reach out to someone.
Reach in to someone’s life and ask how they’re doing also. Let the Holy Spirit do His work in His Church and let Him do His Work in each of our mental health as well.
(Edited, updated, and expanded July 27, 2019)