If You’ve Reached Your Limit

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How to refocus on the goal when you feel like giving up;
when you’re stressing out, God desires to teach you the way through
the muddle.

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Do you drive home from church every Sunday mentally writing your
resignation letter? Do you get a headache at the mention of a
second worship service? Do your hands tremble when the phone rings
on Saturday evening? Have your own children threatened to make an
appointment with your secretary to get your undivided
attention?

All these things happened to me in 16 years as a children’s
pastor. (Did I mention the prescription for Zantac?)

If you’re ready to check out of your ministry, hold on tight.
“The time to leave a ministry position is when things are going
good,” says Johanna Townsend, a veteran children’s pastor. “When
you’re stressing out, God desires to teach you the way through the
muddle. So watch and wait for his victories.”

We all need a plan to handle the stress, disappointment, and
just plain exhaustion in our busy roles. Try what works for me.

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1. Schedule rest. Take a real day off every
week. If you find yourself working on your day off, repeat out
loud, “Stop that! It’s your day off!” Chuck Swindoll in his book,
Strengthening Your Grip, reminds us that God rested not
because he was exhausted, not because there wasn’t more he could’ve
done, but because enough is enough. It was a decision! If you don’t
take a day off each week, you’ll end up needing a bigger break.

“It wasn’t the big things in my ministry that pushed me over the
edge,” says Dorothy Powell, a children’s pastor in Walnut Creek,
California. “A ton of little irritations surfaced day after day and
wore me out.”

Dorothy got the rest she needed. Armed with a written proposal
for a month off-with pay, she headed for her annual review. The
church, remembering her 11 years of service, granted her request.
They even hired an interim leader to assure Dorothy’s smooth
return. The person who stands in the way of rest and you is-guess
who? You!

2. Create a joy file. On one of “those Mondays”
while filing one of “those notes” (We appreciate you, but…), I
created a JOY File. I drew big, yellow sunflowers and red spotted
lady bugs on the file folder. Every time I got an encouraging note
from a teacher, parent, or child, I dropped it in my JOY File. It
made great reading on cloudy days.

3. Guard your friendships. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
says “Two people are better than one because they get more done by
working together. If one falls down, the other can help him up. But
it is bad for the person who is alone and falls because no one is
there to help.”

I’ve experienced the truth in this passage. When I told my
friend, Cathy, that I might resign my position at church for a
better-paying job, she fasted and prayed with me about the need.
God provided, and I stayed at the church. My husband and most
supportive friend also helps me refocus my schedule when he sees me
pushing the limit.

4. Get help. Pray about hiring help at home.
It’s worth the extra money. Not having to do the day-to-day
cleaning removes pressure and allows you to really rest when you’re
at home.

5. Journal. My prayer journal helps me look
back so I can look forward. It’s a record of growth, including my
strengths and weaknesses. I write Scriptures and put people’s names
in the promises of God. In my journal, I offer the Lord my work as
worship and he affirms my place in his plan.

6. Confront. Talk to whomever you need to talk
to, whenever you need to, about whatever it is you need to discuss
(see Matthew 18). Mental baggage gets tiresome and self-defeating.
I once heard a speaker say “The reason some of you are so tired is
that you’re standing in the middle of the Red Sea holding back the
waters on both sides with your bare hands. That’s God’s job! You
better get up on the shore where you belong.”


Pat Verbal is a Christian education consultant in Glendora,
California. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.

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