10 Signs of Approaching Meltdown

Perry Noble reveals and responds to a stunning statistic:

My counselor shared a statistic with me two years ago that floored me – 90% of the people entering ministry do not retire from ministry. They either quit or have some sort of moral/ethical failure that disqualifies them.

Jesus did not call us to this or wants this for our lives. Yet so many of us church leaders struggle in this area (usually inwardly because if we said out loud that we are dying inside, people might perceive us as weak).

While I am stunned by these stats, I am not surprised.  I’ve seen too many friends flee the frenzy of ministry.  And I myself have peeked over the edge on a few occasions, only to be pulled back onto solid ground  by good friends and gracious church members.  But I concur with Noble: This is not what Jesus wants for those in ministry – whether pastors or church leaders, or volunteers in other areas of the Church.

One reason we know this is not what Jesus wants is because Peter tells us as much:

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be…  ~ 1 Peter 5.2

But the interesting thing about this verse is that Peter tells us both that God wants leading the church to be enjoyable and that it is going to be emotionally taxing.   On the one hand, lead and shepherd because the joy set before us makes you want to do it.  On the other hand, by acknowledging that ministry will sometimes seem like a chore, a duty,  a mere responsibility, Peter implies that there will likely be times when something will rob the leader of the delight.

In his post Noble lists 10 Signs you are on the verge of a meltdown or burnout:

  1. You are beginning to despise people and your compassion for them is continually decreasing rather than increasing.
  2. You often think about doing something other than ministry and your biggest desire isn’t to honor God and reach people, but to simply find relief from the pressure that seems to be building daily inside you.
  3. You cannot remember the last time you simply had fun with family and friends, and joy is something you talk about but are not experiencing for yourself.
  4. You are disconnected at home and when you get there, you do not want to engage with your spouse or your children; you cannot enjoy being around them. You spend more time online than you do with your family and you find yourself wanting to sleep all of the time.
  5. You continually tell yourself and those you love that “this is just a really busy season and that you will slow down soon.” However, the truth is that you have been most likely “singing that same song” for years!
  6. You are continually becoming obsessed with what others say about you and one negative comment from someone who does not like you can put you in an incredibly deep valley and cause you to feel hopeless.
  7. You begin to make easy decisions rather than the right ones, because the right ones take too much work.
  8. There is no hope in you and you actually despair of life. You have thought of death and have even entertained suicidal thoughts.
  9. You are experiencing unexplained depression and/or anxiety. You are having panic attacks and can’t explain it.
  10. You are increasingly becoming withdrawn from family and friends.

While I cannot say that I have experienced all of the above symptoms, I am familiar with most. Apparently so is Noble.  He says he drafted this list from his own life. (See: Meltdown)

This should be both an encouragement and a warning. Whether or not you have ever experienced any of these, if you are engaged in ministering to people – even God’s people – you are at risk. But, if you are feeling any of these things, you can take some comfort knowing you are not alone.  History tells us that some of the greatest men of God have experienced prolonged, intense periods of anxiety and depression: Martin Luther, Mother Theresa, C.S. Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, etc. (See: A History of Darkness)

In fact, I have found most helpful Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ prescription from his book Spiritual Depression:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now the Psalmists treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.’

… This self of ours… has got to be handled. Do not listen to him; turn on him; speak to him; condemn him; upbraid him; exhort him; encourage him; remind him of what you know, instead of listening placidly to him and allowing him to drag you down and depress you. For that is what he will always do if you allow him to be in control. The devil takes hold of self and uses it in order to depress us. We must stand up as this man did and say, “Why art thou cast down? Why are thou disquieted within me? Stop being so! Hope though in God, for I shall yet praise Him…”

Tell this to yourself: “Hope in God! for I shall yet praise him!”

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