“The reason I share my junk with you,” a pastor disclosed. “Is because you’re not a monkish spiritual formation guy. I can’t relate to the contemplative spiritual direction types.”

I get Type A leaders.

I understand being intense and driven to reach the goal. That’s putting it mildly — I’m a workaholic. I’ve been in recovery for many years, but I’m still Type A and my wife and a close friend tell me I can do the work of three people.

For people like me, ministry projects and spiritual disciplines are drugs that get us high but leave us disconnected from relationships — including the Christ we’re intending to serve. We can take pride in what we’re doing “for God”, not realizing that if we’re not appreciating being “with God” in the moment then we’re probably serving our own ego more than we realize.

As a young and rising leader I was short-changing two small children the time and emotional presence they needed from their Daddy. My wife was frazzled and drained to the breaking point.

Thankfully the word of the Lord pierced my heart. I’d like to say it came through Bible-reading or prayer in solitude, but it mostly came through my wife’s emotional meltdowns over my addiction to ministry success.

She was watching me give my best to counseling too many people, working too many hours at the church, and writing books in my “free time”.  All the while she was pregnant and holding a little boy in her right hand and a littler girl in her left! (In those years my inner sense of inadequacy and shame drove me into selfish ambition, which is what underlies workaholism.)

I sobered up fast the day she asked, “Will you co-author the lives of our three children with me?” That’s how I learned we were having another baby!

God arrested my heart. I stopped writing books. I stopped doing media appearances. I stopped speaking in public outside of my local church — for fourteen years!

Obeying God, against the ambitions of my flesh, caused me to “hit bottom” — the bottom of a dark abyss of depression. No success and no attention for all the great things I could make with my words left me empty.

I felt like a zero.

Looking back I see this was just the medicine my soul needed. The pain of withdrawal from the highs of ministry success pushed into therapy. It was depressing to feel like writing books and having a public ministry was over.

But once I learned to rest — really rest my body and soul in Christ and find my joy and my identity in loving God and the people around me — that’s when God birthed a new ministry to pastors and leaders and Soul Shepherding, Inc. was born.

On our weekly podcast, “Soul Talks With Bill and Kristi Gaultiere”, we’re in the middle of a series on Burnout titles “Re-Soul”. Each week we are learning how to Prevent the 5 Hidden Causes of Burnout:

  • Distance From God
  • Internalizing Stress
  • Self-Negation
  • Hurry Sickness
  • Over Responsibility/Hyper-Control

Join the conversation and learn how to care for your soul!

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Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: A hidden contributor to burnout is internalizing stress. As leaders, we offer God’s grace through our presence in others’ lives as we listen and offer empathy from a non-anxious place. We increase our capacity to do that when we first experience it from someone else. In this episode, Bill and Kristi share from the depth of their own stories about how internalizing stress has taken a toll on their bodies, emotions, and spirits. You’ll hear how they experienced transformation in themselves so that they can be present to the suffering of others while remaining in Jesus’ easy yoke.