Stress in my neck… Stress in my back… Stress in my chest… Stress in my jaw… Stress in my stomach… Probably you carry stress in your body somewhere.
We usually think of stress as a bad thing, but actually it’s a natural thing — even a good thing. To face challenges and seek to overcome them is stressful. Work is important and stressful. We love our family and yet getting together is often stressful. Birthdays and holidays are stressful. Even going on vacation can be stressful.
Ministry is wonderful and it’s stressful!
Stress is bad for us when we’re overloaded with pains or problems — like the woman who is bent over by the weight of her burdens. Stress overload becomes internalized stress that causes anxiety and worry and gets into our bodies.
Recently I’ve been carrying stress in my jaw. I wonder where stress in your body might be? That’s important to know.
When my jaw was hurting it alerted me to my stress overloaded. I realized that in one week I had helped five pastors in crises. Five! All are trying to hold onto Jesus and stay in ministry. All are under attack for various reasons. Opposed by elders or staff. Feeling unappreciated rejected. Church conflict. Church splits. Burnout.
Did you know that 75% of pastors report being “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed”? Or that 90% work 55 to 75 hours per week and say they’re fatigued and worn out every week?
For me to come alongside a pastor to listen and encourage is an honor. Pastors are wonderful people and I love to care for them and pray for them. I’m trained to do this and have a high capacity, but this particular week I carried the stress more than I realized — I woke up with screaming pain in my jaw!
This happened during the week that Kristi and I were away leading a TLC retreat and training for fourteen pastors and leaders. A stress reaction while away on retreat? Yes, often we feel our stress when we relax. And I was relaxed, even while leading groups and teaching. I enjoy this! Besides, each day I had my own “TLC” times for refreshment: taking a nap, prayer in solitude, laughing with friends, and connecting with Kristi. I didn’t strain or hurry. I enjoyed the whole week.
But, as I said, even when ministry is good and enjoyable it is stressful! Caring for others we bear burdens. Leading others we focus. Setting aside a week means more work to do before we leave and after we return.
And piled on top of my ministry stress were two very upsetting events. Just before we went away for TLC the thirty-year old son of a close friend died from an alcohol overdose and put us into grief. Then during TLC my dad had a near fatal accident and was laying in a hospital bed, unable to move his body or even to speak — they named him “Red Doe.” I thank God he’s getting back to his normal self now!
A Prayer to De-Stress in Your Body and Soul
I’m also grateful to God that my jaw pain has lessened. Rest (setting boundaries!), exercise, sharing my emotions with Kristi or a friend and receiving empathy, meditation on Scripture, and prayer are things that help me to de-stress. I hope you have effective ways to get the stress in your body out!
I developed a prayer for bodily rest in Christ that’s been helpful. I’ve learned many forms of prayer, but this one was new to me. I think you’ll find it soothing and healing too.
First, I begin meditating and relaxing using a favorite Breath Prayer from the Bible: “In Christ alone my soul finds rest… Selah.” Breathing in slow and deep… Breathing out… Praying the words of Psalm 62:1 and 5 to Christ, my Lord and Shepherd…
Then I prayed the word of the Lord into my body, especially my jaw where I was carrying stress. As I breathed in the rest of Christ I massaged my jaw… As I breathed out I released the pressure on my jaw…
I pray this over and over. Try it! You can touch your neck, back, stomach, forehead, or wherever you feel stress in your body.
Investing in Soul Shepherding for Pastors
Our ministry partners make it possible for us to care for pastors. I serve full time in the nonprofit ministry of Soul Shepherding and Kristi serves half-time.
You can donate safely online or write a check. Thank you!