It was the crash heard ‘round the Christian world. Bill Hybels took a fall. It was more than a fall…it was an emotional, physical and spiritual meltdown. He was honest enough to write and speak about it. It would be understandable and tolerable if it were an isolated and unusual circumstance; but, unfortunately, it is not. The number of pastors and Christian workers who are in poor physical and emotional health are legion. In this article I will focus on physical health which, of course, impacts everything else.
I heard the pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in the country share that he recently attended a meeting with pastors of mega-churches and was the only one there who had not been hospitalized in recent months.
The simple fact of the matter is that as leaders many, if not most, of us don’t take very good care of ourselves. The needs almost always exceed the resources. If I’m not careful, I can be one of those resources that get stretched beyond what is reasonable or healthy and then down I go. Doctor and author Richard Swenson writes that there are 22 separate organizations in the U.S. that exist for the sole purpose of dealing with pre/post pastoral burnout. “Houston, we have a problem!”
Personally, I had my encounter of the dangerous kind when I was in my late 20s. I thought I was a Christian superman and had limitless capacity. I was wrong though, fortunately, not “dead wrong”…but definitely heading down a road of self-destruction. I was burning the candle at both ends and praying desperately for more wax. I set up an appointment with a doctor because I was experiencing intestinal problems that wouldn’t go away.
I returned to his office to receive what I was sure would be bad news such as bleeding ulcers or stomach cancer. Instead what I heard was some good news and a stern warning. “There’s nothing physically wrong with you…it’s all stress related.” That was the good news, which I welcomed with a huge sigh. Then came the warning: I would have to learn how to “slow down or else.” I wasn’t sure what the “or else” might be, but decided then and there that I didn’t want to find out. I also decided one more thing--I was going to study the whole subject of stress, burnout, pacing and physical health and apply what I learned. I have been a student and practitioner ever since.
Okay, here are a few things I have been learning about being a healthy leader who will last and not disintegrate physically due to my own stupidity and poor choices.
Doctor Swenson, mentioned above, has written two excellent books on this subject. “Margin” and “The Overload Syndrome.” They have both been a rich source of instruction, warning and wisdom.
Here are my six favorite gems from “Overload Syndrome”:
1. Driven people feel that if they are not busy, they are not of value...the tighter the schedule, the better they feel about themselves and their achievement.
2. The only trouble with success is that the formula for achieving it is the same as the formula for a nervous breakdown. Charles Swindoll
3. Is there a speed limit to life? When we exceed it, does God give us a ticket? I have come to believe that speed is as much responsible for the problem of personal and societal dysfunction as any other single factor.
4. If we will not recover the discipline of waiting, God is under no moral obligation to speed up His timetable to accommodate our urgency.
5. It is solitude and solitude alone that opens the possibility of a radical relationship with God that can withstand all external events up to and beyond death...I don’t know of any answer to busyness other than solitude. Dallas Willard
6. We sit at the beginning of a universal “connectivity” unprecedented in human history...the absence of hiding places.
Do you create, or allow to be created, a sane or insane schedule, week, day? What will you do to:
- Slow down
- Smell the roses
- Say no to lots of things so you can say yes to a few things
All work and no play can make Jack not only a dull boy, but perhaps a very sick or very DEAD boy!