What is the worst chaos you’ve ever been through in your life? Go ahead. Think about it. The thing that comes to your mind is probably something that was incredibly tough and life altering. I’m guessing that many of you are potentially going through circumstances right now that feel like the toughest thing you’ve ever been through. I know we’re all impacted by the effects of COVID-19, the sicknesses, the deaths, the life changes. The list could go on. These challenges impact our routines, our character, our responses, and yes, even our faith in God.
This is simply our reality. We all go through things. Each one of us can tell a story of some major chaos that disrupted our lives at some point. We could tell of a time that we didn't know how we were going to get through some circumstance; yet, here we are. Here you are taking time to read this. You made it through. Give yourself a pat on the back.
Today, and over the next few weeks, I want to give you tips that will help you learn how to go through those really tough things in life and not just make it through them, but successfully go through them in a timely manner. I encourage you to keep reading until the end to get the full benefit of this session.
What we thought was a temporary disruption in March of 2020 has now become a way of life, at least for the foreseeable future. We kept thinking things were going to get better, only to realize they have mostly stayed the same. In fact, in some cases, things have only gotten worse. People are more divided now than ever before on what's right and what's wrong concerning masks and vaccinations as well as present world issues. For church leaders, many are divided on how the church should be structured and operated. It’s exhausting.
Lately, I’ve come to realize that there’s a deep sense of emotional exhaustion and physical fatigue that people experience as they realize there's not a present end in sight to our current circumstances. It’s very discouraging.
Now, I realize that not everything is bad. I know my church has certainly helped people through the increased anxiety in their lives as they seek answers to the current chaos. We have some tremendous stories of life change. However, many people are enduring incredible hardship right now.
Winston Churchill said, "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." First of all, I’m not sure that’s really possible; but if it is possible to some degree, how is it done? What does it take to move from what seems like one failure or tough thing to the next but still maintain enthusiasm? Is that even attainable?
We're living in difficult times, the most difficult times of my nearly forty-two years of life. But I want to give you a few things that have helped me deal with the difficulty, tips that I hope will offer you some light at the end of your tunnel.
If you find yourself under extreme stress during this time and even if you’re one of the few that don’t feel stressed, you still may want to take notes because stress will eventually come. Life is full of surprises.
Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you a few tips that can help you lead through the chaos in your life and your leadership. These sessions assume that you already have a prayer life and that you seek God for answers. That’s first and foremost. This information will help you in addition to the direction you receive from the Lord.
I got on a plane a few weeks ago. It was the first time I’d flown since the pandemic began. You’ll never guess what the flight attendants told me. They said, “Sir, just sit down and be quiet!” Can you believe that?
I’m kidding. You know what they said. “In the event of an emergency, you must put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help anyone else.”
Life is not a sprint; life is a marathon. If you want to go the distance and live life well no matter what comes your way, you've got to take care of yourself first.
Perhaps you might say, “But, Ryan, scripture speaks of serving others, helping the less fortunate, delivering the gospel at all costs.” You’re right. Life is about all of those things; but if you don't help yourself first, if you don't put your own oxygen mask on first, you are not going to be around to be the servant that the Lord has called you to be. You need to help yourself so that you can help others. Helping yourself is a means to an end, not an end in itself. I help myself so that I can serve others.
I want you to know that I have great hope about the future of the church, but that doesn't take away from the reality that the physical and emotional fatigue church leaders experience is real, and it can easily lead to an incredible emptiness within us.
Recently, I read a blog by Dan Reiland which listed the five signs of being over stressed. I want you to evaluate your life through Dan’s list.
Sleep doesn't bring you rest. You sleep, but you wake up tired.
Play doesn't bring you joy. Vacation doesn't work anymore, and you feel like you still need a vacation when you get back from what was supposed to be a restful vacation.
Work doesn't bring you results. You work really hard, but it's just not moving the ball. Your work is not productive.
Prayer doesn't bring you peace. Even when you attempt to give your burdens to the Lord, you keep carrying them. You can’t seem to let those burdens go.
Relationships don't bring you a sense of fulfillment. You have time with friends, but you still feel disconnected from people. This is a major one that I see all the time with pastors and church leaders.
I want you to think about these things. How many of them are you seeing in your life? Is it one or several or maybe all of these things? I know I’ve personally experienced all of these issues at one time or another in my life, and I’ve recently experienced a couple of them. I've been there.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
If you're yoke is hard, if you're carrying unnecessary burdens in your life, there's no way you can be a completely effective leader and minister. In 2021, if we’re not serious about putting our own oxygen masks on first, we can forget about helping others because the burden and the weight we’re carrying is much too heavy.
How, then, can we put our own oxygen masks on first? You know I love practical leadership content. Most people love inspirational messages, but putting into practice the practical advice will allow you to see results. One good way to put your own oxygen mask on first is to create margin in your life.
In simple terms, margin is your breathing room. It’s the difference between your limits and your responsibilities. Margin allows us to have space in our day so that we’re not stressed and worn out all of the time. In the event of an unexpected opportunity or emergency, we’ll have the space and capacity to respond to those things. It’s necessary that you put the most important things in your life first and guard them from those least important things. If daily devotion is important to you, and it really should be, do it first. If church or small groups are important to you, put them first.
I’ll say one thing, and then I’ll leave it alone. Church is more important than any ball games you have for your kids. I’m not talking about the occasional once or twice a year games, I’m talking about the routine of life. I'm not going to say any more on that, but I posted a YouTube video a few weeks ago in which I discuss the topic of margin. I encourage you to go check it out.
Another way to put on your own oxygen mask first is to grieve your losses. This season of our lives has come with a series of one loss after another. We’ve experienced the loss of people, the loss of what is normal, the loss of jobs, the loss of relationships, the loss of health, and even the lack of progress in life and ministry. Every time we turn our heads there is loss.
I want you to sit for a minute or two and think about some of the losses you've experienced since March of 2020. I want you to bring some awareness to those losses. At one time in my life, I did a terrible job of grieving my losses, and those emotions built up until I began to experience feelings of burnout. Many other negative emotions also came to the surface. I've learned that it's extremely important to grieve my losses as I go so that when I feel those emotions arise, I know I've got to figure out what's going on inside of me. I don't want to push the sadness away. It’s not healthy to do that.
I realize it may sound odd to some, but when we are grieving, it’s important we admit that a loss really does hurt and that we’re sad. Why don’t we be honest with ourselves? There's no one that's immune to the grieving process. We must grieve and experience that sadness, and when it lifts, we can move on with life. We can't, however, push the grieving away or medicate the impact of that grief. We have to embrace it. We have to grieve our losses, and that's part of putting on our own oxygen masks first.
If you’re struggling with grieving the losses in your life, I want to encourage you to find someone that can help you because it’s so very important for your emotional and physical health.
As I finish today, I want to encourage you to give yourself permission to take care of yourself first. These are extremely tough times in which we’re living. There is much chaos around us. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself first because if you take care of yourself first, you’ll be able to endure difficult times and have the energy to help others around you.
Copyright © 2021 Ryan Franklin. All rights reserved.