Two years ago I began to hit a wall. I was run down and burned out. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the Lord or people anymore. It wasn’t that I’d lost my passion for God’s Word, teaching the Bible, writing, or taking mission trips to the Amazon and Moldova with Justice & Mercy International. I simply had no margin. I was so busy that there was little room for anything fresh to come in. Little was growing, and I felt as though all I was giving others were crusty leftovers.
I met with my pastor and he encouraged me to evaluate the way I was using my time. He challenged me to guard the most important tasks the Lord has given me to do and say no to what wasn’t part of that agenda. Since that meeting, I’ve recognized six things that have significantly supported my spiritual and emotional health. I’ve put them in the form of questions so you can think personally and critically about how well you’re covered in each area.
1. Who Is Teaching You?
While it sounds simple, I realized that part of my problem was that I’d stopped learning. Teachers often forget to take time to be taught. Even if you don’t consider yourself a teacher, we all need to be fed and led spiritually. In addition to being involved in a local church that feeds your soul, commit to a Bible study, take an online seminary course, listen to podcasts by teachers who point out truths from God’s Word. Continuing to learn and grow is vital to our personal refreshment.
2. Who Do You Pray With?
In busy seasons we tend to depend on our resources and strength to make it through, meanwhile prayer is the first thing to go. Several years ago I decided I wanted to see God do immeasurably more than I could ever do on my own. I wanted to be an intercessor for others who are hurting, sick or stuck. And because I love what I do, I also wanted to make sure I have a stronger relationship with Jesus than I have with my ministry. Prayer has been the game-changer for me in these areas. Whether it’s praying alone in the mornings or praying with a group, this is where the supernatural happens. So make a commitment to be renewed and encouraged in prayer, and don’t allow it to be edged out by busyness.
3. Who Refreshes You?
Who builds you up? Who listens intently to you? Who makes you laugh? Who encourages you especially as it relates to your relationship with Christ?
The Apostle Paul described his friends Onesiphorus and Philemon as people who refreshed him (2 Timothy 1:16, Philemon 1:20). I love that word refreshed. It can mean “to cool and refresh by a breath.”¹ Soon I’ll be flying to New Jersey to visit friends who have been missionaries in Italy for nearly 40 years. They’re older in the faith than I am, have a fantastic sense of humor, inspire me in my relationship with Christ, and they cook me authentic Italian meals. Being in their presence fills me up and renews me so I have more to give when I return. How can you proactively schedule time to be with those who refresh you?
4. Who Can You Be Completely Transparent With?
We all have to have people in our lives with whom we can share our struggles, doubts, fears, even our sins (James 5:16). That last one might seem a little over-the-top, but my friends and I often confess our bad attitudes, ask one another for forgiveness, or simply talk about the struggles we’re having. One of the enemy’s oldest tricks is leading us to believe that we can’t tell anyone what’s really going on inside us. Jesus, on the other hand, desires that we live in the light. I’m so thankful that part of His plan to accomplish this is through safe and open relationships where we can be truly known with the best and worst parts of ourselves out in the open. While you may have lots of relationships, make sure you have a trusted few with whom you can be completely honest and transparent.
5. What Activities Refresh You?
It’s taken me many years to discover that I’m a much better friend, family member, and person in ministry when I’ve taken time for rejuvenation. When I race from commitment to commitment without any margin I’m no good to anyone. For me, hobbies like gardening, cooking and long walks are restorative to my soul. I don’t have to think too hard in these spaces and ironically it’s in the midst of these activities that some of my best thoughts come to me. I’ve learned to be intentional about guarding time for activities that feed my body, mind and spirit. Ask yourself what you love to do and make some time for it.
6. What Does Solitude Look Like For You?
One of the worst assaults on our spiritual and emotional health is our addiction and connection to television, the Internet, and social media. Without being intentional it’s nearly impossible to disconnect from our phones and computers, even for brief periods. Times of solitude are so foreign that they can make us feel uncomfortable. We can even grow anxious with that much “peace”. But solitude is vital for quieting our souls and the voices around us so we can hear from God. I emerge from periods of solitude with calm and clarity that are simply impossible to find in the midst of busyness.
¹ Schweizer, E., Bertram, G., Dihle, A., Tröger, K.-W., Lohse, E., & Jacob, E. (1964–). ψυχή, ψυχικός, ἀνάψυξις, ἀναψύχω, δίψυχος, ὀλιγόψυχος. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 9, p. 663). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.