God uses his people in wonderful and amazing things in our short lives. He places his Spirit in us to accomplish that which he calls us to, and calls us to enjoy and worship his work in and through us. Nevertheless, because of sin, we still endure hardship in our life and ministry, resulting in stress, and potentially burnout at times. In order to battle this, I believe God provides a number of ways to care for his children, who he loves. Listed below are just a handful of the things that I do both proactively and reactively in this battle for joy and against stress.
- Following the advice of George Mueller, I seek to prioritize at the outset of every day to “get my soul happy in the Lord.” To accomplish this I spend time in God’s word, in prayer, and in singing songs of praise to him.
- Psalm 55:22 commands us to “cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you…” 1 Peter 5:6-7 calls us to “humble yourselves… under the mighty hand of God… casting our anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” How kind of God to remind us of his love for us in the midst of our storms! And he calls us, commands us to cast our burdens, our cares on him. Therefore I seek to regularly take my burdens to the Lord, praying for him to guide me, to provide for me, to sustain me, etc. I take time to pray with my wife, my children, my fellow pastor, and other members of our church. Prayer is such a wonderful provision from God for just this reason and there is simply no better way to reduce these burdens than to hand them over to the God of all creation.
- I turn to portions of scripture that have historically played a significant role in my life. I spend time in the Psalms, in Jonah, Habakkuk, and particularly the pastoral letters. The prayer of Habakkuk in Hab. 3:17-18 is balm for my soul. And the second letter to Timothy is a book that reminds me both of God’s glorious calling on my life and his provision for me. So I turn to these portions of scripture, I read them, I meditate on and memorize them.
- I re-listen to sermons that have served my soul in the past, that stir my affections for Christ and strengthen my faith. One in particular is John Piper’s sermon, “Running with the Witnesses” based on Hebrews 11. Piper helps me to get unstuck, to pick myself up when I fall, and to run the race with endurance. To aim for faithfulness. The picture he draws is of running a race with the saints of Hebrews 11 standing on the sidelines cheering me on, pushing me to finish the race I have started. Jacob calls out, “if I can make it, you can too, keep running!” Peter reminds me that he goofed up over and over again and yet God enabled him to finish his race well. The truth of God’s word combined with these kinds of mental pictures help me to run with joy the race set before me.
- I reread favorite books and authors. Few people lift my eyes to God like John Piper, John Bunyan, John Newton, John Flavel, and a bunch of other guys that are not all named John! Charles Bridges’ chapter on “Faith” in his book on Christian Ministry is must reading for every man called to pastoral ministry; it has served my soul so very well over the years. I pick up good fiction books like “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson and classic biographies like “To the Golden Shore” (based on the life of Adoniram Judson).
- I take advantage of the gifts of God in my life. At the top of that list is my wife and our sons. So I spend time with my wife in a variety of ways, enjoying the gift of marriage to the fullest extent. And I love to play with my sons! They are all young, and so we spend time playing games, taking bike rides, playing baseball, swimming, building legos, etc. Furthermore I have the gift of fellowship with friends in our local church, and so we seek to seize opportunities regularly to spend time with friends new and old.
- I try to regularly spend time just enjoying God’s creation by staring up at the sky, looking at the flowers of the field and the trees in my backyard. Considering the wind that blows across my face and the warmth of the sun on my back. Psalm 19:1-2 is a favorite verse that reminds us that God’s glory is on display all around me.
In addition to these I could go on listing how I spend time listening to good music, getting plenty of sleep, taking long walks and praying under the stars. Making regular habits of these things and others helps me to maintain my faith, my sanity, and my joy in God.
So, what do you do to care for your soul in the midst of a life of busyness?