Have you ever wanted nothing more than to lay down and watch 24 episodes on Netflix instead of doing ministry? Have you ever tried to lead on empty? Have you ever had to lead or preach when you are in a valley? Have you ever had to manufacture energy and felt like a hypocrite? Do you often put on a fake smile to cover up the emptiness you feel in your heart? Have you ever just not "felt it?" If not, you've probably been in ministry for less than 24 hours.
We all go through seasons in ministry where we just aren't "feeling it." We wake up… we go through the motions… we do the meetings… we preach the sermons… we lead the family… but on the inside we are in a deep valley. We often feel unqualified to be in ministry and we feel like we're the only one in the world that is feeling this way. What are we supposed to do with these seasons?
These are 4 things that God has been teaching me lately about leading when I'm feeling less than 100%...
1. How's your rest?
A leader that doesn't rest is a leader that will be in a perpetual state of mediocrity. The first thing that we always need to evaluate is how much and how well we are resting.
Leaders normally don't struggle with laziness; we struggle with the quality and quantity of our rest. God's Word says, "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep" (Psalm 127:2). I heard someone once say, "God calls those who will not work lazy, but He calls those who will not rest disobedient."
Outside of my walk with Jesus, rest is the most important factor in leading a successful ministry. Rest and recreation re-creates passion, joy, and creativity in a person's life. God will do way more with a leader who is rested in 6 days than He will with a tired leader running on empty in 7 days. If you are feeling "BLEH" in your leadership, here are 3 introspective questions that may be helpful:
Are you taking a sabbath every week?
Are you sleeping enough?
Are you living a hurried lifestyle or are you living a lifestyle of rest that Jesus offers us (Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:1-11)?
2. How's your heart?
Sometimes we are in a "BLEH" season because we haven't dealt with a sin issue in our lives. David spoke from experience when he said, "For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer" (Psalm 32:3-4). I am learning that this can be a blatantly obvious sin that I am aware of, such as looking at porn, but it can also be a discrete sin that I may not even be on the forefront of my mind, like slander or crude joking. Nothing robs our affections for Jesus and makes us feel more "BLEH" than sin; even the "small sins." If you are not "feeling it," it may be good to examine your heart with these questions:
Is there anything in your life that would ruin you if the church found out about it?
What are you doing that robs your affections for Jesus?
Who can I call right now to confess the sin that's holding me back?
3. Where is your joy?
Most of the time our BLEH-ness comes from trying to find life, joy, and satisfaction in anything other than God. We try to get joy out of ministry, money, success, and anything else we can turn into an idol. Jeremiah talks about this when he says, "My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13). Nothing in this world other than closeness with God will ever satisfy the deepest longings of our souls. If you are feeling BLEH, it may be because you are trying to find life in an empty, broken cup rather than the Fountain of Living Water. The emptiness we feel is God wooing us into greater pleasure and deeper satisfaction in Him.
4. Endure in hope.
Many times, we are in a "BLEH" season because God is intentionally leading us there.
Jesus accomplishes profound things in us by leading us into the desert. Jesus talked about this with his disciples when He said, "...every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." Pruning always hurts, but we must understand that the reason God is intentionally pruning us is because He is going to produce more fruit in our lives in the future. There is purpose in the pruning.
Clayton King recently told me, "Nothing good grows on the mountaintop. The most fertile ground is in the valley." We love the mountaintop experiences, but without the valleys nothing valuable will ever grow. In this case, the trial is not a thing to get over, but a season to be embraced. Ask God to have His way in your heart and trust that He has a purpose for this "BLEH" season.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4)
We all feel empty more often than we'd like. Let's make sure we are not bringing these seasons on ourselves by not resting, not confessing sin, or making something other than God the source of our satisfaction. God wants nothing more than for you to be completely satisfied in Him, and to be overflowing that joy into a white hot passion to share the gospel and deep love for this world. Often, the way He gets us there is through the valley. Let's embrace this season and endure through the trials knowing that on the other side is more joy in God and more fruitful ministry.