The Darkest Days
October & November 2016 were two of the hardest months I had ever experienced. I don't think that I have ever felt so spent. So empty. Tapped out completely. I've been tired before, even exhausted, but I have never felt like this. Sleep didn't refresh me, nor did the usual things like physical exercise or days off. Something was off and I needed help.
There is a strange thing about church: it is often said that it isn't a club for the healthy, but a hospital for the sick. That is, those who are hurting, suffering, looking for hope and healing, should be able to come to the church to find love, health, healing and community unlike anywhere else, because it is centred around Jesus.
However, too often, it is exactly when someone begins to feel imperfect, broken, hurting or confused, the idea of attending church while broken can start to feel like a repellant to the soul; as if they aren't good enough, or don't have their life put together enough to be there.
Perhaps its a pressure that I put on myself, but there is a notion that hurting people are welcome at the church, but the pastor better have his life put together.
In a way, that can be true: scripture is pretty clear about the qualifications for anyone who leads, and having your household in order, having character above reproach and a certain level of spiritual maturity are definitely needed.
But it is just nonsense to think that the leader is above the issues of the congregation that they minister to.
Leaders are broken people, too. They hurt, they fall, they struggle with sin. They aren't immune to brokenness.
So when November came around, I was face-to-face with my brokenness and the strange culture of thinking that, for some reason, as a pastor, I shouldn't be at this point.
The previous year and a half had been a crazy push in my family's life and in the church: we had moved to a new town, renovated a building, started a church, and now I was at the end of what I could actually give.
The day after celebrating our church's one-year anniversary, I was walking down the street feeling grateful for how God had provided for us over this past 2 years and celebrating the milestone of an anniversary.
And then the sadness hit.
Immense sadness. Over nothing in particular. Probably a combination of hopes, expectations, hard times and disappointments. All of that, and also, none of it.
I shrugged off the sadness as a symptom of being tired (I should also mention that I can be emotionally stunted at times and be out of touch with my heart).
But the sadness never really went away. It got worse. My capacity for functioning in day-to-day life diminished. I would spend a LOT of time on a sermon, only to feel like I had nothing accomplished. I couldn't even respond to emails. I didn't have the capacity to.
I couldn't even get myself to the point of saying, "I need help."
At the lowest point, the only thing I had accomplished in a day was setting up 3 round tables. After rolling out the tables, I laid on the floor. And I only laid on the floor because I didn't have a cave to crawl into.
At home, I had to alternate between 5mins with my family and about 45mins in the darkness of my room. Simple questions from my kids like, "can I have a snack?" Would overload me.
My wife was amazing and strong for me during this time and confronted me that I needed some counselling. Things were not right, and I needed some professional help. I stood in the kitchen with tears running down my face and phone in my hand and dialled a Christian counsellor to set up a time to address this darkness. This depression.
I would be quick to recommend that someone else go to a counsellor, but for reasons my heart doesn't understand, taking this step was scary.
"I shouldn't have depression"
"This feeling will go away on it's own"
"Isn't feeling like this just a sign of weakness?"
"What will other people think of me?"
These are all lies that we can tell ourselves that will keep us from finding help.
Being honest with my co-workers, my wife, my counsellor and myself, about my weakness was the only way that I could ever find health.
By God's grace, the darkness has since lifted. Through the care of co-workers praying for me, the tremendous care of my wife to pray and support me, and professional help of a counsellor, I began to find some health again.
We are more than just body. More than just our spirit. More than just a mind. We are interwoven and knit together in fearful and wonderful way.
To have a day like #BellLetsTalk is good. It brings to the surface the things we want to hide. It shines light on our shame about how we are actually doing and when that happens, we find that we are not alone and that there IS help available.
Our weaknesses are an indicator of our humanness and our real need of a saviour. Mental health is not just a spiritual matter. Nor is it just a physical issue. Our spirits are interwoven with our body and our mind. The church is uniquely positioned to be a place where all three areas are addressed to help us find healing.
The church is a community of broken people finding health. Your brokenness does not disqualify you from a church, in fact it should be the place where you find the most hope and healing.
You will find that PAC is place where there are people who will be saying, "me too," when you begin to talk about your hurts, darkness, and anxiety. Let's Talk. You are not alone.
Our first multisite campus has now been meeting for 15mths and during that time we have decided that we would be a combination of live and video teaching. Presently, we do live preaching about 60% of the time while streaming in only 40% of the time. We had never done this before and like many people looking into video teaching in their churches, were wondering about the effectiveness of streaming in the sermon into a rural church an hour away from the original campus. Here are the things that we’ve learned along the way:
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.