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Pastoral Anxiety (via Kevin DeYoung)

Kevin DeYoung reflects on Second Corinthians 11:28 “apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Pastoral life brings what Paul characterises as “anxiety,” and DeYoung is at pains (as is Paul) not to be seeking pity, or to make out that this anxiety is worse that concerns that so many have as part of their daily lives.
Being a pastor is a wonderful calling.
But this anxiety is a constant companion. It doesn’t get left on a desk or worksite at the end of the day. It’s never completed.
This though, is normal.
And if you’ve got a disposition that gets a bit blue at times then it weighs a bit heavier sometimes than others.
Sometimes black dog Monday lasts through till Wednesday.

DeYoung wants to simply “encourage pastors to keep fighting the good fight and encourage congregations to keep encouraging their pastors.”

Read more at Ligonier.


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Ten Types Of Thinking That Undergird Depression (via ERLC)

This is an article by Brad Hambrick, published by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
These ten types of thinking are described as fuelling the depressive-anxious experience.
From personal experience they certainly resonate.
It would be helpful to understand that this is not a matter of identifying these in others and tell them to stop it.
Rather it is a self-diagnostic tool to help individuals recognise that which is unhelpful and unproductive in recovery and self-management.
It is also helpful for those who support sufferers about what sort of thought patterns not to encourage.

The list.
There are expanded explanations and ‘pay attention’ descriptions to help diagnose practical explanations of the thinking at work in the article itself:

1. Idealistic: Ideals are good goals without a sense of time.
2. Impossibly high goals: Impossible goals are either super-human or lack achievable pieces.
3. Personalization: Everything is not “about you.”
4. Emotional reasoning: When we believe our emotions are true in spite of facts to the contrary, this is emotional reasoning.
5. Catastrophisizing: This style of worst-case scenario thinking (i.e., “I’m going to die, fail out of school, be single forever, etc.) is very frequent at the onset of a panic attack.
6. Dichotomous thinking: “It is either great or terrible. It is clearly not great, so it must be terrible.”
7. Selective attention: We constantly filter our attention.
8. Superstitious thinking: In children or sports fans, superstitious thinking can be cute or entertaining.
9. Passivity: “If I can’t [blank], then I won’t do anything.” This is a pattern of thought that often causes people to cycle between depression and anxiety.
10. Equating worth with performance: This mindset requires “salvation by works alone” for you while allowing “salvation by grace” for everyone else.

Read the whole article here.


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Practical Ways To Nurture Mental Health (via Amy Simpson)

Significant changes to eating (drinking), sleeping, and physical activity over the last eight or so months have had some noticeable effects on physical appearance, but they’ve also produced a more stable emotional and psychological state.
The black dog still comes sniffing, but I feel in a stronger place to deal with it.

This post by Amy Simpson provides a number of life-style changes that, while not being a cure-all for existing conditions or a replacement for other treatments, go some way towards building resilience that counter bouts of mental health problems

From her post:
…some of the things that can go wrong with our brains are outside our control—we can’t always do anything to prevent genetically inherited conditions, the consequences of trauma, or other forms of injury and disease.
At the same time, our mental health is not entirely outside our control. In fact, even when a genetic predisposition is present, or our circumstances are harmful, our lifestyle choices can prevent a disorder from developing, lessen its severity, or help us achieve better recovery. Regardless of our predispositions, experiences, or sense of health, it really doesn’t make sense for anyone to neglect the opportunity to protect and strengthen our mental health.
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Making choices like these won’t guarantee you never experience a mental disorder or emotional struggle. And they probably won’t be enough to “cure” a challenge you’re already living with. But in either case, they will help. So as you’re thinking about your health, give some thought to that powerful organ that sits above your shoulders. Consider the all-important function of your mind. And do something good for yourself.

Go here to see her list of practical suggestions.


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The Long Game (via Erik Raymond)

Erik Raymond provides perspective on the up and down experiences of pastoral life.
It’s easy to slip into regrets about the past or apprehensions about the future.
It’s also easy to feel overwhelmed in the present.
Raymond’s counsel is realistic and grounded.

Play the long game and keep your chin up. Have the pastoral job description at hand and remind yourself of it. If we are doing what we are supposed to be doing and focusing primarily on what we are called to do, then we can be safeguarded against pride in seasons of prosperity and despair during the difficult times. This will certainly free us up to rejoice in God’s sovereignty to make a people for himself—even by means of such unlikely materials.

Read the whole post here.


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Where To Go On Mondays (via Jared Wilson)

There’s only one destination for a pastor on Mondays.
From Jared Wilson:

So there is water for you today, whether you push through on these difficult Mondays in the quiet of your study or the busyness of the visitation route or whether you take these Mondays off to recuperate at home. There is water for you at every moment, living water flowing freely from the pierced bosom of Christ. It is water to satisfy your thirsty soul, water to heal your ministry wounds, water to cool your heels, water to cheer your “Monday face.” Don’t look for it anywhere but in Jesus.

More here.


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The Pastor’s Ultimate Need

From a post by Geoffrey Kirkland about pastoral burnout, its causes and cure.

Since the pastor’s task is utterly impossible in the strength of the flesh, how does a saved sinner, a weak man at best, take up this task and perform it well for the glory of the Savior? Experts and statisticians provide a host of data about what “successful” pastors do and what needs in the lives of such pastors have been met. But I propose that a pastor has one singular, ultimate need: The pastor must guard his own heart.
God’s Word stresses the importance of the heart over and over again. God implores us — and this is particularly important for ministers — to watch our hearts carefully. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Jesus said that “from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” He continued, “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). Jesus also proclaimed that every man’s “mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45). Paul tells Timothy, his young protégé in the faith, not to neglect the spiritual gift within him; to that end, Paul exhorts him, “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:15-16).
A pastor’s own ministry will be no better than his heart; indeed, a healthy ministry flows from his heart and will reflect the state of his heart. So the implication is clear — a pastor must guard his heart.
It is possible for a pastor to become so concerned with the hearts of those in his flock that he neglects his own heart. This is tragic.

Read the rest of the post here.


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Three Steps Out Of Worry (via Jean Williams)

Jean Williams’ description of worry resonated with me, a committed worrier from way back.
Her personal story of three steps she undertook in walking away from being consumed by worry resonated as well.

From her post:

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)
I’ve spent a lot of my life worrying. Here’s how it works. My mind, unbidden, invents a number of possible futures. I figure out how to respond to each one: “If this happens, then ….” At some hidden level I’m convinced that if I imagine and prepare for enough scenarios, I won’t be surprised by whatever comes. I’ll be ready. Better than that, I’ll hold hardship at bay. Because how can the worst happen if you anticipate it? How can it happen if you prepare for it?
It sounds ridiculous when you put it into words. The future comes whether you anticipate it or not. If I imagine a hundred possible futures, at least 99 of them won’t come to pass. More likely, none of them will come to pass. Something else will happen, something quite unexpected. In the meantime, I will have wasted hours of mental energy (do you measure mental energy in hours?) trying to prepare for all kinds of events that never happen. Even prayer becomes a cover for playing over them in my mind, and working up enough strength to face them.

Read the whole post here.