Please note this week, as we talk about anxiety, stress, and worry . . .
There are different degrees of anxiety that require different treatments/coping mechanisms.
Some anxieties we can breathe through. With behavior modification, we can learn to manage those anxieties. However, there are degrees of anxiety that are crippling. They are real.
For far too long, we have disregarded anxiety as a real disease (like High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, etc). Anxiety is a true disorder caused by chemical imbalances. Regardless of how much we pray or how close we are to God, we sometimes need professional help.
Whether it is medication from a physician or counseling from a licensed therapist, treatments are necessary to be respected and accepted.
Being lucky enough to “give birth” to a church ultimately ended up changing a huge part of my personality.
Prior to the opening of West 13 years ago, I worried about everything.
When we had huge missional events (or even not so huge) at Williamson’s Chapel, I’d lose tons of sleep because I was worried they would not go well. Or, when I was responsible for the music of the modern worship service, prior to “big” days, I’d neurose over every detail.
When it came time to launch a church, I merely shifted the anxiety and worry from one entity to another. There are so many different moving parts and pieces. The beauty of those pieces was we had a very gifted, called, and devoted team of volunteers who oversaw every single aspect of the church. It was as if we had a staff of 40, but none of them received a paycheck (if any of you 40 are reading this, a HUGE thank you for doing what you did/do!!!!)
But even knowing we had so many gifted leaders, it still kept me up at night. I’d never preached more than 2x consecutively in my life. Who knew if words would continue to come?
Much less also have my pulse on all the other stuff.
And one more thing, I was also still the missions pastor of the mothership.
Stress and anxiety were my hyphenated middle names.
We launched. People came. Leaders continued to lead. Somehow, I managed to find time to do the different facets of my job. It was good! Actually, it was great!
But despite how great it was, nothing would prepare us for the following:
Our entire sound equipment, technology for our children’s ministry, and a few more things begin stolen from our trailer housed at Will. Chap two weeks prior to our first birthday.
The July 4th Sunday when the air refused to work at the high school, and the temp inside was a balmy 95 degrees (literally)
There was a mass exodus of 80 folks who left loudly because we claimed our core values, with #2 being “All really does mean ALL!”
On Mother’s Day Sunday when there was a hostage situation down Dooley Rd, and the police had the intersection blocked so no one could turn toward the high school. (Thanks to the Associate Pastor from The Cove, who knew we’d need to know, so they called at 5 am to give us a heads up)
The threatening letter I received from someone who wanted a job (but was not going to be given one), so they felt it necessary to threaten physical harm to me because they were going to “surprise me, rush the stage and show me who had the power after all”
(I’ll always be grateful for the buff volunteers who were willing to greet outside with me for a few years to make sure said person didn’t fulfill their promise)
The Easter Egg Hunt was where there were multiple thousand people in attendance, and they were pretty much all going to be hunting for eggs at one time. I thank God frequently no one was harmed that day.
Do you get my drift? (There’s more, but you get my drift)
We’ve had some stuff . . .
Each of those bullet points probably took some moments off my life. Other than the issues that were resolved within a few hours, the other instances brought a huge amount of anxiety and worry.
Yet, living through all that taught me some invaluable lessons.
The same God I’d known all my life was the same God present with me in those circumstances. Even though I didn’t know how to handle them at the time, I remained connected to The Divine. Trying to constantly search and seek wisdom, guidance, and yearning to act out of Love, not ego.
Now, when staff has pressing issues in front of them when they feel overwhelmed or burdened, or like it is all falling apart, we have some questions we walk through together.
“Have you murdered anyone or brought harm to someone?”
“Have you embezzled money?”
If the answer is no to either of those questions, my next words are,
“Ok, then this just is what it is, and we will walk through this together.”
“Everything has a solution. Regardless of how big, let’s figure it out together.”
That’s the beauty of being a follower of Jesus. Regardless of how much anxiety/worry we have, we can look to the stories of people of faith, see how they handled it, and learn we can do the same.
The really beautiful part is that they didn’t always handle it gracefully, either. Yet, they learned every step of the way.
Take Elijah, as we spoke of him yesterday. You can click here to check out what happened in his journey.
We can overcome all things. And as F. Beuchner says so beautifully, “The worst things are never the last things.”
This week, we will explore how to manage our worry/anxiety in our day-to-day.
Grace and Peace,
Phillippians 4: 6
“Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.”