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Summer and Your Heart

I am often blown away by the emotional cost that ministry exacts not only on pastors and staff, but also on volunteers. As I’ve met with hundreds of church leaders over the last few years,
the subject comes up again and again.  Summer’s a time where a lot of people in ministry ask: can I do this for another season? Usually something steals our
passion and enthusiasm, and it’s just so hard to get back. How do you
recover?

How are you doing this summer?  Enriched?  Passionate?  Alive?  Or struggling?

I remember the first time my heart went dead — it was six years ago.  Our church at the time was going through a tough season, and it just about killed me.  I just stopped feeling things.  I went to a Christian counselor for the first time, and slowly my heart began to breathe again. 

The last few years have brought their share of issues too.  And I have felt my heart at times grow more silent than I really wanted it to.   Over the last year, my heart has gradually been coming back, and this summer, it’s starting to have moments of life and joy I haven’t felt in a long time. It’s like rain coming after a drought.  It’s so good, and more and more I see it as gift.

One test for me to see if my heart is working is simply whether I feel what I ought to feel when something happens.  If something great happens, do I feel joy?  If something sad happens, can I enter that sadness?  If something moving happens, am I moved?  When the answer is no, I worry.  When the answer is yes, I feel incredible gratitude to God.

Things that have helped me move from flat to feeling the thrills and joy of life again:

  • Never quitting on God, even when I didn’t feel like praying or reading the Bible.  God is faithful whether we can feel him or not.
  • Having good people you can trust around you.  Often, our hearts hurt when people we trust let us down.  The challenge is to simply not stop trusting.  Then the shutdown of the heart is inevitable.
  • Getting in on what God is doing.  I think sometimes we can keep asking God to bless what we are doing, but to simply cooperate with what God is already doing is so much more refreshing.
  • Believing the best.  Critics abound. Humbly learn what you can, but trust that God is doing to use it to reconstruct a better you.  I get stuck when I let the negative voices be the only voices and fail to hear the voice of God (and others) encouraging me to believe His promises.  It’s great to know that God still believes in all of us.

I’ve had some experiences in the last few weeks I won’t blog about…but will talk about when I get back.  Can’t wait to share it with you back in our community.

In the meantime,

  • how are you doing
  • what have you found helpful when you are struggling?

7 Comments

  1. Laurie on July 20, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Good to hear your thoughts, Carey – I think many who serve at Connexus have struggled with the weight of change that leaves us vulnerable to our own weakness. For SomeGirl , I've been where you are and as I thought about it I remember reading"… even though our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts." He is closer than you think, just around the corner. he will show up when you least expect Him, just at the right time.

  2. SomeGirl on July 19, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I'm in that space now and struggling due to events outside my control that happened this week. God seems far and honestly, I don't FEEL much like being a Jesus follower today. I just feel empty and sad and hopeless. But I will still follow him anyways. After all, like Peter said, where else would I go?

    My daily bible study is for "victorious Christian living". Ha! I need need the devotional for people who are keeping their heads low and just hanging on to Jesus. Still, being at Connexus last week and just watching people – strangers and friends, loving, serving, and workshipping God brought me great comfort. I just worshipped God as best I could and prayed for all those with heavy hearts in the auditorium.

    I don't feel God much right now, but I do believe his promise, that he is close to the brokenhearted. And I'm glad for my Connexus community.

    Thanks too for the wise advise in these postings on how to get through such moments. Very helpful.

  3. Carey Nieuwhof on July 19, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks JP. One of the key tactics of God's enemy is to isolate us and pick us off. We need each other, and my prayers (and others) are with you.

  4. JP on July 19, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Hey Carey, I think more of us seem to fit into your description of "dead space" then we like to admit. I know I visit that space way too often. I also know it is a brutal struggle to try and get yourself out of when your feeling weak and can't share any of it with the people around you.

    Although I became part of a small group for other reasons, it seems that this one issue in my life has been nurtured by the men I meet with weekly without them even realizing it. The verse that says "iron sharpens iron" is a good description of why we need to get together with people we can trust so that we can share these struggles as well as give and receive encouragement.

    To all who are in this space right now I would totally recommend finding a group and develop those trusting relationships so you can find some relief. I think if you find the right set of people, you can set yourself free (with Christ's help of course) of a lot of grief.

  5. Dave and Gen on July 18, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Carey, during this summer I sure have had health struggles and family happenings which cause much stress and then affects my health situation.. however the prayer support from my friends, but especially the group of friends from Trinity and Connexus, which form a prayer Chain has been such a blessing and a strength…We all need praying friends, partners etc.. It is our source of strength…What a blessing it is to be surrounded by such friends we can trust.Thank you for the great words of encouragement and teaching, which we receive at Connexus Worship.. God Bless.

  6. Carey Nieuwhof on July 18, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Hey Rebekah…Thanks for being honest about where you've been. And I'm thankful that you are in a new place this year. Stay encouraged!

  7. Rebekah on July 18, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Compared to this time last year, I'm in a great place. Last year I was in that "can I continue to do this for another season?" place. This year I'm in a "I wonder where God's going to take us in the next year" place. That's not to say there are no struggles or worries at my church, but there is life and hope which triumph over the struggles and worries.

    I can clearly see that God has been at work in my little community of faith in the past year and a half (the length of time I've been their pastor). At this time last year I couldn't see what God was doing and I feared that I was killing the church. Now I am convinced that God was doing some radical surgery on a very sick patient. The patient is responding well. I hope for not only a full recovery, but a bright future.

    My heart is good right now. I know the 'deadness' you speak of, Carey. And I agree with your list of things that help to keep you from that deadness. Especially around the idea of surrounding yourself with good people who you can trust. I thank God for the group of pastors with whom I pray – I think having people pray for you in a group setting (where you also get to pray for others) is incredibley powerful. And I'd like to encourage anyone reading to find that kind of support (even if you're not in any kind of full-time ministry).

    Blessings!

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