Tag Archives: anxiety

Call To Me…

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” –Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)

Last month I had the chance to sit in on one of the adult Sunday School classes here in my new church setting. The discussion was already underway, so I just listened and discovered they were talking about Romans and someone had drawn a comparison to something in Ezekiel. The idea raised was pretty interesting so I decided to look it up later on. But when I actually made it to some alone time that evening, I accidentally opened up to Jeremiah, chapter 33 to be specific. And verse three (quoted above) just captured my heart and mind!

And that quick, I “heard” God offering me that same opportunity he had given to the prophet some six centuries  before Jesus’ birth.

Jeremiah had been arrested and confined in Jerusalem during the time that the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzur had besieged the city. Jeremiah heard God’s calls for the nation to repent, and he faithfully shared those divine messages, but they fell on deaf ears. Furthermore, the leadership of his nation, King Zedekiah, wasn’t listening to sound counsel, nor was he turning to God to repent and do things God’s way. Jeremiah had to have  moments of doubt and wondering and grief and sorrow over what he could see was coming for his beloved land.

Now-a-days we are half-way around the world and over two and a half millenia have passed since Jeremiah’s day. I have days when I wonder what’s going to become of this land I love so much. Nobody seems to want to hear the call to repentance that God still extends to all. The leadership in our political parties and in official government positions seem intent at times to not only reject God’s ways, as laid out in the Bible, to actively promote the violating of any “rule” God might have laid down. Some of us have been wondering where this is all going to end… especially in light of what seems like hopeless choices for the election of various officials throughout our governmental system… or even our church organizations, allegedly “the people of God” and yet seemingly intent on turning our back on anything God has asked of us… at least if it involves repentance from sin.

This verse, as it JUMPED OUT at me that night, reminded me that my first responsibility in those moments of wondering about the future, or my country, or even my church, is not to cry out in frustration or to vow to vote for this one or that one or to try to come up with my own plans to “keep the peace.” Rather, Jeremiah 33:3, reminds me that my PRIMARY responsibility as I look around at all that’s happening is to…

… simply call out to God.

“Call to me and I will answer…”

And that quickly, the anxiety begins to lift a little and Jesus’ inviting words flood back into my memory:

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”   —Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Jeremiah, even though he was facing overwhelming odds and great certainty that everything was falling apart, could call out to God and lay down his burdens before his lord. As I look at the uncertainty of my life, my nation, my health, my church denomination, my wife and children’s futures, my finances, even my own mental health… I can call out to my God and lay out all my burdens before Him… and give those burdens to him! He’ll take on those burdens and give me rest… and hope… and peace… even in a world that seems like its going to pot.

Oh yes, Lord! Remind me again and again that there is NO reason for me to carry all my cares, concerns, and burdens alone. Remind me to CALL to you and then lay these other things down to you as I simply draw closer to You, to learn from you and hear You. And I can then trust You to answer me and show me Your ways… even though I cannot see them from here. AMEN!

 

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Filed under Bible, Church Leadership, Eschatology, Mental Health, Methodist, prayer, Response

After the busyness… looking for ME!

Now that the “Christmas Rush” is over, and so is the dire concern over whether or not I’ll survive, I’ve started back in on my reading. I’m doing A LOT of reading. I’m catching up on magazines… I actually read alot of magazines while waiting in doctor’s offices and hospital waiting rooms, but now I’m reading through recent magazines and newspapers. I’ve started to get some time worked back into my schedule to work on a chapter here and there of a pastoral counseling book, a book on continuing to work on growing as a husband and as a father, an audio book for the car trips, and even one on “Becoming a Healthier Pastor.”

It’s this last book, Becoming a Healthier Pastor: Family Systems Theory and the Pastor’s Own Family by Ronald W. Richardson, which has captured me the most lately. Part of Fortress Press’s Creative Pastoral Care & Counseling Series, this book has been revolutionary in its abiolity to explode misperceptions and unconscious anxieties within my own life and thinking… and how that impacts my family and my ministry.

I have spent a good ten years as a pastor, and more prior to that, experiencing ‘righteous indignation’ over the way things happen around me… the way a family member doesn’t do what I know would be the best way or the way a parishioner ought to do something. This book starts off with a summary of the literature in this area by quoting Michael Kerr: “The more anxious, frustrated, judgmental, angry, overly sympathetic, or omnipotent one feels about the problems of others, the more it says about unresolved problems in self.”

I wondered what he meant by us feeling “omnipotent” until I read a bit further and Richardson clarifies: “Omnipotence in this case means, ‘I know what your problem is and what you need to do about it.'”

Ouch!

Throughout his first chapter, Richardson further develops the idea of how we learn as a child growing up in a family system certain ways to deal with the anxiety that comes when we feel threatened and the responses we learn during that time pretty much become the fall-back way of dealing with those same kinds of threats and anxieties as an adult… whether that means we distance ourselves, engage in power struggles, rebel, or try to cover up our own feelings and simply try to fit in. Each of those four are ways we typically respond when our anxiety increases.

Richardson goes on and explains the basics of family systems theory and its accompanying anxiety and reactivity and then notes that “differentiation of self… is the antidote to anxiety.”

Differentiation of self is the process whereby we consciously evaluate why we react emotionally in certain ways and then make specific conscious choices as to how we choose to respond in those situations from now on. The argument that ‘I get really angry and blow up because I have red hair’ or because ‘I’m Irish,’ doesn’t cut it. Differentiation says: I get angry and blow up because I choose to… Nobody, and nothing, makes me react in that way. (Neither can anyone make me angry, for that matter.)

The first chapter closes with Richardson returning to his starting point to illustrate how we as pastors can take our own anxieties and emotional reactions into the ministry setting. He writes:

“The Michael Kerr quote at the start of this chapter describes some of the conscious feeling reactions we can have to church members and situations. You may identify with and experience these feelings and attitudes. But there are other, less conscious patterns we carry with us that can cause just as much trouble. For example, these blind spots can occur quite easily while we are in the role of helping or caring for others. When, as pastors, we begin to give advice, sympathize with one side in other people’s arguments, get stuck in their stories and try to figure out ‘answers’ for or with them, participate in triangles, become overinvolved with and overly supportive of them in their problems, or, conversely, try to distance and get out of the helping relationship, we are manifesting our lack of differentiation.” –emphasis mine.

I’m just getting back into reading after a hiatus, so it’s going to take me awhile… but I highly recommend this book for any pastor out there. Especially those of us who have felt ‘omnipotent” at times.

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