Being a PICU nurse and a youth minister are some of the most stress-free jobs, said no one ever. As Marci and I begin to reflect on our first full year in our careers as a nurse and a minister, we have been able to recount the blessings of servitude and the challenges of our respective fields. Throughout the year we have challenged ourselves to shower love on those we serve at the hospital, the church, and in everyday life. As time goes on, we have begun to realize the amount of anxiety that we each accumulate. Typically, after a long day I can hear myself reciting the philosophic words of renowned Queen:
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you
No man ask for-Queen & David Bowie
Sing it, Bowie and Freddy Mercury! Rest in peace to these two fantastic artists that have done wonders for the music community and our pop culture.
Don’t these words have a sense of truth about them? For us, we had a passion for serving those that were sick and needed Christ. Our desire was to love and be agents of compassion. We never expected that this sympathy would affect us in any great magnitude. Sometimes, Marci will stay awake at night contemplating how she can be a better nurse and help a child that is struggling to hang on. I am nervous about saying the wrong things, becoming apathetic, or just not feeling worthy enough to lead students in their faith walk. We both still have these desires within us but often become confused in how to channel these overwhelming feelings.
Kevin DeYoung writes about the anxiety that ministers face like this:
Ask any pastor who really takes his work seriously and he will tell you of the pressures he feels in ministry—people in crisis, people leaving, people coming, people falling through the cracks, people disappointed by the pastor, people disappointing to the pastor. In the midst of this work the pastor is trying to find time for study, prayer, preparation, and family. He’s trying to improve himself, train up new leaders, meet the budget, get to know a few missionaries, champion important program, manage staff, take care of administrative details, provide for deep, accessible worship and preaching, be responsive to new ideas, listen to new concerns, be ready to help when people are in trouble.
And most pastors feel a burden for all the other things they could be doing: more evangelism, more involvement in the neighborhood, more for the poor, more for missions, more for the denomination, more for the city, more to address global concerns, more to address social concerns. There will be pastors reading this who wonder if the church is still responsive to their preaching, if the leadership will ever be responsive to his leading, if the congregation will ever grow like the churches he hears so much about. On top of all this every pastor has his own personal hurts, personal mistakes, and his own spiritual health to attend to. Who is weak and are not pastors weak?
Amen to that! Kevin echoes my desires and concerns. I am weak and constantly beating myself up thinking of what more I could do. I think Marci can agree with this too. No matter how good you are in healthcare there is always room for improvement. The anxiety is understandable. I want to always serve first God, then go every mile for my wife, and yet inspire teens to pursue Christ with their whole heart. Easy right? So it makes sense that anxiety would become a crucial part of ministry and caring for others with the love of Christ. But how do you not delve into severe anxiety and depression?
By not taking yourself too seriously.
I regard Paul as a superhero among disciples. Who else do you know that wrote a third of the New Testament and has made such a significant impact on the church today (besides JC of course)? In 2 Corinthians 11:25-33 he had been writing to the Corinthian church of his tribulations as an apostle:
25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
There are many, many dangers that Paul recalls in these verses. How come in his recollection of all these events, can he still feel anxious for the church? I feel like if I were in his position that would be the last thing on my mind. He feels this way because he cares and has an abundant love for his brothers and sisters. Paul’s anxiety is warranted and needed. Without the care of Paul, they may not have had the needed guidance. Then he questions how he as a broken man is going to guide a broken people. His response?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
So, maybe anxiety is beneficial and provides the needed care to those that require it. For Marci’s case, it delivers the needed physical, emotional, and spiritual care for kids at the hospital. For myself, it propels me in the direction of ministering and providing the many forms of the Gospel to broken teenagers. Anxiety allows us to be empathetic with a world in need. We are stricken with a pressure to provide God’s love to all because we know that our hearts groan without it. But let’s remember that we are broken as well. When we think it’s all about us, let’s remember who’s holding us up. It’s a dangerous path to walk down if we think that it all relies on us. I am so proud of my wife and the work she does, and I have an undying passion for the students I serve, but let’s allow God to shine through and quit dwelling on our faults.