How do we continue to faithfully teach God’s word when our hearts are heavy?
Distractions of all forms hit church leaders. These distractions are circumstances that burden the leader’s heart to such an extent that it threatens their ability to properly prepare for teaching the Bible faithfully.
For me, recently my mother exhibited extreme paranoia to the extent that I had to go through a process of getting her diagnosed with a mental illness against her will and placed in a mental hospital for a season. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. My wife and I were informed by her nurse that we will have to deal with her illness the rest of her life. My mother is angry, hurt, feels betrayed, and doesn’t understand nor believe that anything is truly wrong. As a result, we are dealing with the fallout of this horrible situation almost daily with hours of phone calls, ceaseless prayers, and a heartache that’s hard to put into words. I’m distracted daily to an extent that if not careful the ministry to which God has called me may be in jeopardy.
Whether it’s a child’s death, marriage issue, betrayal of a confidence, medical diagnosis, pastoral friend who falls morally, or the general winter blues, every leader faces distressed moments in ministry.
So, how can we prepare and teach faithfully in the midst of such moments. Here are five helpful recommendations.
- Protect Study Time: Whatever the schedule is for studying the Bible and preparing teaching material, protect that time relentlessly. Additionally, cushion that time, since as a result of the heavy heart, it often takes longer to get clarity on the text and prepare messages.
- Remove Distractions: Remove anything that can serve as a potential distraction during study and preparation time. In distressed seasons, the mind has a more difficult time concentrating. Turn off phones (unplugged corded ones), remove ticking clocks, and turn off email. When the heart is constantly heavy, it’s okay to be distracted at other times through a movie or game, but watch out for those distractions when it comes time to prepare. It may even be helpful to go off site or change study venues.
- Fight for the Text: Be careful not to allow the present emotions to spill over and color the text being studied. The text carries it’s own content. It is important to allow ample study time to clear the mind from its current issue and then to absorb and to relay the meaning of the text.
- Spend Time in the Psalms: Do not neglect personal devotions. Personal time in the word and in prayer is essential. Personally, I always recommend praying through a Psalm daily, because the Psalms present a range of emotions while directing me to God. Dr. Don Whitney with The Center for Biblical Spirituality has a detailed guide.
- Watch Diet, Sleep, & Exercise: poor eating, sleeping, and exercising habits will impact the body, mind, and soul. Human beings are multifaceted and interconnected. Maintaining a reasonable diet, sleep, and exercise routine is essential for having the mental fortitude necessary for focused preparation and preaching.