Taken by Surprise
No one can anticipate the trials that God sometimes ordains. Yet when a particular trial comes our way, we are often taken completely by surprise. We may even wonder if this is indeed God's plan or some random out-of-control event.
When I was a pastor's wife and a mother of four children, I was T-boned by burnout and depression. As an energetic, motivated, organized, and outgoing person, I could never have anticipated the anxiety, fear, and endless despair that enveloped me. But God, in his love and wisdom, chose this very specific trial for me. Perhaps he has chosen it for you, and you too are bewildered. Let me give you some hope by sharing some of the lessons I learned from this shocking providence.
He gives me all the strength I own.
I am a broken human being who is susceptible to any illness of body and mind that God sees fit to afflict me with. I am not invincible.
God alone is strong. He enables me to get out of bed in the morning; he gives me motivation and energy; he gives me the ability to think and make decisions; he gives me the ability to create; he enables me to love and to care, to laugh, and to know joy. He gives me all the strength I own.
I cannot control everything; God can and does. When things go wrong despite my best efforts, I am much more conscious of God’s overriding wisdom. When my hand no longer rocks a cradle and my teens are learning to drive without me on life's highway, I can trust they are in God's hands. Lying awake in worry doesn't add to their safety. I’ve learned to rest more completely in God.
I need sleep. Why? Because God made me to need it. That means when I go to bed on time, I am acknowledging his Lordship over my body as well as my soul.
I need downtime. That means that each day, I need to carve out an hour where all demands are silenced and stillness rests my mind. That means aloneness.
I need a hobby. I am not made to work morning, noon, and night like a hamster on a wheel. I need leisure and have found I like to read, spend time in the yard, or go fishing once in awhile.
I need exercise. Regular exercise keeps my body and mind healthy.
I need medication. God gifted our world with many different drugs to treat many different conditions. My daughter needs insulin, my husband needs anticoagulants, I need a daily anti-depressant. I once fought against this providence, but God is sovereign, not me. I am thankful for this gift.
I need a weekly Sabbath. More than ever, I come to each Sunday with a sense of thankfulness and relief that God gave me this gift. Otherwise Sunday would be like Saturday, and the world’s demands would continue to compete for my attention like on any other day. Instead, on this day I get to hear God speak. Instead of the radio and the latest depressing news bulletin, the grocery store run, or the carpool, I get to fellowship with God's people in God's house, sing his songs, and reflect on all he has done and is doing. I see the world and its woes in perspective, and once again I am refreshed and reenergized for the next lap.
Though I was surprised by the onset of my depression, I was even more surprised by all that God taught me through it (Ps. 119:71).
- How Husbands Can Protect Their Wives from Burnout (Shona Murray, David Murray)
- What Is Burnout and Why Is It So Dangerous? (David Murray)
- 4 Cultural Factors That Contribute to Our Epidemic of Burnout (David Murray)