A note from Kelly King: Many leaders struggle with taking on too much and not being able to say “no.” If I’m being transparent, I struggle with this often. I’m grateful for Ashley’s article today because leaders need to understand the importance of emotional health. Personally, I plan to put this into practice this weekend where I’ll be teaching at a women’s retreat. Hopefully I will have a little time to decompress and spend quality time with the Lord.
The year I turned thirty was a rough one. Not because I’m getting older, but because I had shingles on my thirtieth birthday, which was followed by lice (thanks to a movie theater), super lice (when lice is resistant to RID), the flu, and cracked ribs (from coughing while having the flu).
Anne of Green Gables talks about having a “Jonah day.” Well I was having a Jonah year! Being sick forced me to stop, and God used that year to teach me about rest, escapism, work, and boundaries, especially since emotional stress from ministry, taking on other people’s burdens, and overestimating how much I can fit into a day/week contributed to getting shingles in the first place.
I saw a card at a store recently that said, “Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it.” Well, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Since my Jonah year, I intentionally carve out three to four times a year where I retreat and evaluate my life. And while I still don’t do things perfectly, revisiting the things God has taught me—and continues to teach me—helps me to live more dependent on God than on myself. This has helped me to step back and determine what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to instead of just letting life happen and feeling like I’m being carried along by life.
I want to be sustainable in ministry and stay in this for the long haul, but ministry is hard and exhausting. People are messy and rebellious. You’re going to be misunderstood and unable to please everyone, and you’re going to feel the brunt of spiritual warfare. So how do we remain emotionally healthy, especially as we lead others?
Here are several of the evaluation questions I use for myself, and they’re sorted in four categories: spiritual health, physical health, emotional health, and relational health.
- What are you doing to cultivate your love for the Lord? Is your private worship greater than your public worship of God?
- Who teaches and leads you?
- Who prays with you and for you?
- Are you keeping short accounts with the Lord, confessing sin to Him and repenting of it?
- What does gratitude currently look like in your life?
- Are you obedient? What next step do you need to take to grow your relationship with the Lord?
- What is motivating your ministry efforts right now?
- How’s your physical health? Are you taking care of your body?
- What activities refresh you? Are you making time for them?
- What does solitude look like for you?
- What does rest look like for you? When are you “off”?
- Do you have margin? What does margin look like in your life?
- Are you emotionally healthy right now? Why or why not?
- How do you bear burdens with someone without being wrecked by them or without carrying them for that person?
- How do you lead when you’re suffering or going through a hard season? When do you persevere in leadership, and when do you take a step back for a season?
- How do you process what you’re feeling and experiencing?
- Who refreshes you?
- Who can you be completely transparent with? Who knows the real you? Are you being honest with them about where you are right now?
- How are you dealing with conflict in your life? Is it in a Christ-honoring way?
- Who are you specifically investing in? What is that looking like? What does that need to look like?
- In what ways do you need to be equipped as a disciple-maker?
- What dreams and prayers do you have for the people you’re discipling?
You might read this and feel overwhelmed, convicted, or unsure of what to do next. Don’t just read this and pummel yourself for how you’re not living up to whatever ideal or standard you’ve set for yourself. Instead, think through how you can move forward in obedience. What’s one step you can take? Remember: a staircase is climbed one step at a time, and our sanctification is a life-long process. Today, how can you take one step to become a healthier follower of Jesus?
Ashley Chesnut serves as the Associate Singles 20s/30s Minister at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and has a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School. While Ashley has a passion for discipling young women, she also loves her city, and when she’s not at the church or meeting with girls, you can probably find her at the farmer’s market or trying some new local restaurant.