It mostly happened to me on Mondays. They’re nobody’s favorite, obviously, but it feels to me like they’re even worse for church workers.
Sundays are often a ‘high’, a day where you serve and experience the awesomeness of laboring in God’s vineyard. But then comes Monday.
Mondays are when the complaints are delivered into your inbox, or left in voicemails on your phone. Mondays are when you’re tired, exhausted even from doing too much, getting too little sleep. Mondays are when you start to wonder if it’s worth it, where you doubt your calling.
Mondays are when you want to quit.
When I worked as a youth pastor, I had many of those Mondays. They seemed to sneak up on me, suddenly grab me with this depressing maelstrom of negative thoughts, criticism from others, discouragement, and just plain weariness.
Maybe for you, it’s Tuesdays. Maybe there’s no system in when you experience these periods of doubt. But no matter whether you serve as a volunteer, work in a church, or do anything at all in God’s Kingdom, at some point you will feel like quitting. At some point, it will just be too much.
Here’s my advice: don’t quit.
Seriously, don’t quit.
At least, not at that time. Not when you’re tired and emotional and upset and have a million different things on your mind and on your heart. You can’t make sound decisions in that state of mind.
What you need to do at that point, when you’re hit with it, is just acknowledge that that’s how you’re feeling. And it’s okay. Guilt will be around the corner, trying to make you feel even worse, but push it away. It is okay to feel that way. It doesn’t mean anything in itself, it doesn’t say anything about you or your ministry. Remember, even the big heroes from the Bible got assaulted with discouragement at some point.
Accepting that this is how you feel is a crucial first step. The second is to share it with God. Too often we skip this part, feeling ashamed of admitting to God we’re even considering quitting. But God knows your heart anyways and sharing your thoughts and feelings with him will make you feel better and build your trust and relationship with Him. What you keep in the darkness will fester, but what you bring into the light can be healed.
The third step is to find a way to work through these feelings with the goal to move from being emotional to being rational. Personally, I go hiking to clear my head, or on exceptionally crappy days I’ll binge-watch a series I love. Anything to help me relax and move out of that hyper-emotional state.
Once you have a little distance and know you can approach the situation rationally, that’s when you can start deconstructing what happened. I usually do that by asking questions like these:
- Why do I want to quit?
- Was this a one-time occurrence or is this something that’s becoming a pattern?
- What specifically causes me to be discouraged?
- Is there anything I can do about this?
- Who can I take into confidence here? Who could give me sound and Biblical advice?
- How do I feel about this when I’m on a ‘high’?
- What will happen if I quit? Is this acceptable to me?
- What will happen if I don’t quit? Is this acceptable to me?
And of course the most important question: how does God feel about all this? This is the hardest part because it requires you to distinguish between the spiritual battles that are part of each Christian’s life and specific signs you’re not in the right place. I don’t have an easy answer or approach for this one, though this gets easier through the years as you get (sadly) used to some of the negative sides of working with Christians.
I will say this: the single most effective weapon against any and all discouragement is knowing that you are where God wants you to be. If you are certain of that calling, you can bounce back from pretty much anything.
Do you recognize these I-want-to-quit-Mondays? How do you handle these?
[Photo credit: Lightstock, used with permission, all rights reserved. LEGO image via LouieLand]