Posts tagged ‘Stress’

Overwhelmed At Home

Stress At Home

One of the many things that has shifted during this pandemic is how and where children are being educated. What once happened in a classroom with career teachers is now happening in homes with parents who have other careers. Homeschooling has gone from being boutique to being ubiquitous.

But not all homeschoolers are equal.

An interesting – and somewhat humorous – poll conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times found that half of fathers with children 12 and under reported spending more time homeschooling their children than did their wives. The ladies, however, saw the division of homeschooling labor differently. Just 3 percent of the mothers surveyed indicated their husbands spent more time on homeschooling the kids than they did. The New York Times article about this study noted:

Years of past research using time diaries have consistently shown that men often overestimate the amount they do, and that women do more.

All of this plays, of course, to a certain humorous stereotype of men who are oblivious to just how much their wives do for their household. The stereotype may feel overwrought at times. But statistically, there seems to be something in it that is true.

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, being oblivious to another person’s efforts, challenges, or selfless service is not an option. When Paul writes to the Christians at Corinth, he says:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. (2 Corinthians 1:8)

Although we do not know the specific troubles to which Paul is referring in this verse, we do know that while Paul was in the Asian city of Ephesus, he got crossways with a silversmith named Demetrius who made shrines for a Greek goddess named Artemis. When Paul shows up and starts teaching that Jesus is Lord and not Artemis, Demetrius in not pleased and rallies the city with a speech:

You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty. (Acts 19:25-27) 

Demetrius’s speech turns out to be so persuasive that a riot breaks out and Paul and his companions are driven out of the region. Paul’s words to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 1:8 may refer to this situation, or they may refer to some other situation. But whatever the situation, this much is certain: Paul has faced plenty of challenges in his efforts for the gospel. And he wants the Corinthians to know this. He does not want them to be oblivious to the challenges he has faced for the sake of the Church.

Do you know what challenges the people closest to you are facing during this time? Or, are you so caught up in your own worries and concerns that you are uninformed of all that even a person as close to you as your own spouse is dealing with?

If you have not said “thank you” to someone for what they have done during this pandemic yet, now is the time. Husbands, you can start with your wives – especially if they are educating the kids, tending to the house, and working an outside job all at the same time.

A survey like the one published in The New York Times reveals just how much we love to debate who works hardest through difficult times. Perhaps, instead of defending what we do – and often overestimating it – we should instead notice what other people do – and celebrate them. This will keep us from feeling overwhelmed by our own responsibilities when we see all that others are doing – and it’ll make them feel better about their responsibilities when we notice and appreciate them.

So, take some time to appreciate someone today. You – and they – will be glad you did.

May 18, 2020 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Casting Your COVID Anxiety on Christ

As states, cities, and businesses begin what will likely be a long, slow, and uncertain process of reopening as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to show signs of receding, a new normal is sure to emerge. Social distancing will likely continue for some time. Face masks will likely be commonplace. E-commerce will almost certainly dominate. And we will be encouraged to sanitize, sanitize, and sanitize.

For some, the transition out of staying at home will be exciting. They are ready to go. Others I have talked to are experiencing a fair amount of anxiety over re-entering workplaces and public spaces. There is, after all, still a lot uncertainty surrounding how far this virus will continue to spread and how much more damage this virus will continue to do.

In the early 60s of the first century, one of Jesus’ followers, Peter, was living under a lot of uncertainty. The ruler at this time was a Roman Emperor named Nero, who became a famed persecutor of early Christianity. When Peter writes his first letter to the church-at-large, though he does not quite yet know the future holds, he knows he has to encourage Christians to be ready for potential trials and persecution to come:

You greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6)

Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14)

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you … If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (1 Peter 4:12, 16)

Such looming trials, understandably, caused a lot of anxiety among many in the early church because they did not know where, when, or if they were going to suffer and be persecuted.

Peter, however, does not want these Christians to be trapped by their anxiety. So, he writes these famous words:

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Peter knows that anxiety often arises because of circumstances that are beyond our control. In order to deal with anxiety, Peter instructs us to give what we can’t control to the One who is in control. And He assures us that what we can’t control is safe with Him, because “He cares for you.”

When Peter invites us to cast all our anxiety on the Lord, the word “cast,” in Greek, is a participle – “casting.” This verse, therefore, can be translated as a phrase that piggybacks on the verse that comes before it:

Humble yourselves…under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time, casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

It turns out that casting our anxiety on the Lord not only helps us feel better, it helps us learn humility, because it reminds us that we are not masters of our own destinies and captains of our own ships. Our calling is not to be in control, but to humbly submit ourselves to God’s control – to live under His mighty hand, which, Peter promises, will take care of our problems, even when our problems are as thorny as how to re-enter workplaces and public spaces in the midst of a still-very-ominous pandemic.

As anyone who has dealt with intense anxiety knows, anxiety is not an emotion one can simply “turn off” or “un-feel.” It bubbles up inside of us, often when we least expect it. But even if we cannot stop it, we can confront it. Clinically, we can receive help for it. And spiritually, we can cast it on Christ. He’s strong enough to take care of it. And He’s compassionate enough to take care of us.

May 4, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Reverse-Engineering Your Life

Home FamilyThe other night, I, along with three other pastors, had the pleasure of meeting with a group of seminary students for an informal discussion about life and ministry. I cherished my time with these guys. Even though we were with them for only a short time, it quickly became apparent that they are theologically curious and nuanced and have a deep passion to serve in Christ’s Church as pastors. I am excited to see what the future holds for these men.

Our discussion took on an informal Q&A feel, with seminary students asking any questions they wanted. One question particularly struck me: “What goals do you have for ministry and how do you work backwards from those goals to develop a plan to reach those goals?” This is a great question. It’s a question of reverse-engineering. You start with the end in mind and work back from that to get to that. But this question also took me aback a little bit. Because I do have goals. And I have done my share of reverse-engineering to try to reach these goals. But my goals are not particularly inspiring, captivating, or scintillating. I simply want to love Jesus, love my family, and be a faithful pastor.

I used to have other goals. More exciting goals. Once upon a time, I wanted to build and pastor the largest congregation in my church body. Once upon a time, I wanted to become a renowned and respected spokesperson for orthodox Lutheranism. After all, it seems like on the broader stage of Christian dialogue, Lutherans are all but missing in action. Once upon a time, I wanted to be an esteemed public scholar to whom people would turn for insight. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a pastor who would change the world. Now, I just want to be a person who finishes life well.

As I ultimately wound up telling the student, long before you worry about reverse engineering your goals for ministry, you need to begin by reverse engineering your goals for life and, specifically, for your family. After all, if you change the world as a pastor but forsake your family as a husband or father, you have failed miserably because prior to your vocation as a pastor is your vocation as a husband and father.

The New York Times recently published an article on the state of today’s family. Its title sums up its mood: “Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family.” Clair Miller, writing for the Times, explains:

Working parents say they feel stressed, tired, rushed and short on quality time with their children, friends, partners or hobbies, according to a new Pew Research Center survey

Fifty-six percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding. For example, half of those who said the work-family balance was not difficult said parenting was enjoyable all the time, compared with 36 percent of those who said balance was difficult.

This is sad, but it is also not surprising. As workplace demands continue to rise and the line between company time and personal time continues to blur, time to invest in family inevitably suffers.

Being a pastor carries with it many demands, which are often difficult – and, quite honestly, sometimes impossible – to juggle well.  There is no doubt about it. But this is why, long before you sketch out goals for ministry, you do need to set out goals for your marriage and your family. Goals of time together as a family. Goals of date nights with your spouse. Goals of daily expressions of love and affection. Before you worry about what is outside your home, tend to who is inside your home.

Jesus once asked, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)? It may behoove us to ask similarly: What good is it if a man changes the world, yet forfeits those closest to him? This question good not only for pastors, it’s good for everyone.

I hope you’re asking it. The people closest to you will thank you if you are.

November 9, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,059 other followers


%d bloggers like this: