“I’d rather burn out than rust out!” Those words were spoken by a preacher from a large church who was well known in our fellowship of churches. He had been brought to speak to one of our ministry classes when I was in college to talk to us about special event “crusades” at our churches. (That was when we did such things and before our sensitivity to what that word communicates to our Muslim neighbors).
But the bottom line of his presentation was expressed in that phrase. During the 6-8 weeks leading up to such a crusade (which he promoted at least twice a year) all days off and all vacations were cancelled. The church staff was to work hard 7 days a week for 6-8 straight weeks. These “revival” seasons (ironic name) were to happen at least twice a year. I often wondered how many other events he classified as as important as these crusades such that he was willing to cancel days off & vacations then as well.
At the time I thought he was a bit over the top. Since then I have decided he was more than that: he was noxious: noxious to his staff, noxious to area church staffs who looked to his large church for modeling and likely noxious to his congregation.
And yet, that model of ministry was one which was promoted to us. The phrase “I’d rather burn out than rust out!” was not original with this hard-working brother.
And yet the toll of the stress of ministry was never explained. We might not know it but stress can actually do more damage to your body than most people think. Most people take advantage of their body`s limit and push it to extreme just to get the job done, while thinking that their body will adapt to the stress they impose upon it.
But truth to tell, our body have a certain capacity in which it can function; exceed those capacities and you will end up in one of the rooms of the hospital waiting for your body to recover. Stress can affect you in many ways – physical, mental and emotional functions are disrupted gaining you the inability to function properly whether social, personal or career work.
Stress effects on your body
There is a certain degree in which stress can affect your body. A stressed person will complain of headaches and body pains here and there. If left unchecked, this will lead to migraine and muscle tension that will eventually lead to stiffness.
Major changes will affect the biochemical functions of your body. This involves diarrhea, constipation, nausea and dizziness. You will find it hard to sleep at nights even if you feel weak and need rest. People usually resort to medications to counter this effect, but will only give temporary remedy.
To those who suffer from a weak heart, most often they will complain of chest pains and rapid heartbeat – the usual signs and symptoms that will eventually lead to stroke or cardiac arrest. Note however that different physical manifestations of stress can be seen for different people, it all depends on your body`s capacity.
Behavioral problems related to stress
Aside from physical manifestations of stress in your body, you might also notice some behavioral changes while under the throes of stress. Changes in sleeping patterns, lack of sleep or inability to sleep during normal slumber hours is usually the initial reactions to stress – these are usually caused by heightened emotional and mental functions which is more into the negative aspect rather than positive.
Self-pity and isolation is caused by the depressed mental state of the person when certain problems crop up in their everyday life. Irritability and anger will start when the person is bereft of his or her natural ability to rationalize which is usually the case when stressed or being burdened by heavy problems.
How to cope
It would be easy to say that we simply must pray and God will take away the stress and/or its effects. It just doesn’t usually work that way. God made us stewards of our body. In no other area does he exempt us from the results of our poor stewardship.
The simple tool of time management can be used to keep our schedules under control to allow for times of refreshment. Some people use time management tools as an opportunity to cram more activity/productivity into their day. Rather, it should be used to help us balance our demands according to what is important to us.
There are different techniques that a person can employ to avoid these manifestations of stress in their life. The first technique, and the most important one, is learning how to relax when stress pays you a visit. You can employ techniques like scripture meditation,
breathing exercises, or music therapy to induce a state of relaxation to your mind. Once you have achieved this step, you can proceed on how to deal with stress that affects your body.
Since most of your physiological functions are imbalanced due to stress, you can start by pampering your body through various massages offered by health spas within your neighborhood. Loosen those tight muscles to relieve assorted aches and pains and increasing your flexibility.
Physical exercise can also help develop cardiovascular functions and strengthening your heart to avoid stroke or rapid heart rate.
Also, you need to keep a close lookout on your diet, make sure you avoid taking in junk foods and fast foods that will elevate harmful chemicals in your body. Try to stick with fruits and vegetables and take in herbal supplements to help rejuvenate your body.
“I’d rather burn out than rust out!”
Why does it have to be either/or? Why can it be a long and productive ministry, marriage and life because we have worked to find the balance between the two.
Dr. Calvin Habig ministered in local congregations for thirty years and currently does professional coaching with ministers and other value-driven leaders. He lives in Portland, OR. For more information, visit Cal’s website at http://www.calhabigcoaching.com/