When You’re At a Loss.

Contributions, depression, youth ministry, youthmin.org

ministry loneliness

This post originally appeared here.

I checked the stats on my personal blog the other day, you know, to see if my 12 followers were interacting with it.

I saw that someone found my blog using this search term:

I don’t know what our ministry is about anymore.

I just broke.

What a humbling reminder of the brokeness we feel in ministry sometimes.

And honestly, what do I even say to this?

Ministry is tough, and I’ve concluded that it is because your heart is involved.  There are tons of careers that are difficult and have hard moments, but most of them are jobs you can leave at work.  Ministry is something you take home with you, something that keeps you up at night.  So it makes sense that you will feel this way at one time or another.

I can tell you to do the obvious:

  • Talk to someone about how you feel.  If you get to a point where you are just questioning the entire ministry, you need some help.  Find a mentor, a Christian counselor, or someone who is just a heck of a lot wiser than you are. 
  • Talk to your senior pastor/supervisor.  Get their vision and wisdom.
  • Take a sabbatical or a super-long-sabbath and just breathe.  Pray.

I was completely lost a few months back.  I went to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and attended theEverybody’s Urban sessions; I was at a loss with my at-risk teenagers and didn’t know what to do anymore.  I talked toLeneita Fix after the session, practically drowning her in my tears.  She quoted my favorite passage, a passage I’ve come to countless times when I’m discouraged:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

…and then said the most brilliant thing to me:

Sometimes we don’t even plant the seeds.  We may have to dig the rocks out of the soil, to prepare it for the seeds.

Even if you don’t see growth, that may not be your duty.  Some of us have to prepare the path for our teenagers and our ministry—dig out the rocks of apathy and programs that don’t work and leaders that don’t quite cut it. Some of us have to work in our teens’ lives simply to help them dig out the junk that’s in it.  Through this, you (or someone else) will be able to plant the seed and water it. And, when it’s God’s time, that student and ministry will grow.

I wish I had more to say, yet to be honest, this is one of those things that just needs prayer and time.  Words can’t express how much I care for this network of youth ministers, and I pray for you guys daily.  Be encouraged and hold fast.

Advice for Insecure Youth Workers @smarterYM

Contributions, depression, identity, leadership, smarterym, youth ministry


My latest article is on what I would redo in my first year of ministry if given the chance….. and truthfully, what I struggle with each and every day of my life.  I see a lot of youth workers within the YouthMin.Org Facebook Community struggling with this, and it has caused me to get vocal about calling out youth workers and getting them to be more secure with their selves and their ministries.

So here is my post over at SmarterYM.Com!  Read, share, and comment on it! And show Aaron some love…he’s a Cubs fan :(


A “No Pain, No Gain” Theology

Blogs about Heather, christianity, depression, faith, faithfulness, testimony

I read my sister’s journal.  I don’t even feel bad about it.  She spent part of Christmas break at my apartment, and she left her journal behind.  Now I know from experience that if you truly don’t want someone reading your journal, you protect it with your life.  Not only did the girl not have a lock on it, but she left it chilling on my dining room table.  The girl was calling out for me to read it.
My family has been going through some interesting things lately.  My parents have both separately failed to provide and it has left them individually homeless.  My mother is living at a hotel and my father at his mother’s house.  My sister is left hanging in between.  There is a lot to the story that I’m not mentioning, out of honor to my parents and for the desire to protect my sister.  Needless to say, I’m angry about the situation.  I talk to my sister about it, and she won’t tell me anything negative about how she feels.  She tells me these stories of junk that they do, but shows no emotion.  I pry, and get nothing.
So when she left her journal, I jumped at the chance to read it.  And what I read, I felt.
I called her and told her I read it, because I’m a good big sister ;).  I asked her why she hadn’t been telling me what she had been feeling—because her emotions were deep and hurting.  She stated, “Heather, I’m a Christian.  God gave me these things to go through, and I just have to do it.  I can’t be angry or physically do anything about it because it’s the Christian thing to just sit through it and take it.”
Since when did God command us to have no emotions?  Since when did God tell us to be content with the sin that takes place around us?
The sad thing is, my sister is not the only one who feels this way about her circumstances.  Countless Christians “just deal” with their situations because they feel that’s the “Christian” thing to do.  They say, “Well Job dealt with worse than me, and he remained faithful.”  Have you read Job?  Job remained faithful, but he also ripped his clothing and mourned over his circumstances.  Even Christ, when realizing that he would be sacrificing himself, asked God for another way.  Paul begged God three times to take the thorn in the flesh away.  These three men show us that there is no dichotomy to “being upset about a circumstance” and “trusting God.”  They can be synonymous.  It is healthy to feel emotions, even to be angry.  When you bottle that up and don’t express it, do you truly even trust God?  How can you trust God with your heart when you don’t even bear it to him?
I’m not saying you have to become “emo” and update your Facebook status every ten minutes telling everyone how crappy your life is.  What I’m saying is, mourn your circumstances.  Pray for the people hurting you.  If you have the power to change something that is hurting you, ask God for the strength to change it.  Trust that God will mold your desires to match his.  And rest in the promise that everything will work for the good of those who trust in the Lord according to His perfect will.

From Depression to Repression to the Lord

depression, identity, testimony

This post is going to reveal my heart in a way that I haven’t really shared with many.

I have been struggling big-time with sharing my emotions. I thought that I was an open person, but it was pointed out to me this summer that I put up a wall. I could share testimonies about my life, give the facts and tell you everything about the story, but I couldn’t tell you how I was feeling about something. When this was brought to my attention, I automatically had a flood of emotions–part of me denied it, I was very open about my life! But I realized it was more than that; I was trying to put up a front and “be strong”, like the things I’ve gone through and struggled with couldn’t still draw emotions from me (especially “negative” emotions).

I thought I was being strong. But in hiding my emotions, I was just as weak as ever.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

How amazing is that?

In high school, I was the opposite. I was pretty doggone depressed. I had lost a lot of friends to it. I remember when I came to college, I was depressed and not completely relying on the Lord to be my strength and refuge. There was even a girl here at SBU who sat down with me one day and told me that she couldn’t be my friend, because I was too depressed (obviously I didn’t want her as a friend anyway! In reality, she had to learn about hardship and grow in that; I couldn’t help that she was sheltered and never hurt before!)

After that, I knew I had to be stronger, and I thought that if I was stronger for other people, it would perfect being stronger for myself. Not necessarily true. I put helping others before myself more than ever, became engrossed in ministry, forgot about myself. I thought that I was trusting and relying in God.

Yeah right!
This is what God says:

Psalm 3:3-6
But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the LORD with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for
the LORD sustains me.

Psalm 18:6-7
In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. Then the earth shook and quaked; And the foundations of the mountains were trembling, And were shaken, because He was angry.

Psalm 23:1-4
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 34:4
I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.

Matthew 5:1-4 (Beatitudes)
When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.
He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

As you can see, God never said, “Forget about your fears and worries, and I’ll make you better.” He said, “GIVE
ME your fears and worries, lay them down at MY feet. Cast all your burdens on ME. And I, ONLY I will give you rest.”

So what have I learned?

It’s okay to be hurt.
When I’m hurt, I need to bring it to God.
God WANTS me to.
Only God can comfort me.
Being strong is not being shut up.
Being weak IS being strong.
Repressing feelings is not the cure for depression.