There are a lot of pastors who are going to be discouraged today. For whatever reason, yesterday didn’t go well. Even if Sunday did go well, pastors often suffer from a post-adrenaline letdown or crash. As Archibald Hart writes:
Most of us experience post-adrenaline depression after a period of extended demand or stress. Many pastors wake up Monday mornings to this cloud hanging over their heads. We commonly refer to it as the Monday morning blues, but it is, in reality, the adrenal system switching off and insisting that enough is enough. It demands time for its recovery. It literally tries to detach us from our environment to facilitate its recovery.
The symptoms include irritability, grumpiness, low frustration tolerance, and big-time negativity. They are typical of the withdrawal symptoms we see in several substance addictions. Everything looks bleak! (Unmasking Male Depression
I’ve been gradually improving in recognizing this and responding to it. I still have a ways to go. Here are some suggestions for how to deal with Monday morning pastoral discouragement.
- Expect it. The cycle of the week means that Monday is going to be a low-energy day for most of us. Build in time for recovery. (By the way, I work on low-demand tasks on Monday so my sabbath, later in the week, is more life-giving.)
- Flee from idols. If we measure our worth by how well we did on Sunday, or how many people were out, then on Mondays we’ll be dealing with the way our idol let us down. Idols always crush us, so work on getting rid of the idolatry of pastoral success in your life. As Jack Miller says, “You don’t have anything to prove to us or the world. The work is finished at Calvary, and that work has unlimited meaning and value. Keep your focus there.”
- Be careful in measuring success. A friend of mine prayed last week that God would hide the results of our ministry from us when seeing results would lead to our pride, and that he would show us some results when we need to be encouraged. Wise prayer. We don’t always see what God is doing through us even on the weeks when it feels like nothing happened.
- Remember where the power comes from. When God’s Word is preached, God honors that. We want to do our best, but even when we offer God our best it’s not very much. God is honored to use broken vessels to bring glory to himself. Our confidence is ultimately not in ourselves but in him.
I love this passage by Spurgeon:
The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience. Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. Live by the day—ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone, and lean not on the reeds of human help. Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world. Never count upon immutability in man: inconstancy you may reckon upon without fear of disappointment. The disciples of Jesus forsook him; be not amazed if your adherents wander away to other teachers: as they were not your all when with you, all is not gone from you with their departure. Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for the recompensing joy hereafter. Continue, with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide. Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head. In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue. Come fair or come foul, the pulpit is our watch-tower, and the ministry our warfare; be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to trust under THE SHADOW OF HIS WINGS.
If you have any suggestions for how to deal with Monday pastoral discouragement, I’d love to hear them in the comments.