The Danger of Stress in Ministry


Let’s face the fact that ministry on any level has it’s share of pain, depression, discouragement and disappointment. It is not being negative but rather it is facing the true reality concerning all leaders and how they must prepare for the headaches of a complex and critical world of. People are so unique and each person is so different from everyone else that leaders must learn how to read personalities and have a natural gift of knowing how to connect and mediate. We experience stress at work and every other facet of life – and the church is no different.

In today’s world of medical breakthroughs we do not need to be a doctor to realize that stress is very hard on the body. Our adversary has known for a long time just how powerful a weapon this can be used against us to break us down. It is true the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but it is nearly impossible to not feel the emotions that come from situations. We also cannot deny that our spirit operates out of a temple of flesh and yet somehow we must learn how to deal with issues in a way that keeps us from collapsing. God wants us to be happy and healthy because He knows we need this vehicle to minister out of. What good are we as teachers and warriors if we are sick and in bed with exhaustion and discouragement? Just as it is important to take care of our temple and not abuse it with our eating habits, we also need to learn how to manage the relentless pressure of worry and stress.

Many doctors now agree that reducing stress is more beneficial than exercise, and the feeling of hopelessness is as harmful as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. New studies published in separate journals of the American Heart association have come up with the numbers that prove what we all knew deep in our conscience all along: Emotional and psychological stressors, especially depression and anxiety causes much damage to our physical health.

When leaders end up in a “burned out” state of mind we know that somewhere somehow we have probably been trying to carry the load too much ourselves. Many times we do not realize how heavy the load is or “how far” we have carried our problems and the issues of others. Unfortunately the advancement in drugs has not necessarily been a “cure all” for these problems. Medications may give temporary relief but questions arise as to side effects and dependency. In most cases the “happy pills” cause the individual to live in a drug induced fog that alters their personality and continues to diminish their enthusiasm and motivation. Pharmaceutical companies push the drugs to doctors who in turn push the drugs to patients and while it is true that many problems are chemical imbalances in the brain, there also arises questions about why leaders cannot find the healing and peace they are constantly trying to promote. Of course along with mental and neurological malfunctions there is also the constant warfare of demonic torment and dark influences that are very real.

The latest study at Duke University shows that cardiac patients who learn to handle stress reduce their risk of having another heart attack or significant heart problem by over 70 percent. An earlier study from the Public Health Institute in Berkeley California found that people with high levels of hopelessness had a 20 percent greater increase in atherosclerosis over four years than those with lower levels. These same patients also had a higher amount of other chronic illnesses that is suspected to be directly related to anger, hostility and unforgiveness. It should be an alarm of warning to know that so many doctors agree that stress should be listed as cardiac risk factors along with heredity and smoking. I personally believe that a root of bitterness along with resentment, hatred and even rebellion can cause physical sickness and in severe cases fatal diseases. Psychological stressors especially depression, hopelessness and anxiety can stimulate hormones that bombard the heart, forcing it to beat as if in a constant state of “fight or flight.”

By contrast, laughing lowers blood pressure and triggers beta endorphins, the brains natural hormone compounds that are similar to morphine which induce a sense of euphoria and well being. Many doctors agree to what Bible scholars have always known about the power of inner peace and how it plays a major role in wellness. Praise and worship brings calmness to the body as a healing side effect to the body. Praying, meditating, reading and studying God’s word, singing and playing God’s music are all powerful connectors to God’s spiritual peace and a spiritual balm of Gilead to the emotions and conscience.

The medical information was taken from an article in the Herald Leader by Carolyn Poirot – December 9, 1997 – Living well section.

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