I spoke today to a group of prison chaplains from all over Virginia. The were gathered together at a conference and I was invited to speak to them on the topic of fatigue and burnout - something I am unfortunately intimately familiar with.
So, I re-lived for them the story of my journey through depression (from 2008) after living an unsustainable pace for a decade. I'm glad to say that I manage my time and energy so much better today. But I'm saddened by the reality that many people - especially ministry staff, chaplains and pastors - are still living like I used to.
I thought it might be helpful to share here the 11 things I've learned from my meltdown and my battle with depression that came as a result. Hope it's helpful to you.
1) Not everyone goes through clinical depression, but everyone is a candidate for burnout and long-term fatigue.
2) You cannot get healthy without changing something.
3) Once you’ve been through depression, it’s like an old injury that has healed, but just isn’t quite as strong as it used to be. It's always just a little more susceptible to re-injury.
4) Every ‘Yes’ you say has a corresponding ‘No’. When you agree to a new commitment, you are inherently turning down another one.
5) Wayne Cordiero’s book, “Leading on Empty” is a must read for every leader.
6) Friendships cultivated in good times are most equipped to step in and speak into your life during bad times.
7) A gifted counselor is worth his or her weight in gold!
8) There is nothing in life more valuable than a spouse who really gets you and a great marriage is priceless. I never knew this more than when I was in the worst part of my valley and Susan was caring for me.
9) The pastor’s church leadership team (board, elders, deacons, etc.) can make or break him/her when fatigue and burnout happen.
10) There is no substitute for and no shortcuts to an investment in your relationship with God. If He is not first in your life, everything else will be out of order.
11) Romans 8:28 is an absolute promise. God will take the season of fatigue and burnout and even depression and make something good come out of it, if you’ll let Him.