Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Stress Management Page 1 of 2

What's right
Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

Can I stop asking “what’s wrong?”

Note: This blog post was first published on the Grow2Serve blog and is used with permission. Our guest author regularly facilitates a 2-week online course entitled “Sustainable Resilience“.  This course is for cross-cultural workers who have lived at least 3 months in a new culture. 

Finding meaning and purpose

During “Sustainable Resilience”, we spend significant time talking about #10. We are referring to Southwick and Charney’s list of ten factors that were almost always present in those who demonstrated high resilience in adversity. Here’s #10:

Meaning and Purpose – were active problem solvers who looked for meaning and opportunity in the midst of adversity and sometimes even found humor in the darkness; used their traumatic experiences as a platform for personal growth.

Southwick, Steven; Charney, Dennis. Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, p. 16.
As the deer pants for streams of water
Photo by Simon Greenwood on Unsplash

Hope from a Distance: Psalm 42 and 43

The pandemic of 2020 has brought about some new terminology such as “social distancing”, “shelter-in-place”, and “hunker down.” Additionally, travel restrictions have prevented international travel, causing missionary families to miss graduations, weddings, and funerals. Also, many churches have not been able to meet face to face due to local restrictions on size of gatherings. COVID-19 has brought a lot of turmoil into our lives. Where can we find hope from a distance?

Psalm 42 and 43

Over the past several months my thoughts have often returned to Psalm 42 and 43. The writer of these two psalms (probably composed as one) was experiencing separation from public worship for reasons we do not know. The two psalms are characterized by numerous questions and a refrain repeated in Psalm 42:5, 11 and Psalm 43:5. The two stanzas of Psalm 42 are laments and Psalm 43 turns the lament into prayer. Consequently, these two psalms provide us an example of how to move from despair to hope in God even when our questions remain unanswered. We learn to hope from a distance when God’s deliverance is not yet clearly in view.

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Burnout

The Situation
You love Jesus. You’ve dedicated your life to serving him. You’re loyal, diligent, and you work hard. It’s not unusual for you to check your email after hours, and you’re even willing to work on your day off, if necessary. Lately, it seems like it’s necessary a lot.

You’ve been known to sacrifice for the good of the team, and you often give up time with family or friends to tend to others in need. You’re usually willing to take on extra projects. Sleep is a luxury. Exhaustion is a constant companion, and you can’t remember the last time you took a vacation that didn’t involve a visit with a supporter.

Seeking balance or seeking the kingdom

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? – Luke 14:28

I am quick to “count the cost” when I am asked to do something on top of what is already in my job descriptions. Can I add this to my workload? Do I have the capacity at this time to take on this assignment? (See also my post on wearing multiple hats.) I wonder if maybe those are the wrong questions. At least, those are not the first questions I should be asking.

Handling the What If’s

Over the years, I have often found myself struggling with the “what ifs”, primarily in regards to my relationships with people I work with (yes, with fellow missionaries). What if the person responds in a negative way to my email? What if that person decides to go in that direction, contrary to what I have recommended? What if they refuse to do anything at all in response to my request?  What would I do or say then?

I have far too often found myself absorbed and distracted by ongoing dialogues in my mind, imagining different responses from people to particular situations and what I would then do or say in response to their response. In these situations, I find myself falling into the trap of imagining various ways that I could retaliate, rather than responding in grace. These internal dialogues prove to be very unproductive, both because they tend to portray other people in a very unflattering and distorted light, and because my fantasized response to the imaginary situation would only make things worse.

Wearing multiple hats

Today, one of my students wrote a note on their assignment about job descriptions, “I think I have too many jobs.”

I can identify. I have two mission job descriptions. Both of them are leadership roles. One of them is supposed to take up about 60% of my time and the other the remaining 40%. I have wondered at times whether they are not in actuality two full-time positions that have somehow both found their way on to my plate. Following that analogy, pieces of both do fall off the edge and slop on to the floor every once in a while.  Maybe more often that I admit.

Stress: too much and too little – Part Two

In a previous post, I talked about the importance of maintaining margin.    Too much stress for too long a period is unhelpful and destructive.

But as I also demonstrated from the life of Paul, we must not avoid all stress at all costs.   I am afraid that far too often I have said “no” to an opportunity simply because it would have stretched me beyond my comfort zone.   But I need to be stretched if I am to grow.

I see many parallels to physical training.   When I started running (again) in 2009 after knee surgery, I was not able to run more than a kilometer before being totally exhausted.  Over the period of a couple of months, I was able to extend that to almost 5 km, a distance with which I was quite satisfied.   After all, I was not a serious runner, and already in my late 40’s, and this was already further than the distances that I had run in college.  So I plateaued at that distance for about 4 years, running 5-6 km three times a week, just to keep in shape.

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