Death By Pastor Burnout
Pastor burnout is a viscous enemy of ministry. It nearly killed me... literally.
I remember the exact point I hit bottom. I was staring into a mirror with a bottle of sleeping pills in my hand. I can still hear the "voice" in my head, "Don't think, just swallow."
And I did.
I assumed one bottle of prescription sleeping pills would do it. But just in case, I pulled out a second bottle and gulped those down as well.
The next few hours are a blur. But I do recall my wife sitting next to me in the hospital. And I can still see her face as she said through tears, "We're going to get through this."
Pastor burnout doesn't always lead to suicide. But whoever and wherever it strikes, clergy burnout leaves a path of discouragement, disillusionment, and pain. I burned out twice in ministry. The first time, I didn't know what was happening. The second time I knew what was happening but seemed powerless to stop it. The first time, I denied that I had a problem. The second time I thought I could control it. Both instances led to problems in my marriage, challenges in my church, and clinical depression. The major difference between the two experiences is that the second time I was a burned out pastor, I left church ministry altogether.
I'm years removed from those experiences now but still struggle with the pain, shame, and grief of pastor burnout.
Congregations don't seem to "get it." I didn't try to hide my struggle - I even talked about my burnout during some sermons. But people don't seem to know what to do to help.
I should have checked myself into a hospital when I started having blackouts and uncontrollable bouts of weeping. But I thought I could control it.
Instead I crashed hard and lost my credibility and my ministry. I thought that was the worst of it. But the church "kicked me to the curb" and wanted nothing to do with my restoration. They just wanted to move on.
I wandered aimlessly for seven years until a man reached out his hand and offered me grace. Now I am healing and beginning to understand God's mercy and his desire to restore what was broken.
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