I’ve read (and even written) a fair share of articles on how to survive Monday morning as a pastor. Monday’s can be absolutely brutal. Part of it is an adrenaline crash the other part is that it’s just a brutal time of self-reflection and often fielding criticisms. Monday’s are tough. But what do you do when your Monday morning blues start on Sunday morning?
That happened to me this Sunday. I go through seasons of melancholy and for some reason the old black dog is wanting to make his home in my heart right now. So I woke up Sunday morning with zero confidence that I’d be able to preach that day. Actually it wasn’t the preaching that scared me, it was the need for me as a pastor to be “on”. Shaking hands, having conversations, fielding questions, just being social was the last thing I wanted to do. And knowing that I had an ice cream social, deacons meeting, Sunday evening service, and business meeting staring down at me didn’t inspire confidence either.
But I know that I cannot check out. I don’t want to speak for everyone but in my case, that’s the last thing a depressed person needs to do—check out. I cannot feed the monster. So I’ve got to pull myself out of bed, put on my dress clothes, and go pastor. Even if I don’t feel like it. At all. And you had better believe that this opens up the door to all sorts of accusations from the enemy that I’m nothing more than a rank hypocrite who doesn’t feel very much the things that I’m preaching.
This last Sunday wasn’t the first time I’ve had a case of the Monday’s on a Sunday. I’ve been to this rodeo before and I’ve learned a few things at least about myself that helps me, maybe it will help you. These aren’t tips to feel better or to pull yourself out of the doldrums and get excited about your Sunday morning. That might happen, but more than anything these are tips to help you feel around in the dark a little bit until the light comes back on.
Here are 5 things (in no particular order) that have helped me:
Be responsibly honest. Hopefully as a pastor you have at least one person in your congregation that you can let them know that you are absolutely miserable that day. Encourage them to pray with you and for you. Just admitting to another brother in Christ that you are wrestling with such inner turmoil can provide a bit of healing and strength.
Remember your job. I think I could have also labeled this as “remember where the power comes from”. This past Sunday I preached on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. I felt every bit of it. Weakness. Fear. Trembling. I knew that my only job on Sunday was to proclaim God’s Word and his goodness and let him do the work. Depression can be our friend in this regard. I wasn’t tempted to strap one bit of unwarranted responsibility on my shoulders. I knew I couldn’t do it. I knew what my job was and wasn’t about to arrogantly grab hold of things only the Lord can do.
Get alone with God. You won’t feel like it, but squeeze a bit of time out of your schedule and do something. Pray. Listen to a worship song that will strengthen your soul. Read a bit of Scripture. Just cry out to God and let him know your absolute desperation.
Preach the gospel to yourself. Don’t do the third thing without this fourth thing. You’ll be tempted to just vent and start feeling sorry for yourself and spend your time telling God how terrible things are. Don’t stop there. Preach the gospel to yourself until you believe it. Try to tune out all the other voices and just rest in the finished work of Jesus. Everything could blow up in your face on Sunday morning and it wouldn’t change what Christ has accomplished. So rest. Even if you unravel, He remains.
Get to work. Your feelings aren’t sovereign, God is. You aren’t a hypocrite because you are proclaiming things that your wrecked heart is having a hard time grabbing hold of. You are actually showing your confidence in the Lord by obeying the Word even when your affections are numb. Mourn the fact that you aren’t serving the Lord with gladness but keep working and praying that your affections will soon follow. If this keeps happening, though, you might need to look a bit deeper and consider your calling. But today, put your hand to the plow and trust that the Lord uses broken vessels.
I’ve actually walked into the pulpit absolutely miserable but left with a renewed confidence in Christ. But I’ve also had it happen that my whole Sunday was miserable and discouraging and it carried over to a terrible Monday. I don’t think there is a formula for this. It’s just an opportunity for us weak people and pardoned rebels to cling to a very strong Christ.
I still remember fighting back what would have been embarrassing tears. I believe it was second grade when I heard for the first time the story of Martin Luther King Jr. I was moved at what this man accomplished and pained by the absolute unfair treatment of African American people. I couldn’t cry though, because in my neck of the woods I’d have received a label that I wasn’t mature or bold enough to want attached to my name. So I wept inwardly and hypocritically joined the ranks of some of my other classmates in saying that MLK Day was stupid.
But that didn’t keep me from being intrigued by MLK and Jackie Robinson and other heroes of the civil rights movement. As I look back even now I wonder if seeds of gospel faith were planted when reading MLK’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail. I know that as a young boy I embraced Dr. King’s dream:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
But, I don’t think Dr. King’s dream is being realized in our nation. And the fear that I have in making the point that I want to make might be evidence A. What I see on social media and online articles are not people judging one another on the content of their character nor on the truth of the words that they speak but the color of their skin.
I don’t know how many times I have seen a white person get absolutely torched because he has asked an honest question about race. And rather than him being judged by the content of his character or the truth of his words he is dismissed as a white man who just doesn’t understand and will never understand. I think that’s why I found Taelor Gray’s Hostages to Hegemony so unsettling. To me it communicated that if you are living in a white rural area that you just will never understand. That, to me, is judging someone based not on character but on the color of their skin. And there are thousands of similar articles—many far less gracious in their writing.
What I am attempting to say here is that we aren’t even able to have much of a conversation about these things because Dr. King’s dream has not been realized. His statement cuts both ways. We haven’t realized his dream until people of every color walk into a conversation judging one another by the content of our character instead of the color of their skin (whether that skin be white, black, olive, or some other shade of beautiful).
But I also fear making the statement I am here because I’ve also witnessed many white folks close their ears to actual racism and cut of dialogue while screaming “reverse racism” from the top of their lungs. They too have not realized Dr. King’s dream. They still see through a lens of color and not character.
So on this MLK Day I’m praying that we are given the eyes of the Lord who doesn’t see in colors but in terms of character. I’m praying that we can have actual conversations which leads to fruitful actions because we all buy into Dr. King’s dream. Which really isn’t his dream but it is the passion of the God of the universe to unite diverse people under the banner of His Son. I’m longing for the day when Christ makes all things right and racial reconciliation is no longer a conversation but a reality.