The Right Medicine to Cure Loneliness, Anxiety, and Depression

The Right Medicine to Cure Loneliness, Anxiety, and Depression

It seems like loneliness, anxiety, and depression are becoming hallmark issues in the lives of our students.

In every context I find myself, with every youth worker I talk to, these three issues seem to be at the top of the felt needs list among adolescents today.

I know that the reasons are varied, and the severity range is all over the board.  But what if there was a ministry solution that was actually Good News to our students who are struggling with this trifecta?

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Who carries your burden?

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

The Joys of Transparency We had the most amazing time at summer camp this year! For the first time ever we were able to be truly deep and authentic with one another. On Thursday night, "Cry Night", the speaker talked about bearing with one another, carrying each other's burdens. And after his moving talk, he sent us back to our cabins to share burdens with one another. Normally I just facilitate this sort of conversation, but I was really feeling the Holy Spirit move and decided to go first to set the tone.

I knew I was really connecting with the students because for the first time in a long time they were really listening to me. The more they leaned in, the more I shared, and the more I shared, the more I realized I had to share.

It all began quite surfacey, with me sharing about how stressed I was feeling trying to juggle this job and my family. Then I decided to get a little more specific.

"My boss doesn't think I am doing a good enough job because our numbers are down this year. And because of that I have been working so much that I am becoming more and more disconnected from my wife. My boss, our pastor, is not just a tough boss, but a total jerk. I know he seems great on Sunday mornings, but working for him is a nightmare. In fact I don't even know how much more I can take working in this environment. On top of our pastor sucking and sucking the life from me, my wife seems to only nag and complain. She says that I am not around enough, I am always hanging out with students, and she not only resents me because of it, but resents you too. There is so much resentment that we haven't even had sex for months. This has lead me to become addicted to internet porn and gambling. I don't know if we need to go to counseling or what. And to top it all off, this stress combined with my sin is impacting my faith. I can't remember the last time I had a quiet time. And really, ever since my son has been sick, I have been pissed at God for abandoning me and jacking my life, my marriage, and my job. Really, what am I doing anyway?!"

For being middle school boys, they took all of this really well.

Where Do You Go? I hope you could tell this conversation was make-believe. Because the truth is that I would never share any of this with middle school boys, and I would for sure never share this on a blog.

While this conversation is fake, the issues are real among many ministry leaders. Because ministry leaders are also broken people, issues will arise that will test the faith, ministires, and marriages of people in ministry. The real question is not how to prevent these issues from arising, but, "Where do I go when the bottom starts to fall out in my job, my marriage, or my faith?" This is a question of vital importance for me and, I think, for anyone who wants to make it in ministry for the long term.

Just because we're ministry leaders does not mean that we're above the dark underbelly of life and faith. The danger is that if we do not have an appropriate outlet for these issues we actually end up developing split personalities, and before long become straight-up hypocrites. With so much on the line, where do you go to work this out? Who are your people?

As I've tried to work this out in my own life, I have realized my pastor / boss isn't the right person, my spouse isn't always the right person, my friends in the church aren't the right people, and for sure my students are never the right people to lay my burdens on. There is one place I have landed, where I have found friends who I can share my burden with. These friends have all come from my ministry network meetings.

Thank God For My Network: In some seasons these were people from my local network. But in this season they are from my denominational clusters. No matter which network you grab your people from, your network is your best bet for some authentic living and burden sharing. Who else gets the joys and sorrows, the stress and anxiety of youth ministry than others who are right in the middle of it?

As I get ready to head off to an annual retreat for youth workers in my conference, I realize that I'm about to spend time with my people. People who get me, get my ministry, true colleagues. What makes this time the most valuable for me is that I am with people who can bear my burdens or whose burdens I may have the honor to bear.

My prayer for you is that you find some colleagues who you can be real with and lay it down with, people who you would trust to carry your burdens. If these people are not in your life, then at some point there will be a straw that will break your back and crush your life, your family, your ministry, or all three. May God bless you as your share your burdens, and may God continue to be gracious as we work all this out.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

If you are a part of the Evangelical Covenant Church and would like to be connected to a local youth ministry network, click here and contact the facilitator for your area.