It was three weeks out. I had ample time to pray, prepare, and mentally adjust to my next speaking engagement at a youth camp. Nevertheless, I found myself anxious and distracted.
I love youth and everything that comes along with them- the craziness, the realness, the fellowship. You could say that I am passionate about them… to see their walk with God continue forward or to see that they meet Him in the first place. Personally, the goal to reach this generation has compelled me to move countries away and work in missions. It’s my calling. Do you get the picture?
But as I said, I was anxious and distracted just thinking about the coming weeks. Well, you could only imagine the day of. A couple years of experience seemed to have no value in the least. I was a mess. Nerves got to me. I couldn’t enjoy lunch, I could barely hold a conversation that day, and I was dreading the service.
What went wrong? Was I loosing it? As the questions started to pour in, so did the doubts, and I began to see my passion turn to pressure.
As Christians, we are protected by a spiritual armor crafted by God that unfailingly and without choice defeats the enemy and proves God victorious. However, life isn’t perfect and things come against us… in our thoughts, our relationships, our walk with God… that need to be dealt with. How can this be?
A friend told me that the enemy’s only solution to the protection of God was sneak attacks. Interestingly enough, he used the example of a thought that could come and taunt us: “So maybe you’re a missionary and you’re thinking to yourself you should be so much more.” Wow. That fit. I had been enduring a sneak attack.
This word from my friend didn’t solve all of my problems instantaneously, but it helped with the first tip to help those whose passion has turned to pressure:
1. HICCUPS DON’T NEGATE CALLINGS.
I was letting doubts and the force of pressure dictate my perspective on life and ministry. What a danger!
Look at your life. If God has spoken and prepared works so incredible that it only could be by Him, then stop revisiting the validity of your calling/passion every time things aren’t perfect. I termed this the insecure dating syndrome, when love has to be proven every day due to one party’s uncertainty. What kind of love is that after all? Our God has loved us throughout the ages despite our infidelity, which is exemplified through the crucifixion of Himself. No uncertainty there. And just as His love is a sure thing, so is whatever else proceeds from His mouth. Believe in it and not in your insecurities.
2. REALIZE NO ONE IS MORE AWARE OF YOUR SHORTCOMINGS THAN YOU ARE.
You may have heard it best said, “You are your own worst critic.” For me, seeing my negative reactions to this camp plus the ensuing doubt made me a huge critic of myself, and once that habit begins, it’s hard to quit.
Stop beating yourself up.
Let’s turn our intimate knowledge of ourselves into a strength- the strength of humility. Rather than dwell on my weaknesses, I can now say, “Wow, God can even use me to help further His kingdom. How incredible! How humbling. What a gracious God we serve who enables us rather than resents us.” No one is perfect and no one will ever be; that’s kind of the whole reason Jesus came to earth. Despite our imperfections, we are remarkable beings with a huge capacity to love, care, encourage, and mend, which are all things God can use. So try and look at yourself through eyes that are not your own.
3. GOD ISN’T OBSESSED WITH OUR PERFORMANCE; HE IS OBSESSED WITH OUR FELLOWSHIP.
Oftentimes ministry as a lifestyle gets to the point where you feel you need to turn the wheels manually. Somehow the momentum that had kept them rolling just stops. But the last time I checked, that wasn’t our job.
Our first calling was never as a pastor, missionary, or whatever you have in mind. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says God called us into fellowship with His Son, Jesus. If you find yourself in a place where your passion has turned into pressure and you find yourself fearing or forcing things, recalibrate your focus with Jesus at the center.
As for that youth camp, God did amazing things in all of us that week! I was so blessed by the overall experience, and the pressure buildup was, of course, unnecessary and quickly dissipated. If one day you find yourself in this circumstance, just keep calm and carry on.