“I’m in a mess. What do I do?”

I was in a mess, drained, riddled with worry and hopelessly confused. As a Christian. But why? I thought I’d been doing what Christians are supposed to do.

I’d taken my responsibilities seriously, studied my Bible ’til my eyes ached, prayed even when I didn’t have anything to say, said “yes” to any request from someone in need, listened for hours to people pouring out their problems, driven through horrendous weather to fulfill my duties, given up many pleasures and hobbies, delved deeply into controversial issues that Christians have wrestled with for centuries, tried to keep up with all the latest trends in Christianity, furiously defended my congregations from weird ideas, bought hundreds of books to make sure I was on the right track, worried through many a night about keeping up with all my obligations, and so on.

A commendable life of dedication and diligence, you say? But from where I sat, I was a mess. I became so stressed out, physically and mentally, I ended up in hospital six times thinking I was having a heart attack. The symptoms were frightening and very real, to the point I was afraid to even go for a walk outside (fearful I might not make it back). It wasn’t my heart, though, it was stress – but stress so bad that my Doctor told me I could lose everything I held dear if I let it continue much longer. I was, to be blunt, digging my own grave as fast as I could shovel.

So I had to do something, and fast, but what? Go on a strict regime of not worrying anymore? Make a New Year’s resolution to ease up on myself? Take a 3 month stress leave? Go on anti-depressants? Get psychiatric counselling? Get a hobby that might, at least, turn off the worry switch in my head for a few blissful hours? Pray more? Get out and about more, and do normal things with normal people? Stop being so conscientious and delegate more? But I am who I am – and you don’t change a leopard’s spots overnight, either, so now what?

Well, I’m not the first Christian to be “under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure.” Paul was too, 2 Corinthians 1:8. He “despaired even of life,” it got so bad. He “felt the sentence of death.” He simply couldn’t handle any more. “But it happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead,” verse 9. Is that why God lets us sink so low, then, and lets us reach the point we’ve had it? So that, at last, we realize Christianity is all his doing, and not ours?

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