The ministry requires physical, spiritual, and emotional stamina. Physically there are building projects, canvassing, long hours, as well as other strenuous duties. These activities can wear you out physically. For many people their work wears them out physically.
The spiritual challenges of the ministry can also be exhausting. Every preacher regularly feels the weight of preparing and delivering sermons that feed the sheep and win the lost. In addition, there is always a stray sheep who brings spiritual concern to the pastor. Dependence upon the Holy Spirit is a constant concern because the ministry is primarily a spiritual endeavor. . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. — Zechariah 4:6.
However, sometimes neglected, is the emotional toll upon the pastor and his wife. Emotional stress is real. Sadly, it can go undetected until a man’s health is seriously affected. A certain amount of stress can actually strengthen a man’s character but an excessive amount of it can cause depression and even a nervous breakdown or worse.
It is important to identify and understand stress. Stress can go unnoticed for a long period of time but ultimately it can incapacitate a person. The workload is not necessarily how to measure it. Stress can best be measured by the difference between expectations and reality. When one’s hopes and visions are not fulfilled it can result in stress. The greater the expectation and the lower the reality produces the amount of stress one is experiencing.
A preacher who has high goals and a heavy work load and who accomplishes most of his goals will not experience a great amount of stress. But the man who has average goals that are not achieved can experience a greater amount of stress. The problem is not the amount of work or the frequency or severity of trials but the difference between expectation and reality.
The ministry requires great dedication. There is no excuse to do less than your best. However, the key to monitor stress is to adjust reality with expectations. Comparing your ministry with another ministry may cause you to have unrealistic expectations which will result in more stress. No two situations are exactly the same and every man’s calling and gifts differ. But following the will of God and accepting the challenges with joy and excitement is an important method to regulate stress. Even Jesus stated the importance of rest. And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. — Mark 6:31 There is no justification for laziness but taking time for your body and mind to recuperate is necessary.
When emotions take over your life you must stop and allow your body and mind to heal. Taking a brief sabbatical may be necessary. Another means of recuperation could be to lesson your work load. In addition, develop good habits, such as eating a balanced diet, getting a proper amount of sleep, develop an exercise routine, and do things that are not stressful.
Just because we are in the ministry does not mean we are exempt from the emotional issues others are facing. The stress of the ministry will always be there. but preachers must learn how to manage it.