One of the most potent sources of stress I have found in pastoral ministry involves interacting with people. One particular facet of this appertains to how other people respond to situations in which I am involved. So much mental energy has been used up in pondering upon how other people will act, interact, engage respond etc. in a situation. Here are a few of the scenarios that can run through my mind:
- Will they get back to me in time are they upset about something?
- Why are they not interacting?
- Why do they not respond to expressions of interest/concern?
- Will they be awkward with me about this?
- Will they be angry with me the next time we meet?
It is a pressing need for me to grow in wisdom and spirituality so as to not be badly affected by all these machinations. So some things I need to drive into my mind and heart are:
- Have I been godly in my conduct? I cannot dictate the actions (or non-actions) and shenanigans of others. I am not answerable for others before God. But God calls me to be full of integrity and the fear of the Lord. The favour of the Lord is more important than whether or not I am being messed around by someone.
- If I have done something wrong I need to repent and ask forgiveness of that person.
- If someone has sinned against me that needs to be dealt with in a biblical way (see Matt. 18:15-18). It is no good lashing out in frustration.
- Talking can be so important. It can be my perception that I am being messed around by someone, but when I speak through the situation with the person I realize it was nothing of the sort.
- Love demonstrates that I want to help others grow in grace. If someone is failing in their conduct then I need to speak to them. However, I need to learn to always choose the cool of the moment and not the heat of the moment.
- There are times when matters have to be left and I simply have to move on. I cannot get aggravated and seek resolution to every perceived or real indiscretion of others. As Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8: love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
- Remember that God is in control. If my plans and arrangements do not work out I can be sure that my Father has a better plan.
- I need to be continually praying to the Lord. I need to be casting all my care upon him. He really does care for me. Praise Him!