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When speaking to a group of young moms recently on “The Challenges of Life,” I offered a Top Ten List for what to do when we are facing a personal crisis.  Sadly, I’ve seen far too many ministry leaders become largely ineffective in their spheres of influence (family, work, organizationally, etc.) because they didn’t take the time to properly self-nurture and cope.

This topic is very dear to my heart.  Having actually gone through a few major doozies like unemployment, the sudden passing of my mother-in-law, post-partum depression, and a couple of major surgeries for cancer, these are a few of the tips I’ve gleaned through the years:

  • Stay connected to a solid, grace-filled church – Go where you GROW.  It grieves my heart to think of churches who have done this wrong through fundamentalist jargon and legalism.  Or, maybe they have an overabundance of grace, and therefore lay leaders who simply aren’t on sturdy theological footing to balance grace with TRUTH.   Indeed, we’ve got to be mindful of our own need for self-nurturing, and seek out a body of believers who can support us in life’s most difficult days.  I realize that not every part of the world has this available, so if that’s your situation, prayerfully consider joining an online church community like Gateway Church in Austin, Texas.  (Shameless plug for my sister, who leads worship there!  But truly, Vince Marotte & his Internet team do an excellent job.)
  •  Journal your thoughts and prayers. It serves as a reminder and testimony!  When millions of Israelites miraculously crossed the the dried-up riverbed of the Jordan River into the promise land, as told in Joshua 4:2-9, God told them to gather stones that would serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  My 20+ years of journals are my memory stones!  Having said that, please don’t worry about trying to journal daily or before 6 a.m. or only writing volumes upon volumes.  Keep it regular, heart-felt, and keep it simple.  You can even keep it on your computer (though I definitely suggest regular print-outs and external hard-drive storage!)
  •  Listen exclusively to encouraging Christian music – whatever style you prefer for a month.  This advice was first given to me as a young believer.  Listen to only positive Christian music for 30 days, and see if that doesn’t “rock” your world!  iTunes, Spotify, streaming online, mix CDs in your car, etc.  Bust ‘em out.  (Likewise, I’ve also sent mix CDs to friends going through crises of their own.)
  • Avoid the late-night news until quarter-past the hour (just catch the weather and sports).  Studies have shown that people who watch the late-night TV are more depressed, and who wouldn’t be?  Get your major news through other sources (print, radio or online), and leave the stories of burglaries, murders, and tragic accidents to those who can expertly help them.  You need good sleep to process and grieve the loss of relationships and dreams, so do whatever it takes to guard your sleep and put positive thoughts in your brain before you sleep.
  •  Have a media fast. Focus on prayer.  I did a Chip Ingram R12 study last year where he highly encouraged this for three days.  And to be honest, I was rather amazed how much it impacted me because I’ve taken my own advice, above re: news and music, for years!  But let me tell you, it was extremely refreshing.  Even just driving down the road when I’d typically turn on a Christian radio talk show, I resisted that urge and took my thoughts and ultimately, prayers – to God directly in that moment.  Chip’s advice is to alert close friends and family you’re on a mini hiatus, and then stay away from the Internet and only check e-mail for work a few times a day.

These are just a few of the things I’ve done through the years to help me keep treading water and avoid being drowned out by the difficulties of this life.  Later, we’ll look at the rest of the suggestions.

How do you cope in a crisis?  I’d love to hear  your ideas in the comments section.

Editor’s Note: Part 2 of this discussion can be found, here.