Yesterday was one of the worst days I can remember. Seemingly out of the blue, anxiety ripped through my chest like a steel vice. It felt like an elephant was sitting on me. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t concentrate, and I couldn’t think. Somehow I made it through staff meeting, then went home and shut myself off from the world.
After a good night’s sleep, an hour of hard aerobic exercise, and some quiet reflection, I think I understand what triggered yesterday’s meltdown. It was the new church budget.
I am the lead pastor of a medium sized non-denominational church, and along with preaching, teaching, leading, and all the rest of the pastor stuff, I oversee a yearly budget that approaches a million dollars. But I’ve been doing this for years. What was it about this particular budget that upset me?
To put it simply, the bottom line seemed out of reach. Overhead costs have risen considerably, and compared to the amount that our congregation typically gives, it looked yesterday like there was no way we will be able to meet our financial needs. So I imploded internally.
I’ve come to understand that occurrences like this aren’t random. If I give God a chance to weigh in, I’ve learned that instead of randomness, these challenges are God’s way of teaching me something important.
So this morning, I sat down with God and asked Him to explain what was happening. I opened up my journal with the intention of jotting a few thoughts down, but I ended up dictating a letter- a letter to me from God. Here’s what He wrote:
I want to develop and strengthen your leadership style. You are a careful, conservative leader who likes to operate in an system where everything makes sense. For you, numbers need to add up. That’s good in many ways, but there is little room for faith or supernatural occurrences in that kind of environment.
This year’s church budget doesn’t add up, and that’s what sent you over the edge yesterday. You felt powerless and out of control because you couldn’t reconcile the bottom line.
I want you to know that I made it that way on purpose. I engineered the entire process and arranged the budget so that the needs appear greater than the resources. And I did this to create a circumstance that was beyond your control. I want you to learn to lead not just by your instinct, but with faith.
For the next year, I will teach you how to lead without the ability to control. And I want you to watch and learn as I supply what you don’t have. This will be a lesson of faith and trust. You’re going to have to learn to trust me. You’re going to have to be OK not being able to explain where everything you need will come from. You’re going to have to learn how to ask for help and depend on Me to hear you and answer you. I must teach you that it is Me and not you that is really in charge.
I am your Father, and I love you. You matter to me, and the church matters to me. I will not let you down. I am right here beside you, and I will always be.
I must honestly tell you that I’m not thrilled to share this letter with you. As a pastor, it’s not easy to admit to a lack of faith and an overdeveloped dependence on myself. But I can’t help but think that there are others who share my shortcomings. Maybe you are walking a similar path in your own life. It might not be a church budget that is sending you over the cliff, but in some part of your life, the needs outnumber the assets, and you just can’t see how things add up.
Feel free to borrow my letter. Change my name to yours, and join me on a journey of allowing God to teach you how to depend on Him. Please let me know if you decide to walk this road with me. I’d love your company.