Why does this keep happening to me?
Have you ever uttered those words? If you’ve been a believer for any length of time, you’ve probably heard someone say, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Both of these statements are connected—but only one has been taken out of context. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he writes:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
In High School it was rare that I failed a test—but if I did, it’s because I failed to pay attention and study. Paul is saying that God can deliver us from temptations—but, the temptations that are occurring are not extraordinary—they occur to everyone. So, why would God provide a way out? Well—that’s one reason why we have the question, “Why does this keep happening to me?”
When we fail to endure a situation, we’ll most certainly see it again. Think about it—we learn more from our failures than our successes. Why do teachers give tests? To make sure students know the subject.
Escaping the Test
When we groan, “Why does this keep happening to me?” We’re failing to face the trial. We’re failing to pay attention to the spiritual principles that God has placed before us. We seek to escape. But God created us and knows our inner workings (Job 10:11; Ps. 139:13; Heb. 4:12). When God takes us out of those situations, as a merciful teacher who hates to see failing students, He will allow us to re-take the test at a later time. We have not learned the spiritual subject. Recently, I met a man during a church outreach. This man didn’t believe in God—or so he said. I told him about a miracle working God. I asked him, “If you could have one miracle in your life, what would that miracle be?” The man replied, “I just want to be comfortable.”
One major reason why we will continue to see the same test over and over again is comfort. We’re afraid to leave our “comfort zone,” or we view the test as too difficult. But we must remember that God created us. Let me provide an analogy.
Imagine that I create an off road racecar. My desire is for the car to climb steep hills, run on jagged rocks at high speeds, and jump to great heights. I want to see it go through thick muck and mire. It will be my prized possession.
Finally the day comes. My all terrain mud-bog racecar is ready to go! I’m also in luck. It rained the night before and the ground is muddy. I take my beastly car into a nearby field—it has tons of dirt mounds, jagged rocks, sandy pits, and the ultimate deep muddy trails. The moment of truth arrives. I fire it up—then slowly and carefully, I steer it around the puddles and jumps. I make sure that I don’t touch any rocks. I then drive it back without a splash or speck of mud on it. Wait—that doesn’t sound right? Why? Because I created my racecar to get dirty, muddy, and climb to its potential!
J.A. Shedd once asserted, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for.” Likewise, God created us, not with a spirit of fear but “of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). The testing in our lives will help us climb fears and learn to navigate through the muck and mire of life. We’re not made for comfort, but to overcome fear—trusting in God. Reoccurring things may happen when we fail to trust God. Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything. We must learn to yield our lives to the Creator. There’s no situation we face that surprises God. So, do not pray, “God take me from this situation,” but rather, “God give me strength to endure and learn, in your most perfect will.”
What is that noise?
The repetitious blast had me baffled and weary. After slapping at everything on my bedside table aimlessly. Fan. iPhone. Book. Repeat. I finally figured it out—it was my alarm. Ever do that?
It was dark out. Early a.m. and I was exhausted. I needed to go back to sleep. Then a Scripture verse rang through my head:
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep? (Pro. 6:9)
I was getting up at my usual Monday morning time, around 2:30 am. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m a very early riser. I always loved the verse:
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35)
If Jesus woke up early before the sun had risen and prayed with the Father then I saw fit to do the same. I still carve out time every morning for my prayer and Bible time with God. However, I’m also a fitness junkie—so, going to the gym, or off on a run, at 3:00 am is not unusual for me—but this morning was different—I was struggling to exercise, struggling to read, and even struggling in prayer!
Relief in Sight
Thankfully, that day I was gathering with a man I highly respected—we’ll call him, “Dave.” I couldn’t wait to see Dave! He’s a very well known ex-pastor, someone I had listened to for years via podcast. I had waited for this day for over a month.
But, I’ll be honest. I was feeling so drained that I didn’t feel like going.
Once I arrived, circumstances occurred where I was able to spend some brief time alone with Dave. I could have asked him anything—but for some reason, God knew what I needed to hear the most from him. So, I asked him about personal accountability. I’ll get to his advice in a moment.
Some Crazy Facts
According to a NY Times editorial, pastoral leadership is increasingly suffering from a lack of spiritual, emotional, and physical health. The report stated, “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans.” George Barna reports:
- 33% of pastors felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
- 40% of pastors are struggling with burnout and frantic schedules
- 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s health.
- 75% report severe stress, panic, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
- 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
- 90% work more than 50 hours a week and have given up a scheduled vacation for a ministry emergency.
- 1,500 pastors leave vocational ministry each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
Wisdom from Dave…
And so, here I was—feeling burned out. I knew the numbers. I’ve studied them. I’ve taught them. But, now I was the student.
“How do you hold yourself accountable?” I asked Dave. It was an ambiguous query. But as if God were responding to my groggy morning ritual—Dave fully understood what I needed.
He suggested that I break up my day into three modules: morning, afternoon, and evening. There should be 21 modules per week. Each week there must be 7–10 modules of down time (no ministry—fully unplugged, no phone, no laptop, no email).
Of these 7–10 modules, 3 of them should be consecutive—establishing a Sabbath principle. As Joe spoke, I felt the conviction of God—I was only getting 2–4 modules per week—that’s not good.
Effective leadership cannot justify itself with sacrificial burnout. Moses did this. His father-in-law chided him for expecting to do everything (Exodus 18:13–23).
Leaders must have the proper rest—and the proper delegation. Assuredly, diet and exercise can be factors of burnout—but that wasn’t my dilemma. My problem was/is in saying “no.”
Pastors are allowed to say no.
Pastoral ministry is truly a blessing (something in which I do not feel worthy). But as leaders, we must be intentional about taking time off.
Dave admitted that there would be weeks when only 4 modules of rest are possible. When that happens, I should compensate the following week. The main point: I must be more intentional with my rest and family time.
Question for you…
- How many modules are you getting per week?
Looking for more? Bethlehem Baptist Church created a great resource and made it available through Desiring God Ministries, click here. http://cdn.desiringgod.org/pdf/pastors_accountability_form.pdf
 Paul Vitello, Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work, New York Times, August 1, 2010, accessed October 20, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/nyregion/02burnout.html?_r=0.