Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NASB)
The above verse is one of my favorite verses in the entire Word of God. This not only applies to comfort, but I have found it applies to wisdom and the sharing of experience after having lived through something that has been a valuable life lesson.
You may have heard it said that a smart person learns from experience, but a wise person learns from the experience of others. Therefore, it was my pleasure to have a discussion with a young man with whom I had been very close.
I listened to him sharing his heart, his pride, his fears, and his hopes. He has been the youth leader of a congregation and then took on the role of coordinating a soup kitchen for the needy. His role in the lives of my children was invaluable. He guided them, played with them, set an example for them, and formed them into a strong unit in which they are friends until this day. He poured himself into them in wonderful and some not so wonderful ways. They played paint ball, went bowling, studied the Bible and played more than their share of video games. He came to their Induction ceremonies in the army and has been a loyal and faithful mentor and friend. I commend him for this.
It seems as though his role will now be growing, and he is going to be the pastor of the congregation rather than the youth leader, as the elderly pastor is stepping down. He doesn't want this role but expressed to me that he doesn't want to be the reason for the congregation not succeeding. As I listened, I heard echoes of my husband and myself years earlier. I listened to his loyalty and love and his reluctance to lead. I listened to his desire not to engage in gossip or evil reports about others. I was encouraged by this and happy to hear of this very positive direction.
However, as I reflected on the conversation, I was left with a nagging sense of discomfort.
My husband and I had been a part of this congregation, and this young man had been the youth leader of our children. We, too, had been in leadership but we ultimately left. At that time, my husband was suffering from high blood pressure, horrible boils and skin eruptions, and physical and emotional exhaustion. He was finally diagnosed as having had an adrenal collapse due to the stress of a false sense of responsibility.
In due course, his blood pressure returned to normal, and his skin eruptions ceased. He is now a healthy man both spiritually and emotionally, and we participate, as we are able and as is fitting, in a different congregation close to home.
When we left the community, I wondered if I would ever have a positive influence on anyone again. So narrow was my thinking that I doubted that out of this narrow context, I would be able to flourish. We had thought of leaving several years before we did, but were warned, even by those outside of the congregation, that this entity needed to exist, and that WE WERE THE ONES to do it!
It turns out that was simply not true. That was a false sense of responsibility and a false sense of duty. It is not for us to maintain something at the expense of our physical, emotional and spiritual health. That thinking is manipulative and cultic, and it places burdens upon the child of God that God has never placed. It is erroneous and misguided loyalty, and it is dangerous. The false sense of responsibility was just that—false! The idea that God needs us to keep the world (any world) spinning is pride and nothing more.
I have since counseled many people who have come out of situations such as this. I have seen the fear, the guilt, the sense of disorientation and then the final freedom and joy as they embrace the life they were created to live.
I hope and pray this young man will learn from our experience and not feel as though he is the only one qualified to lead his congregation forward or that he would be the sole reason that it fails, if that should happen (God forbid).
Yeshua says his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Be careful! We can collapse under a weight not our own.
What is at stake is your well-being.