Managing Dark Times
I use the word ‘managing’ rather than ‘coping’ because you may not be ‘coping’ with your poor mental health, but you need to manage it. There were days when I wasn’t coping yet still needed to draw on all my leadership skills to lead the church. I had to find a way to manage my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and circumstances. You may have your own strategy to manage your Dark Times. Everyone is different and you may have different ways to manage your mental health than I do.
The thing that upset me the most was that there was often no rhyme or reason for those Dark Times. They would suddenly come upon me, out of the blue, with little notice. No matter how well I managed my thoughts, feelings, emotions and circumstances that BLACK DOG would appear, barking at me with its ferocious snarl.
Why does it happen? It’s part of your mental health, and when those dark moments or episodes come you feel that there is nowhere to hide, nowhere to escape from this BLACK DOG.
BUT YOU WOULD BE WRONG!
Part of my strategy or plan, during those times, was to run. I don’t mean physically, although I did that too! I would run as fast as I could on the treadmill in the gym. It made me feel a bit better afterwards, but sometimes it just made me more exhausted than I had been.
The place I most ran to, and often in a spirit of desperation, was the ROCK.
Psalm 27:5; “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a ROCK.”
He says, ‘In the day’ or ‘in the time of trouble’, This is our great hope that God will shelter me during, in the middle of, when the whole darkness is crashing down around you, in that moment he will hide you. He then says that even if everything around you is shaking and maybe even your body is, He will put your feet on a ROCK.
As a church leader I never found it easy to run towards God during those Dark Times, but the truth is that often I didn’t need to because God was already there with me.
‘In the day of trouble’, in the day when those Dark Times descend, when that BLACK DOG appears, ‘he will keep me safe’.
It is important to feel safe when you are having poor mental health. To know that God is always watching over you. But it is also equally important to get yourself to a safe place, especially when you feel vulnerable, or you feel that you might harm yourself. If you are going through Dark Times, make sure you are safe. Phone a friend or call one of the helplines listed on the website here. (blackdogcollarpastor.com)
If you are a church leader and you are going through Dark Times and still trying to manage your way through it and at the same time seeking to lead well, then take courage. Some of us have been there, just where you are at this moment. There is HOPE. God is with you. You are a child of God and God has this!
Your greatest strength is your vulnerability and sense of weakness. These are things that most people relate to because they are often going through the same.
Poor mental health does not disqualify you from leadership. The fact that you are still a leader, having to mange Dark Times qualifies you to be a friend to those who sadly walk in darkness, be it of grief, poor mental health, broken relationships, or the dark night of the soul.
God my Father,
You know that I am in the middle of those Dark Times. I don’t where it came from, but this darkness suddenly descended upon me and now I am struggling.
I ask that your Holy Spirit make me aware that you are always present, especially during my Dark Times. I thank you that, no matter how I feel, you are my shelter in times of trouble and you surround me with deliverance.
Hide me under the shadow of your wings.
Calm the raging storms within my heart.
Lift up my head.
I thank you that you love me, and protect me, for I am your child.
May you fill me with strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.