‘You looked really pixelated’, these words following a recent Zoom call have helped me to make sense of how I (and perhaps many of us?) are feeling in these uncertain times.
Zoom calls often pixelate when the internet speed is too slow or too many devices are using an internet connection at once but strangely, neither of these was true for my pixelated appearance on Zoom. I couldn’t make sense of this until I realized that the only other laptop connected to our network at the time of ‘pixelgate’ was uploading thousands of photos to cloud storage. The person using it wasn’t doing anything that would have put the internet connection under strain but in the background, unseen, the connection was under enormous pressure. Significantly, it took someone else to tell me there was a problem, they spotted signs of a connection under strain that I was oblivious to.
Are you under strain? Are you feeling pixelated?
In the past few months, I have frequently wondered why I am feeling so tired. For me, this is often followed by a deep frustration because the things I had been trying to accomplish wouldn’t usually have led to me feeling so tired. As I have thought about my pixelated experience, I have been reminded that it is often what is going on in the background that is causing exhaustion, not necessarily the tasks I am trying to accomplish.
What can we do when we feel under strain?
In 1 Kings 19, we read that Elijah was terrified and he ran for his life. There is a wonderful moment in this passage when God miraculously feeds and sustains him and then he lets Elijah keep running until, 40 days later and hundreds of miles away, he then speaks when Elijah is in a better place to respond. God asks, ‘what are you doing here?’ and Elijah responds ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’
Elijah pours out his heart to God and is honest about how he was feeling and this is the turning point as his honesty begins his process of healing.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we need to be strong in order to meet all the needs of those around us. Perhaps it’s time to pause and remind ourselves of what God says: ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12.9 NLT).
We are each part of the body of Christ, so why do some of us feel the pressure to think that we have to be all things to all people? Why do we sometimes feel that we are ministering in our own strength rather than crying out to God for his power to flow in and through us?
Some of us would never speak to others the way that we speak to ourselves. Have you ever said anything like this to yourself? ‘I should have been stronger, I’m such a failure’, ‘what I did wasn’t perfect and now I’ve let everyone down’ or ‘I have to do it myself, it’s my responsibility’?
For some of us it may be time to start treating and speaking to ourselves in the way we would do to others. How about ‘I wasn’t strong enough to do everything that was needed but I know I have made a difference through what I was able do’, ‘that may not have been perfect but given the pressure I am under it was really pretty good’ or ‘I’m struggling, who could I work with to make this happen?’
I have found that I have become more self-critical in lockdown, focusing and perhaps even obsessing on what wasn’t ideal about something I have done or produced. When I posted ‘The Monument that was always There’ video on our YouTube channel I was miserable for days. I hated the imperfections and shakiness of parts of the zoom shots and could only focus on these flaws until someone spoke to me about how God had really used that video to make a difference in their lives. I still fully believe in doing our best and that we need to improve what we do where we can but we also need to be kind to ourselves, especially where we have done our best with what we had when we felt under strain.
Before God spoke to Elijah, he fed him and allowed him space (40 days’ worth) to rest. If you are exhausted, then take as much time off this summer as you can, rest well and give yourself the space to reflect on the strain you are under and what could be different when you return to work.
If you are recognizing that you are under strain then I hope that you will also accept that change and healing also take time.
When I am stressed, I find psalm 61 extremely helpful and if you have a few moments, I would encourage you to read through or listen to it being read with some accompanying images https://youtu.be/dyu6ggrKXFI. In these times of strain, let’s pour out our hearts to God who is our refuge.
For your Prayers
This Sunday I am sharing with Bures Baptist via YouTube and Beth and Nick will be joining virtually with other churches.
Please also pray for the process of discerning who the next Baptists Together Faith & Society Team Leader would be. More information about this key role and the process can be found here https://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/584770/Team_Leader_Faith.aspx
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