For those of you who don’t know me (the Formission Director), I’m Jeremy Nippard. I’m about to share something with the world that I have only ever shared with my closest confidants, but I think in this season, we can’t afford to ignore this subject: In September of 2020, I had a panic attack. I have experienced minor episodes in the past, but I knew by the duration and severity that this was something new and potentially disruptive. It lasted on and off for over two weeks.
I pulled out my whole arsenal of coping skills (I’ve built up a repertoire over 13 years – ministry demands it): prayer, solitude, family time, productive work, hobbies, music, nature, writing. Everything helped in the moment, but nothing seemed to change the frequency or intensity of the attacks. I worked through. I put on a brave face. I initially did everything leaders are always told that we should do, except one thing, and I would posit that this one thing is the most important thing.
I involved others in the process. Two weeks in, I brought in friends and prayer partners to pray for me. I was honest with my team at MDSI, and I sought the help of a professional counselor to help me see things that I might have missed. Within the space of a month, I had identified the problem (anxiety– brought on by a lack of control due to COVID-19 and a changing ministry world – surprising?), learned to accept the normalcy of my anxiety, and embraced my weakness as an opportunity to find strength in God and in others. I had found my rhythm again.
Dr. Henry Cloud writes in The Power of the Other about leaders who last:
But then there are the real superstars, the ones with enormous talent and brains who realize that they don’t have all it takes to get big things done but that everything they need to get them done does exist – in others. So they ask. They need. They embrace their need, and they connect from an authentic, vulnerable place. They grow. They learn. They thrive. I love getting to work with that kind of person.
I want to be that kind of superstar. Not the supposed übermensch, lone wolf, “I alone carry the vision” super pastor that our culture would celebrate. Instead, the kind of pastor who becomes great through learning the limitations of self-sufficiency and the power of real, relationship-driven discipleship and God-sufficiency. That kind of pastor not only becomes better every day, but also adds value to those around them by becoming a beacon of support for others. I love Galatians 6:2-3:
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.”
Don’t buy the lie that you have to do this alone, or that there is no one you can trust or who wants to help you bear your burden. Your problems are probably not unique. I don’t think mine were. Take off your mask. Call up your colleague. Let that elder fulfill their God-given calling to pray for and encourage you. Solicit advice and mentoring. Embrace life-giving corporate disciplines. Access that available counseling. Pour out your complaint before God.
Do you know what’s worse than the pain of letting others know you don’t have what it takes to make it on your own? Having others find out anyway because you are burned out, tapped out, or knocked out of the race from trying to do it all yourself. The 4 Phases of Formission are a movement of taking our physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, relational, ministry, and missional health seriously. Do you want to be a part of this movement? If 2020 has taught us anything, it should be the powerlessness of the idols of comparison, self-sufficiency, individualism, and upward mobility. Join the fellowship of the weak. Shatter the idols. Embrace the need.
 This is not used in a clinical sense (i.e., anxiety disorder). For further learning, this is a great article by CMHA (https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/q-and-a/whats-the-difference-between-anxiety-and-an-anxiety-disorder)
Appendix: A Few Great Resources for Mental Health
Clergy Care Network (Free to PAONL credential holders): https://clergycare.ca/
Bridge the gApp (GovNL): https://www.bridgethegapp.ca/adult/get-inspired/nl-mental-health-crisis-line/Mental an Emotional Health During COVID-19 Webinar: https://www.passiontoreach.com/golead/
The Fully Lived Life Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-fully-lived-life/id1492936882