My Unexpected Breakdown

Cry for Help by gesinek
Photo Credit: “Cry for Help” by gesinek

There have been times in my life when a breakdown seemed imminent, and lo and behold, I had one. After those incidents, people in my life—like parents, counselors, and doctors—looked back on the circumstances surrounding the breakdown and agreed, “Yeah, it’s no wonder.” I, too, understood where those meltdowns came from.

But about six months ago when I short-circuited (not to the point of self-harm or anything, just had an incapacitating freak-out for a few days), it didn’t seem imminent. It was unexpected. And people around me would have said the same thing. Today I’m writing to try figure out: What was up with that? And is there a bigger issue (a hidden root) I need to deal with?

Most people when they look at my life wouldn’t say I’ve got a problem: They’d probably say I’m really organized and driven—not breakdown material. I’m a leader in my church and have labored for the past two years to bring others to Christ, because I was so excited when I finally found him. So, in 2011, I started a small group Bible study with the intent of providing a place for my “Christian” friends to talk about Christ. Prior to that, I noticed we didn’t really talk about him together. Go figure.

Then, I got involved with a prayer ministry called Straight 2 the Heart. I took a three-month training, co-wrote a book with the program’s mastermind, and several months later my prayer partner and I started praying with two other friends to help them experience the freedom and joy we had found.

Concurrent with my prayer training, I took on the position of music leader at church and drummed up all kinds of “great” ideas to bring our fragmented church back together. One of them was starting a choir, and another was putting song leaders into teams to create community.

Last fall, 2012, I was on a roll, doing just everything in my little power to “revive” my church, which, I thought, had grown stale. I was proud when my older brother, now a missionary, visited us and observed that our home, with its two Bible study/prayer meetings a week had become an outreach center. I basked in the glow of his approval: if you haven’t guessed, I thrive on such accolades.

Breaking Point

Then, December came, and I had ten musical programs to line up, including the music all that month for church, and five vespers programs. Halfway through the month an out-of-state choir was to come perform, and I thought I had it all under control. I arrived at the church a safe thirty-five minutes early, or so I thought, only to be met by a disgruntled choir director who informed me I was supposed to have opened the church for them an hour in advance for set-up. She swore we’d discussed this detail on the phone, but I had absolutely no recall of it. Between setting up meetings, making phone calls, sending group emails to my Bible study and prayer groups, and coordinating choir things, my mind was too full to accommodate the memory.

It was then that I excused myself for the bathroom and broke down. In the farthest stall from the entrance, I sat and I cried and cried and cried. I started hyperventilating and couldn’t catch my breath. I called my hubby to ask what I should do. I was supposed to go out and introduce the choir in a few minutes, and I couldn’t stop crying.

Someone else ended up introducing them for me. Meanwhile, I missed almost all of Handel’s Messiah while I huddled in that bathroom stall trying to compose myself.

After December was done and I’d met my immediate commitments, I stayed home from church most of January, and I cancelled our home Bible study. People didn’t understand why I’d just quit cold turkey, and I couldn’t explain.

Making Sense of Things

Six months later, I know I had taken on too much. Not only did I take on too many jobs, but I took on the burden of other people’s salvation, and the burden of our church’s brokenness. Under the guise of “doing the Lord’s work,” I committed the sin of trying to play God himself, as if I could “save” my friends’ souls and fix my church’s issues.

I know I had the best of intentions, but now I also know I had a big problem. You see, after you’ve had a mountaintop spiritual experience, as I’d had during the prayer ministry, Satan swoops in with new wiles to trap you. After receiving so much healing, I felt on top of the world. And that’s when Satan must’ve suggested that I could make this healing happen for others. And do it in my own strength.

This week I’ve been praying about the same problem. After a bit of a ministry hiatus, I’ve been dipping back into outreach. As the church’s newly elected prayer coordinator, I’ve initiated a new prayer group at church, and as the communications secretary, I’m already dreaming big dreams for connecting our church in some new ways.

If I don’t watch out, I’ll end up barreling headfirst into another breakdown. How do I counter this good, yet bad, tendency?

Avoiding Future Breakdowns

Not long after said breakdown, I heard a sermon on Elijah’s “mountaintop” experience, after which he promptly sank into a despondent state (sounded familiar; see 1 Kings 18 and 19). The speaker said it’s common to fall low after experiencing a high, because we are worn out, and we let our guard down. Then he talked about how God actually commanded Elijah to rest for awhile, take care of himself, and then delegate work to someone else (shortly thereafter, he passed his prophetic mantle to Elisha).

This idea about resting after a strenuous effort was advice I needed to hear. So was the part about delegating. And it also reminded me of some other Bible passages I’d already read on this subject.

As I pondered this topic, God brought to mind the story in Exodus where he actually commanded Moses to dole out his work to seventy elders. I also remembered how the early apostles doled out food preparation duties when their numbers were growing rapidly so they could devote themselves to prayer and ministry of the word (Acts 6:3, 4). I also stumbled on other verses that encouraged me, such as Matthew 9:38 and Ephesians 4:11-13, which tell me God has a specific, special work for me—and it doesn’t include doing everything I theoretically and possibly could do for the Lord, or the church.

So how do I avoid future breakdowns?

Now I know that answer has something to do with delegating, taking some pressure off myself. And I know it also entails homing in on my specific appointed work from God and not getting sidetracked by any and every possible thing I could do for God, because then I’d never get a break (except when I break down!).

I also need to keep praying, to uproot the false beliefs that keep telling me I have to do it all. And I have to keep praying for God to reveal why I feel the need to control things—and I have to let him release me. Like every growing and healing experience, this one will take time.



104 thoughts on “My Unexpected Breakdown

  1. what's that shiny thing July 19, 2013 / 1:03 pm

    I am thankful for your sharing… We grow in others trials and rejoice in their triumphs… Be encouraged and keep writing !

    • lindseygendke July 23, 2013 / 2:18 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement! I will definitely keep writing, and I’m always happy to have you reading!

  2. Sadie Grace July 22, 2013 / 7:04 pm

    Sounds like you have learned a valuable lesson that a lot of Christians never learn – that we all have gifts and we need to use our gifts in the ministries that God has for us. We can’t do everything or be everything to everybody. Too much busyness takes us away from real relationship with him. Thanks for your bravery in sharing your breakdown experience. Not many people would be so willing to do such an open and honest self evaluation in a public forum. God bless you in your future ministries, it is evident that you have a passion for his work. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

    • lindseygendke July 23, 2013 / 2:20 pm

      Thanks so much for the kind words. Actually I’m not this open verbally with most people I know, so it’s good therapy for me to get things out here…plus, I find a much more welcoming, understanding audience. Glad you could relate! God bless!

  3. elizabethmilaoa July 24, 2013 / 12:44 am

    I can SO relate to your post. I was recently just given an assignment to work with the nursery (ages 18 months to 3 years) class at my church. I felt that surely the man upstairs was punishing me!! I have a 2 year old and almost 3 month old and am a stay at home mom! I felt that they could surely use me somewhere else that DID NOT involve children. hahaha meltdown after meltdown I felt so bad that I wasn’t being a better mother!! I just needed to remember that we learn “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little…”(2 Nephi 28:30) Thank you for sharing! and Good LUck with everything you are doing!!

    • lindseygendke July 25, 2013 / 6:01 pm

      Wow, that sounds like quite the test from God! I think I’d be having meltdowns at that, too. Best wishes with everything you are doing as well!

  4. Testimony Faith July 24, 2013 / 8:35 am

    Parts of your story sound familiar. In my own journey (particularly the healing part), I learned an addiction to approval can drive one to do many things, and sometimes the need to control is actually a human maneuver to ensure that much needed approval. In our world of conditional love (and approval), how blessed we are to have a Father who loves unconditionally and freely extends His grace. Ahhhh, amen.

    • lindseygendke July 25, 2013 / 5:53 pm

      Good point about the need to control being a way that we try to gain approval. How silly, and sometimes stupid, we are to try to get this approval from the world instead of just asking God what he requires of us! Thanks for the wise words.

  5. mamajudes July 30, 2013 / 11:01 am

    You are absolutely right ~ when we pray, God hears. When God hears and answers our prayers, the enemy of our souls hates us even more. Thanks for sharing. May the Lord bless you. And, may you rest in His peace as you do what He calls you to do; nothing more, and nothing less.

  6. Nancy February 18, 2015 / 4:54 pm

    What a blessing to read your experience!! Thank you for being so open and sharing.

    • lindseygendke February 20, 2015 / 1:34 pm

      Nancy, thanks so much for letting me know your thoughts; gives me courage to keep sharing! And thanks for taking the time to read!

    • lindseygendke February 24, 2015 / 7:09 pm

      Thank you for reading! I am grateful to know you found it a blessing.

  7. April August 29, 2017 / 5:13 pm

    The vulnerability demonstrated in your thoughts, is precious to me. Church leadership has warned me to not be vulnerable; not share my personal missteps or failings. I’ve pretty much gone “underground” in my sharing in an effort to encourage and bless others, because “church” doesn’t seem to be a safe place to minister to hurting and failing persons of like-faith.
    Thanks for being open and vulnerable in this “underground” environment. So sweet.

    • lindseygendke August 31, 2017 / 4:08 pm

      April,thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. I am so saddened by the “underground” culture the church has created. It’s meant to protect us, but I feel that it only increases pain in the end. Suffering people are desperate to hear someone come alongside them and say, “Me too!” Also, testimonies sharing where we used to be and where God has brought us now are so valuable to winning new believers, and encouraging believers at all stages. I hope God will give you the courage to help in the effort to shed light and truth on this dark, sad state of affairs! God bless you!

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