Preaching can literally make me ill, so why do I keep doing it?
You have weaknesses. I’m sure this statement doesn’t shock you. You know about them, most likely you’ve known about them for some time.
But the real question is this: What are you doing with your weaknesses? You can hide and deny them. Most of the time, this is what we try to do because we’re afraid of what might happen to our ministries if people discover we’re not strong in every area.
There is a better option. Instead of hiding our weaknesses, we can recognize and share them. Even better, we can learn to glory in our weaknesses. For God to use you greatly, you’ll walk with some kind of limp the rest of your life.
I have struggled with a handicap all my life. I was born with a disorder in my brain chemistry that makes public speaking excruciatingly painful to me. It is a genetic problem that is resistant to any medication. If doctors could have cured it, they would have years ago. I’ve been to the top neurologists in the nation.
In a nutshell, my brain overreacts to adrenaline. Neurologists at the University of California, Irvine, would tell you I’m allergic to adrenaline. Throughout my childhood, anytime adrenaline would hit my system, I would faint. In high school, I took medication for epilepsy (not because I’m an epileptic but to alleviate my symptoms). To this day, I still get severe reactions to adrenaline.
First, I get very dizzy. My vision blurs, and then I black out. Sometimes I get headaches—severe headaches. At other times, I experience severe hot flashes. Sometimes I can’t even see the audience. These symptoms usually last until about 15–20 minutes into the message, when I’ve expended enough adrenaline that my body goes back to normal. The first part of any message is excruciatingly painful to me.
My most common reaction to this experience is an absolute sense of irrational panic. It’s as scary as hanging off a skyscraper and holding on with just a single finger. It’s absolutely terrifying!
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:3, “When I came to you, I was weak. I was afraid and very nervous.” I understand what Paul is saying—I experience it every time I preach.
This condition has been a thorn in my flesh for my entire ministry. Most preachers and other public speakers will tell you that adrenaline is their best friend. Preachers who don’t have adrenaline are boring. You won’t make it in preaching without adrenaline. I’ve leaned on adrenaline to preach multiple services every week for decades. Instead of helping me, adrenaline makes me absolutely miserable. What every preacher needs for an effective sermon is like poison to my body.
Many people ask me whether I get prideful when preaching to so many people each week. Honestly, pride is the last thing on my mind when I preach. I’m usually thinking, “God, just get me through this one more time.” If I weren’t convinced that God had called me and gifted me to preach, I would have found a whole lot easier way to make a living a long time ago.
I keep doing it in spite of the pain because I know God wants me to do it, and he’s called me to do it. I’ve been in ministry for almost 50 years, and I’ve done everything possible to deal with my condition: I’ve prayed about this every day of my life, I’ve fasted for long periods of time, I’ve seen the best doctors and counselors, and I’ve read the best books.
God has not chosen—although I will keep praying to that end—to take this weakness away.
Prayer does dramatically limit the symptoms of my disorder. God used this issue to help Saddleback become a praying church. I wouldn’t think of preaching without having my prayer team praying for me during the message. They pray for me during each service.
What’s the lesson?
God uses weak people. God will use you, too. He won’t use you in spite of your weakness—he’ll use you because of it.
Prepare to be used by God by being honest about your weaknesses today.
This article originally appeared on Pastors.com and is reposted here by permission.