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The Day I Almost Suffocated at a Women's Conference

Years ago I was in a place of deep depression. I was reading my Bible, maybe more than ever, because I was in such a desperately low place. I was praying daily. I was seeking God. I was not only seeking Him, I was begging Him to help me, to speak to me, to do something that only He could do.

In the midst of this, I was the speaker at a women's conference. I've never stopped working or serving for the past thirty years, even when I've been in a low place. Some people might say, "Well, that's your problem, right there!" I guess one could look at it that way. I just see it that even on my worst days I get up, dress up and show up.  And believe me there were plenty of days I didn't feel like doing any one of those three things.

On this particular occasion I was the keynote speaker, but the host of the conference was also speaking in one of the sessions. As I sat there, I experienced something that was common for a women's conference or church service. So common that I share this story with no concern that people will figure out where I was, or that I will point anyone out specifically.

As speakers go, the host of the conference was popular and passionate and everything most people are looking for in a conference host or leader. I don't remember what the text of her message was or even the main points. All I recall is that the majority of the message was her telling the women gathered what they should be doing that she assumed they were not doing. And the message was that if they just did what they should be doing, life would be so much different. 

"Ladies, you need to be in the Word more! If you were in the Word as you should be, the things you are experiencing would not be happening as they are!"

"Ladies, you need to pray more! If you just had a prayer life like Anna, if you would just tarry with Him for one more hour...if you would just press in like the woman with the issue of blood...if you would just seek Him more...your problems would seem small!!!"

"Ladies, you need to praise God more! If you would just praise Him, he would set you free as He did Paul and Silas when they were in a prison!"

Do we need to be in the Word? Yes. Do we need to pray? Yes. Do we need to praise God? Yes. And I was doing all those things, yet as she shouted all these things we should be doing,  I felt like I was going to suffocate. It took everything I had not to run out of the room. I was talking to myself in my head saying, "Stay here, just stay here. It's going to be okay..."Some may say that I was only responding this way because of being in a depressed state. But in retrospect, not being in that place of depression anymore, I can tell you that while being depressed impacted the way I perceived things, it wasn't the entire cause. And actually, that moment changed me as a leader...forever. After I got through feeling like I would suffocate, I had an wake up call that changed the course of how I communicate.

It was an epiphany for me that people don't respond to a steady diet of just hearing what they should be doing. Life is much more complex than that. You can do everything you should be doing and still deal with the current problem you have. I have prayed, I have fasted, I have wept on the altar, I have renounced every sin, I have served my guts out - and people I love have still died. I have read my Bible until the wee hours of the morning, and yet, people I have trusted have deeply wounded me. I have praised God, and still have loved ones who are horribly sick and in need of a miracle. I have experienced some of the most painful things in my life and witnessed them in the lives of others when I was doing all the things I should be doing. Hearing a message on all I should do when I'm doing all I can do makes me feel a lot of guilt that is not from God. The fact is, doing all the right things doesn't zap your problems away. If that was the case, things the apostles went through and the outcome in their lives would have been vastly different.(Do he research on how most if not all of these guys died.)

Recently I was in one of my classes for my masters at Southeastern University and our guest instructor for the day was Dr. Sam Chand. One of the main things he taught us was, "Don't let anyone 'should' on you." It seldom produces long term results to rag on people about what they should be doing. They hear what they should do from everyone from their mother-in-law to their doctor. But pastors/speakers do this week after week. (Insert shouting preacher here) "YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED ABOUT JESUS!!!!" Meanwhile the congregation sits there and thinks, "Okay...tell us WHY."
That day at the women's conference was a turning point for me. I have been guilty of a lot of "shouldy messages" in the course of my ministry. How many people had I emotionally suffocated with a list of do's and don'ts without telling them about the person who can change their lives?  I realized that my mandate as a preacher was to open the Word of God and share WHO He is and WHY He came and WHAT He could to do in their lives. My job was to study the Word of God and find a way again and again to share all of that in a fresh new way that the Holy Spirit would inspire me to do.

Part of the struggle is, it's easier to preach a shouldy message. You don't have to dig in to the Word of God to study and explain anything. All you have to do is get up and shout at people about what they should be doing. Studying the Word of God in depth takes work. And, it's a lost art in the ministry. That's not my opinion, it's a fact. I sensed this in the past but didn't really have any hard evidence about it. Recently, I read a book for school that I was assigned called The Pastor Theologian by Gerald Heistand and Todd Wilson. At face value I assumed it was going to be the boring book this semester. Truth be told I was kind of dreading reading it even as I paid for it and put it on my Kindle. But I was wrong. It was life changing! Reading it fired me up even more to delve into God's Word and  prepare messages that would reveal the character of God to people and result in transformation in hearts and lives through the power of God.

As an imperfect vessel, I slip now and again and should on somebody in one of my messages, but I make a conscious choice to not do that as much as possible. Am I resisting the work of the conviction of the Holy Spirit in a person's life? Absolutely not. But the point is, it's His job to convict, not mine.

My job is to share the Who, what, when, where and why. The why is only secondary to the WHO. And, the Holy Spirit draws them to change...not me.

What has your experience been when you hear all that you "should" be doing in a message? Has it brought about life transformation in you? What kind of messages have brought about life change through Christ in your life?



Thank you for this Blog - because I've been that person suffocating and I've also been that "shouldy" person. I too need to practice and perfect the art of studying God's word so that I can point others to the "Who" that I've devoted my whole life to. God Bless You!
You're welcome, Brenda! I appreciate you and your kind words! I am looking forward to seeing you soon! <3
Unknown said…
Great message Deanna. Yes I hear a lot of the should messages all the time, and you are right it does not bring about life but leaves me feeling like I could never be enough. Hearing about how good, big and more than enough Jesus is for me in my life empowers me to go deeper. The Bible says the letter kills but the spirit gives life.

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