Andrea Lystrup is a licensed marriage and family therapist and owns a private practice—Andrea Lystrup Therapy—in Tucson, Arizona. She received her master’s degree from the University of Maryland in Couple and Family Therapy. She specializes in couples’ therapy, particularly working with sexual issues, betrayal trauma, and mixed faith marriages. She serves as the stake sister support specialist for the Tucson stake, providing training to stake leaders on issues like abuse prevention and recognition of mental health struggles, as well as to advocate for sisters who need support addressing abuse in their own life. She also serves as the Young Women second counselor in her ward. She is mom to three boys under age five and supports her husband in his career as a doctor in the Air Force.
2:30 In Andrea’s practice she meets many people who report they are feeling “spiritually worn-out”. This may happen because of mental health challenges, life struggles, a faith crisis or something else. Often they feel like they aren’t getting the same answers to prayer as others, and they wonder if there’s something wrong with themselves or everyone else.
5:25 Andrea has watched people who have left the church and those who are struggling with returning after Covid and describe how challenging it is to want to go back. Church can be like a wrestling match when managing young children. It is easier to watch from home when we don’t need to worry about how our children may be affecting those around them.
8:55 Depression or anxiety may affect your ability to feel the spirit or share a testimony. Something you hear another share at church as a great spiritual experience or healing you have not received can be triggering and difficult to process, which can make it difficult to engage with church or members. This is one way you might feel spiritually worn out.
13:45 Sharing vulnerabilities may be one way to help members who are struggling with this type of spiritual exhaustion feel like they have a place to share and belong. We often share these vulnerabilities after they are resolved, but we don’t share struggles in real time while they are happening. This real time sharing can take more courage and ultimately may be more helpful to yourself and others as you are able to connect with others who are struggling.
17:05 Covid has exacerbated these feelings in some members, because depression and anxiety are fueled by loneliness and isolation. We should look out for the likely in our congregations to make them more welcoming places. Do less offering off a talk that will solve a problem and more inviting someone to lunch or to hang out. Remember they are “person(s) to be loved”.
19:10 People who are spiritually worn out often express feelings of being unlike others or punished by God. Others in a faith crisis may decide if the gospel equation is working for everyone else and not them, the problem is either with them or the system, and many reject the system all together and leave. Instruction like don’t rehearse your doubts with other doubters can discourage these individuals who are already feeling like they don’t believe our think the same as others from reaching out when they struggle.
24:20 One way to think of how spiritually worn our members engage is with a trauma model: fight, flight, or freeze. A freeze mentality might look like someone who attends church for years and years but not fully participating, reading scriptures, magnifying a calling, etc. There may be afraid of making things worse and so they just don’t engage. Some who “fly” leave, often suddenly. There are some fighters who may post on social media and leave in a blaze of angry posts and others may still engage and try to fix things from the inside by making edgy out challenging comments in meetings.
29:00 It is important to understand how people are raised. Some have a “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” mentality and others are more scrupulous and rigid in a way that can cause them to react strongly when the gospel equation doesn’t work for them. These rigid thinkers are often the backbone of a unit—cleaning the church on Saturdays and showing up to every activity. We need their loyalty and willingness to work, and so we can validate their good ideas while helping them broaden their perspective, gently.
35:30 Suggesting a break to someone struggling with spiritual exhaustion may be necessary to help them process the reasons they attend church. Instead of asking what will someone miss if they quit, in some cases it may be helpful to say, “Hey, you’re clearly struggling with this. Have you thought about taking a break?” and let them think through the reasons they do or do not want to take a break, or why they feel they can’t.
38:20 Leaders sometimes make assignments when someone expresses feeling spiritually exhausted, and this may not help. People who have been engaged with church know what it means when someone they are not close — like a ministering bother or sister — to suddenly starts coming around. It can feel like box-checking. You can ask them if there is a meaningful way they can serve. Leaders should ask themselves why they are trying to keep someone attending.
42:00 Andrea shared a personal example regarding her bougainvillea plant that froze and all the leaves fell off. Sometimes a plant may need to be printed right to the ground to grow again after being damaged. A bougainvillea that has been damaged will die if it is over watered. Overzealous leaders may unintentionally kill a member’s testimony by overwatering.
45:50 Leaders should be mindful of the power of right now. How can I connect with you or show love for you right now? Drop worrying about the future or fixing a problem. Connect.
Read the TRANSCRIPT of this podcast. Note: This transcript was machine-produced. We would be grateful for help correcting errors. You can help! Simply copy/paste the transcript text into a document, make the corrections, and then copy/paste the corrected text into the comments (you will need to split it up) on the page and we will get it published!