I’ve been thinking about this question for quite some time now.
There are the occasional gaps of time that allow for some breathing room, but I inevitably feel spent. A couple of days ago, I was sitting in the office with a fellow burnt-out colleague in the ministry, and I asked her: “Is this how it’s supposed to feel like?”
“Nope, definitely not.” And after I mulled on her answer, I was inclined to agree — purpose can only carry you so far without joy.
So what was my problem?
Because I often feel like I’m doing all the right things.
I attend church and cell group, lead cell and serve in other ministries. I have mentors and pastors I can pour my heart out to, I’m spiritually fed through BSF, I’m well-adjusted and have good support systems …
By right, I should be able to function. Yet after a long day of writing or editing articles, when I have to sit down and write something for one of my other ministries — it’s like the well has run completely dry.
Honestly, a lot of the time, I’m tempted to feel guilty.
I want my life to be poured out for God and for others, but I feel like a dry towel being squeezed for water. So, like a good Christian, I pray to God to fill me up — fill me till I’m overflowing!
Sounds good, right? But after a long time, there’s still no change.
“Don’t forget to top-up your tank,” is a common mantra dished out to the depleted.
And sure, without being sarcastic, it’s true. I do believe we must abide in the vine.
But when I look at my colleague, who is also a good Christian doing good Christian things, and see just how burnt out she is — I wonder where we’ve gone wrong.
God, help me to see if this is an issue of workload or something more.
Because there’s that tension in ministry between dreaming big for God — dreaming something so “kingdom-sized” it’s doomed to fail without His help — and simply biting off more than you can chew.
Lord, let me do just what You want — not what I think would be good to do. And serving where God does want me to serve, I need to pray for God to increase my capacity — for my hands to keep up with my heart.
I need God to keep me honest: Simply doing all the right stuff doesn’t equate to a life of right living.
I have to be really careful as I write this next part — I’m not trying to give you a free pass to quit your ministry.
Serving isn’t supposed to be “easy.” There are somewhat less demanding ministries, as there are very demanding ones — but all require constant fuelling from God and a measure of sacrifice.
To be very clear, the heart behind my words is simply to have you consider the nature and spirit of your service.
Where I worship, my church has a policy where every leader “steps down” at the end of the year. They then reconsider their ministry commitments for the coming year, and if they are convicted to serve again, they rededicate themselves at a special service in January.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think I did that last year …
It didn’t help that my leaders didn’t actually ask me to. To be fair, in ministries where labourers are in short supply, I can see why that question might seem unproductive — even self-destructive —to ask.
Continuing to serve just seemed like a matter-of-fact to me. These ministries I was involved in were good things! So, must be good, right?
If I could turn back time, I would have properly asked God what He thought of my involvements. I’ll serve as best as I can, to the ministries I’ve already committed myself to — but there’s definitely a lesson here for me.
A final aside: Have you ever wondered why you keep seeing the same faces in ministry?
There might be a lack of volunteers, or perhaps so-and-so is called to the position for a long season. But I wonder if more people in our church don’t rise up because we’ve overstayed in our ministries.
Are they too comfortable? Or are we too comfortable? As the next generation steps up to take the reins, we must check if we are too proud to let go of the things we’ve had the privilege of being stewards for.
No one is indispensable, and it takes humility to walk away.
God, only let me serve where You have called me to!