Too many women around me are burning themselves out.
They’re exhausted, they’re stressed, and they’re not taking care of themselves. Their whole life is about pouring into everybody else, and there’s almost nothing left of themselves in the process.
But I want to just take a few minutes today and come at it from a different angle.
I wonder if it’s more that we believe we’re not worth anything unless we have a lot of accomplishments under our belts.
Like we have to prove ourselves to our kids, our friends, our parents, ourselves–even God.
I was emailing a woman yesterday about this who is just about at the end of her rope because of stress, which she can’t do much about. But in the midst of it she said yes to running the Christmas pageant at church.
I think sometimes we have such a low opinion of ourselves that we can’t say no.'When women pile too much on our plates, it's often out of insecurity. We need to prove ourselves.'Click To Tweet
We don’t think we deserve to say no. We hear it all the time–we have to make wise choices and say no to more things. We have to care for ourselves first. We have to have some “me” time.
But why don’t we do it?
It must be that there is some benefit to us for driving ourselves so hard, and for wearing ourselves out. Humans don’t do anything unless there’s some benefit. So what could the benefit be?
Perhaps it’s that it gives us our sense that we are worth something to God. We may say we believe in grace and in God’s love, but that’s only about salvation. Once you’re saved, you’re supposed to pour yourself out for God, aren’t you?
When I was 16 I went on a missions trip with Teen Missions. That summer the devotional theme was “The Way Up Is Down”. They were teaching us for two solid months that God rewards those who are suffering. And while I do believe that God is close to those who are suffering, and that we can learn a lot through periods of suffering, I do not believe that suffering is somehow a more holy calling than not suffering.
There was so much wrong with that summer missions trip, and even in my 16-year-old state I could sense that things were wacky. The leaders of our team used to spank their kids every Sunday night for the things that they had done that week that they hadn’t been caught for!
We were on a construction crew, and at one point they had a delivery of materials to make gravel. They ordered them to dump the pebbles where the sand already was, even though they weren’t supposed to be mixed together yet, so that we could learn more of a lesson by separating it. (I only found out about that later because another team leader, who was seriously worried about what was going on, told me at the end of the summer).
It’s easy to look back at that and say that these leaders had a totally wrong view of God. But do we do it to ourselves?
Do we “spank” ourselves for all the things that we may have done wrong this week, beating ourselves up if we haven’t been perfect?
Do we make ourselves work harder than anyone else around us, because otherwise we don’t feel like we’re worth much?
Do we feel like we always have something to prove to God?
Do we wear our busy-ness and tiredness like a badge of honour?
It’s always a balance, though, isn’t it?
God DOES want us spreading his kingdom. But I don’t believe that God wants us to sacrifice ourselves in the process. Earlier this year I told you about a great memoir I had read called As Soon As I Fell, by Kay Bruner. She was a missionary, pouring herself out for the work, and becoming a shell of whom she once was. She accepted dangerous and ridiculous conditions for her kids, because isn’t that what a missionary is supposed to do? She accepted suffering without complaining, living in a place she hated, because what right did she have to expect better?
She was suffering from serious depression, and her kids were suffering for it, but isn’t even that part of being a child of God? We’re told that we’ll suffer if we follow Jesus, so if we speak up and say, “I can’t do it anymore,” then aren’t we being unChristian?
I don’t think we know what it means to rest in God’s approval.
I know I don’t. This is the big thing I struggle with. I understand that God loves me. I get that. Every parent loves their child. But can we rest in God’s approval? That’s something entirely different. Isn’t approval something that needs to be earned?'It's easier to accept God's love than God's approval. Do you try to prove yourself to God?' Click To Tweet
Are we really supposed to believe that God looks down at us and says, “I made you and I’m proud of you,” without us doing anything to prove that we’re approval worthy?
Do we really believe that part of spreading God’s kingdom on earth is also spreading God’s kingdom to our own hearts. It matters to God how we are doing, too, not just what we are doing. That’s kingdom focus.
I struggle. And I’m sure some of you do, too. But please, hear me today. You don’t have anything to prove to God. He does not consider you burning yourself out to be a badge of honour. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to say no to church activities and say yes to more time with your family. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to say, “I can’t keep up this pace anymore, and we need to reevaluate.” Sometimes the best thing you can do is to say, “you may feel called to that, honey, but I just don’t yet, and I’m very afraid that this is going to put too much strain on our family.”
It doesn’t mean you’re not a good Christian. It doesn’t mean you’re going against God. Maybe God just wants you to go through a season of rest!
In our society, we judge almost entirely in terms of accomplishments.
God doesn’t. Even though there’s so much work to be done on this earth, He judges the heart.
I do believe in missions. I do believe that we all should be spreading the kingdom more; please hear me. But like Kay said in her book, if we do it for the wrong reasons, because we’re not sure of God’s approval, it’s not going to be effective and it will hurt us in the long run.
The sad part is that most churches and most ministries run not on the Spirit moving and calling people and equipping people but on guilt. Churches and ministries and missions benefit from people feeling like they have something to prove to God. It gets the work done without all that messiness of having to fall on your face before God and ask for a genuine movement of the Spirit.
And so too often churches do nothing as those in their pews burn out.
Don’t burn out. You matter. God looks down at you and smiles at you, not because of what you’ve done, but because of who you are.
Maybe you need to take a season to just breathe and get to know yourself again. And that’s perfectly okay.
Let me know in the comments: have you ever burned yourself out? Did your opinion of God have something to do with that? what helped you get back?
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