Dear Pastor, Break the Addiction
"Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." -Gal. 6.9
It is more blessed to give than to receive. But if you're a giver (and most ministers are) then you know that the gift of giving can feel like a curse because our work is never done.
You've likely found yourself saying,
"How do I get myself into these situations?"
"Somebody's got to help them."
"If I don't do it, who will?"
"Hopefully my family will understand..."
...and off you go to love, serve, and help the hurting world.
The thing about "doing good" is that it is addicting. Seeing transformation, proclaiming truth, serving social outcasts, overcoming injustice with righteousness- all these experiences birth a passion for more. More of God, and more of his goodness at work in the world. More of that euphoric feeling that our lives matter and that for all the people we've hurt or disappointed, there's a slew of people we've inspired, educated, or assisted.
We just can't seem to avoid it, no matter where we are or who we are with. Every opportunity to help another person is an opportunity to glorify God and honor the open door before us.
We crave moments that matter.
We experience withdrawal when we are without an intentional experience. And
We truly want to see glimpses of heaven on earth, and to demonstrate to our broken world that there is a new reality to be experienced in Christ.
But if you've ever been around an addict, you've witnessed the devastating power of an inability to say "no". The hardest ones are the ones that don't seem "so bad."
So we do it again. and again. and again.
Only to find that the "over-do-it" drug leaves us lifeless and tired.
Nobody intends to get tired. No one plans to quit doing good (the healthy way), but we seldom share about when we've grown weary. While we've always intended to share one another's burdens, take things to God in prayer, and finish our race with great faith, here's a few reasons why we avoid the words, "I'm weary" and just keep pretending everything is ok:
We don't know it. (aka justification)
When you spend all your time and energy helping people and trusting God to renew your strength, He does. He sustains us. He's faithful like that. He's faithful, and then we're foolish.
Have you ever looked back on a week of giving endlessly and felt a serious adrenaline rush?
A sense of "I can't believe I survived that!" and then instead of recouping from it- you jump with enthusiasm into the next thing? You say, "I wonder how far I could push this productivity thing?"
Having God on our side becomes a means to justify our chaotic lives.
"God is in control" so we push the limits.
"God will get me through" so we keep going (when he offered us a sabbath).
"People need us to be the hands and feet of Christ" - so we try to be so for everyone.
On and on. All the time.
That's called justification; Justifying our boundary deficient acts of service and squelching the chance for the Spirit to renew her fruit of self control in us.
Good news for us: Jesus did enough justification for everyone.
Let me encourage you to be on guard for all the times you keep justifying "one more time" for someone while you have "no more time" for your own health and development.
We're embarrassed by it. (aka pride)
No one likes to admit that our plate is full, our our emotional cup is empty or that our spiritual tank is low. It's forbidden to talk about how our family dynamic is suffering. In fact, we've sworn our kids to secrecy and unintentionally pressured our partners to live isolated lives. It's embarrassing because we feel like we are supposed to have it all together and be the living example. Worse yet, our churches expect that too. So admitting we're in the vicious cycle of overcommitting and over extending is difficult to do. Like most addicts, we don't want to have to put all our struggle out there for everyone to feel. We're not sure what to ask for in terms of help, and it seems silly that we can identify our issue but feel helpless to change. If you find yourself feeling ashamed that you can't do more, aggravated that one more person is reaching out for help, or disinterested in the people you serve, then get help. Embrace the opportunity for humility and admit exhaustion to your leaders, ask for help to get rest and resources you need, and embrace the embarrassment that comes with being human. God does his best work in and through us when we give up, anyway.
We need it. (aka idolatry)
Need is a strong word, yes. But our incessant need to do for others is often an implicit symptom that we have lost sight of our being in Christ. Sometimes we find our confidence and self worth dwindles when we aren't serving others. So we muster up the energy to lead another project and impact another person under the disguise that it is for them. But it's for us. It's so we have something to do. It's so we feel better about our lives and our abilities. It's an affirmation of our identity. And we need that, yes, we do. You need that, especially if you serve somewhere that affirmation isn't in abundance (can I get an "Amen" from the pastors who've served in toxic churches?)
Forgive me for being so direct here, but what we give our time and energy to, and derive our identity from, is God. So all of our good deeds are high risk for becoming the reason we get up and keep going, and hat is idolatry.
We need identity and purpose-- but now, more than ever, we need it to be rooted AND GROUNDED in God himself. Not just all the good works He allows us to do.
Consider that what you need is not another new ministry to lead or project to start, but time alone with your God. That being, the Creator of the Universe, loves you, made you, breathed being into you and knew ahead of time which good works he had for you to do. Find some time to reconnect with Him.
So here's the homework:
1. Re-read the Galatians verse above.
2. Note that it doesn't say "If you want to avoid growing weary in doing good, just keep doing good."
It says "do not grow weary in doing good."
The latter requires an investigation of what it is that is draining us, weakens us, and fatigues us in our service.
3. Answer the question: What makes you weary? What can you do about that?
This is a powerful starting point to admitting your addiction and getting the help you need to life a full and long life that God designed for you!