Question: Tired of Serving and Sacrificing

August 4, 2014 — 6 Comments


 foreverin asked:

Do you ever get tired of serving and sacrificing? I get that we can’t earn salvation, and that our faith and worth isn’t even defined by how much we give, but don’t you sometimes feel like you’re working so hard compared to others, and it’s not fair? the bible says that the harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few…I feel like those few faithful workers will have a tendency to burn out! thoughts? :)


You know, I think this is one of those things that everyone is afraid to say: and you said it.  We all want to look like willing ready servants that are faithful to jump into the furnace, and I would even say: some of our hard work is actually people-pleasing and comparison and trying to earn salvation.  Or, people are just afraid to say no because they don’t want to look lazy.  After all, half of our generation lives in the Over-Productive Neurotically Over-Achieving Mega-Success era.

But like you said: Yes, we get tired.  Mostly I get weary of serving those who eventually drop out of their race of faith anyway.  I’ve poured sweat and tears and prayers into dozens of people who ended up going prodigal, and I always blame myself.  I know that I shouldn’t.  Other times, everyone expects Christian leaders and pastors to be superhuman, and we don’t find a comfortable rhythm of rest and work.  This is especially true in my Asian Culture, when taking a break means you’ve dishonored your family lineage and a vacation means you’ve declared feudal war.

Burning out can also be a case of “wrong seat on the bus.”  If you’re doing something you’re not called to do, then of course it’ll feel joyless.  I don’t think all serving needs to be glamorous or laughs-a-minute, but I see tons of people who are gritting their teeth at church because they’re not maximizing their gifts in the right setting.  Some are too prideful to let go, or they can’t imagine someone else taking over, or they’re just used to it.  But you can work magic if you just switch a few spots.  I’ve seen friends bloom in the right circumstances.


In the end though, God calls us to work hard.  More than overachieving, I mostly see an epidemic of laziness and bare minimum.  I see lukewarm living more than legalistic anxiety. I see a tendency for “fuzzy faith” that makes too many excuses for an already spoiled, over-privileged, entitled generation.  We like Ephesians 2:8-9, but not verse 10.

If you treat serving like a job where you clock in and clock out, then you’ll get burnt out if you try to go for excellence.  These Bible figures like Moses and Daniel and Esther and Ruth and David and Paul didn’t get by with a once-per-week job.  The early Christians were being torn limb from limb and lit up like candles, but they never backed off.  They threw themselves into God’s calling with total abandon.

We’re called to excel.  Excellence is reflecting the aesthetic beauty of God in all we do, and we’re called to strive for that within the fountain of God’s grace.  And on this side of life, there will always be less workers than the work.  Our worth has to be in the abundant well of God’s love, or else we’ll go crazy trying to squeeze that from our efforts.  And it’s also up to each of us to individually know our boundaries, know when to say no, and to find a rhythm to recharge.  With that, I’m going to take a nap.

— J.S.


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6 responses to Question: Tired of Serving and Sacrificing

  1. 
    Zach Van Houten August 4, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Yes I agree with you on this. I’ve seen someone close to me burn out after years of committed service in a church. He’s been burned by church leadership, and has grown very bitter towards church in general; barely able to attend without criticizing every part of the service and believing everyone is a hypocrite. I believe he put too much faith in the church itself, as many of us do. And then when the church lets us down, many feel their work was for nothing. But if we have our priorities straight, we will recognize our service is to God first. But we are all human, and have to pay close attention to our emotions.

    I am definitely the overachiever type myself. I believe a lot of it has to do with my upbringing. We all find different ways to be loved and accepted and I learned early on that I could find that easiest by working hard and being good at things. And I don’t want to carry that on with my view of God. Believing that if I’m not perfect He will somehow not love me. I’m thankful though for a generally healthy view of Him, but many of us have to learn to not view God through the lens of our upbringing.

    I always enjoy your honesty on here. Thanks for writing.

    • 

      Hey Zach, thanks for sharing. I’m really sorry about your friend; I definitely understand his sentiment, and I’m sure many of us have been through that cycle. I especially agree about our upbringing. I tend to flip back and forth between Law and Laziness because I had one parent who enforced the rules and another who was relaxed about everything. I’ve realized God is way more balanced than that, and He calls us to work hard and rest hard.

    • 

      Your comment is right on and carries some simple, but overlooked, insights. I had to leave religion, too, but the main reason was their God is “too small”. Bitterness is gone because that makes me arrogant. And I still meet with believers as often as possible. But now I have joy in doing what I can for Jesus instead of feeling like I only had duty without love.
      Peace

  2. 

    As always you have such a heart for Christ in your answers. “Brothers and sisters, we can’t allow ourselves to get tired of doing what is right” 2 Thess 3:13 (GW) has meant a lot to me for a long time. I would also suggest an addition to your insights: God doesn’t need my work for the Realm of Heaven on earth – I get to work because it brings me closer to Jesus and the people of faith. That’s a tough one because I want my work to be important, but isn’t grace about Paraclete doing it through us (or in spite of us)?
    Peace

    • 

      Yes, I’m reminded of a C.S. Lewis quote here:
      “[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says … Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

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