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Gimme a Break

It’s easy as pastors, or any other caregiver, or humans in general, to begin to think that apart from us there is no hope. But what this really shows is our lack of trust for the one who says that we do not need to carry our burdens alone. The one who can actually do something about these burdens we carry around—sometimes rather pridefully.

We all face it—the tyranny of the urgent. Especially in ministry, there is always one more phone call we could make, one more email we could check, one more meeting we could squeeze in. We go and go—convincing ourselves that we can stop anytime we want to—but really, this last thing isn’t all that big and it really needs to get done—right now.  So we fill our schedules as full as they can go—and then next thing we know, we are curled up in a ball under our desk wishing they would all leave us alone.

There are tons of resources on ministry burnout, and most of us have looked at them, agreed that we need to slow down, made resolutions to do just that … and then we rush off to our back-to-back meetings. We know we’re as addicted to busyness as any of our congregants, but ours feels even more important because we’re serving people. Why do we do this to ourselves? What is our compulsion to be so busy?

Well, I know for me it is often because I get confused for who I actually work for. I begin to think that I am the one who said, “Cast all your burdens onto me.” That as a pastor, I am the designated burden-carrier for our quirky group of people. I am the one who must be available at all times, in all instances of crisis, for all the needy and broken. For if I am not there, who else will they turn to? I forget that really, I just work here. I’m not in charge, I don’t save anyone, I can’t heal anyone and I certainly can’t carry your burden for you—I am barely handling my own. I forget that I am not the one who says these words, but the one who is far more powerful than me.

It’s easy as pastors, or any other caregiver, or humans in general, to begin to think that apart from us there is no hope. But what this really shows is our lack of trust for the one who says that we do not need to carry our burdens alone. The one who can actually do something about these burdens we carry around—sometimes rather pridefully.

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Not that we should just drop all those in need and tell them to go pray about it. We are a people—and as a people we are called to care for each other. But caring for one another and standing in the place of Christ as two very different things. Part of trusting Christ is resting—realizing our own limitations to make everyone else okay. It means that we tell each other that we care and we want to help, but we are powerless to fix one another. Really, we are all in need of the same grace, healing and care—and none of us can give it to each other. And while Christ does use is to minister to one another, we must remember whose strength and power we are relying on.

What are the urgent things that keep you from resting?  In what ways have you tried to stand in the place of Christ? How do we collectively care for each other without burning ourselves out?

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