Last month a friend shared with me that she had reached the point of burnout in her job … which happens to be in full-time ministry.
The joy she once had was gone.
The creativity was missing.
The vision was diminished.
The compassion that once characterized everything she did was a shadow of what it used to be. And in place of what had been life-giving, was now insecurity and even numbness …
Wow … I know what that feels like. I know what it feels like to be drained of energy in a certain area of my life. Not for the same reasons my friend faced. Although different circumstances, we share the same result: burnout.
My circumstances are harder to talk about. But occasionally God prompts me to share one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced, and today is one of those days. If you are a relatively new reader to my blog, you might not know that my husband and I adopted two little girls from Liberia Africa in 2005. While we knew it wouldn’t be easy, we didn’t know the price our entire family would pay to help these precious ones find healing and hope.
One of the two has cognitive damage which will permanently affect her ability to manage in this world independently. The other has emotional pain which goes very deep and will also affect her ability to manage, but in a different, likely even harder way.
Because of early hurts, this daughter has serious difficulty relating to the world in an honest way. Her damaged thinking affects everything, and causes multiple daily conflicts – most small, but their frequency wears me down. I totally understand and have had compassion on her. But after 6-1/2 years of constantly being “on alert,” it’s getting really hard to maintain a positive attitude. I’m not where I should be emotionally and it’s time to call it what it is: burnout.
This morning, as I sat with my Bible, hot coffee and a quiet moment with God, I confessed my burnout with this situation. I confessed my emptiness and my inability to force myself to “snap out of it” and stop being so frustrated. There’s also a sense of helplessness, because it’s not like I can quit for awhile.
And as He always does, my heavenly Father met me there. I received compassion that came from Someone intimately knowing my struggles. But rather than offering me 10 steps to overcome burnout, I got perspective. Just when thoughts of “I don’t deserve to be treated this way in my own house!” hit my mind, God reminded me that His Son didn’t deserve to be treated that way in His own world! And it’s no surprise I’m facing hardship for doing His will.
This hit me in a new way. I have never compared my parenting struggle to others who face true persecution for their faith. Mostly because my daughter is the one who has truly suffered. So I’ve dismissed my challenges, even though they are very real. But today, God reminded me that I am called to share in His suffering and right now this feels like suffering.
It was no accident that I’ve been reading through 1 Peter. I’d like to share some of my morning reading found in chapter 4:12-17.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
God didn’t call us to adopt two physically and emotionally whole children. We were called to get down in the mud and pull two mired children out. It’s messy, exhausting and confusing work. And there is suffering and a spiritual battle on our part to do it. Finally admitting this has opened my eyes to persecution passages in the Gospel like nothing else.
I don’t put my suffering on the same level as true martyrs or my brothers and sisters who would be killed for speaking the name of Jesus aloud. No … I don’t count myself among their ranks at all. But by admitting my own kind of pain and distress for doing the will of Christ has opened me to God’s strength in a new way. And as odd as this may sound, there’s a little kernel of joy deep inside at the thought of sharing in Christ’s suffering.
Just so you know, we have sought professional help for years, and continue to do so. God is currently opening new doors for specialized help and we are awaiting our daughter’s acceptance into a Christian program designed for girls who have suffered what she has suffered. If you think of it, please pray for her. Thank you.
Parenting is hard. I don’t think I’m the only one to feel like I’m suffering at times. So if that’s where you are today, I hope you’ll take comfort like I did in rereading some verses about suffering for Christ. I pray they plant a seed of joy in you as well for walking the path our Savior walked for us.
Grace & Peace,