Thursday, October 14, 2010

busyness, burnout and the grace of God (7) needs

2008: a year of activism. I dream of changing things. I dream of talks, articles, books. I travel to see what's happening in women's ministry. I meet women with the kind of impact I dream of having. One day, I sit in an auditorium and realise that, of these 3000 women, perhaps 5 have heard my name. I rejoice in my smallness, and in the hugeness of the God who changes lives.

I get too busy when ... I think I'm the one who has to solve problems, change things and meet people's needs.

What I was thinking. "People need encouragement. They need teaching. They need support. If I just work hard enough, I can do what needs to be done. If I don't, who will? Things will get out of control without me. Everything depends on me."

What I'm learning.
I'm not the one who meets needs - God is.
I'm called to bear others' burdens (Gal 6:2). I'm called to serve those around me (Gal 5:13). I'm called to share the good news of Jesus (1 Pet 3:15-16). But ultimately, I'm not the need-meeter: God is. If I say "yes" to every need because I think it all depends on me or because I think no-one else will, I'll be pulled in a thousand different directions, doing nothing well. Instead, may I prayerfully prioritise the things I say "yes" to, and trust God with the rest. People don't need me - they need God.

God is the Saviour, not me.
How arrogant it is to think that I am the one who changes people! Yes, I have a responsibility to love others and speak God's truth. But if I look around my church and community and think things need to change and I'm the one to change them, I'm in danger of putting myself at the centre. I'm not the Saviour: God is. I'm not the one who changes hearts: God is. I'm not indispensable: God is. It's good to do what I can, then stop and rest, trusting God to do his work in people's lives. My responsibility is to serve, not to save.

God is the Ruler, not me.
Even as I say this, I find it a little hard to believe. Doesn't God see how many problems need solving? Why does he let things get so out of hand? Perhaps if I step in, things will get better. It's that kind of thinking which gets me into trouble. Yes, I need to love and serve. Yes, God's sovereignty doesn't let me off the hook. But if I'm running around frantically trying to fix everything, then I've forgotten that God is the wise Ruler of his world. I'm finite; he is infinite. He is big and good enough to provide. I can rest in his sovereign love.

God is working, even when I can't see it.
During the last few years I've seen how God is working in places and people I've never heard of. It's easy to stand arrogantly over people thinking I'm the one who has something to offer. But there are many faithful women teaching and encouraging their sisters in Christ. If I can help them to do this, what a privilege! But it doesn't depend on me. We're a team, each with our own roles and responsibilities, and God is working even when I can't see it.

My responsibility, God's responsibility, their responsibility.
It's natural for me to carry others' burdens. I worry when women are struggling. I get frustrated when they don't grow the way I want them to. I'm weighed down by their grief. These are all signs that I'm bearing burdens that don't belong to me. A wise friend suggested that I write down 3 things - my responsibility, God's responsibility, and others' responsibility - then do the first and pray about the rest. When I'm burdened by others' needs, what a relief it is to bring their burdens to God in prayer!

In writing this, I've been encouraged and challenged by chapter 9 of Tim Chester's The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness.

First and last images are by Bjorn1101 and Crystl from flickr; others are from stock.xchng.


Meredith said...

"A wise friend suggested that I write down 3 things - my responsibility, God's responsibility, and others' responsibility - then do the first and pray about the rest."

Now there is a word in season. Perfect. Thank you. Mxx

Jean said...

And guess which wise friend said it, Meredith? A mutual friend whose name just possibly begins with "H"...

I'll have to pass on what you said. :)