“Instead of looking for help when we need it we pretend to have it all together.” Judah Smith, How’s Your Soul, p. 51
Wow. How true these words are. Working full time in ministry is one of those things that can so subtly lead toward burnout or moral failure. For some reason, doing “God’s work” in a church is almost a set up in many church contexts.
One of the reasons it can lead toward burnout is that the congregation celebrates overwork. The more ministry you’re able to do, the more plates you spin, the more people you meet with, the more sermons you preach, the more blogs you post or books you write, the more people will celebrate you.
Another reason is actually a positive thing: you love what you do. It’s been said before that if you can do anything other than ministry with your life, go do it. There’s no room for being half-in and half-out. Those who are in full-time ministry are most often there because of calling. In this instance, calling simply means “God has so powerfully placed this feeling in my life that I cannot possibly do anything else but devote my life to working in full-time ministry.” It happens. That’s why I’m in ministry. God has called me and I couldn’t say no. Nothing else would bring the same level of satisfaction, enjoyment, of fulfillment as doing what I am doing.
The aforementioned reason can, however, lean to an unhealthy side as well; the “I’m the only one who can do it” syndrome. Someone once told me, “Jesus loves His bride too much to let it rest solely on your shoulders.” They were wise and timely words. God has gifted many people for many things. He has not gifted you with every gift to do everything. Ask for help. Use the skills and gifts of those around you. Great leaders don’t hog all the important things, but they empower others around them.
So how can you and I together fight the urge to “pretend to have it all together”?
1. First, develop a culture where it is okay to not be okay (but it is not okay to stay that way)
Jesus is the only perfect person to walk on this planet. You and I are not and will never be perfect. And that is okay.
We need to develop and encourage a culture where it’s okay to not be okay. We come to Jesus broken and dirty, just as we are. And He accepts and receives us that way. But then He does a miraculous work and heals and cleans us so that we become a new creation. We are literally reborn.
It is okay to not be okay, but it is not okay to stay that way. We come to Jesus not okay, but He wants to make us whole. Transformation is what happens at the feet of Jesus.
2. Second, allow yourself to be vulnerable with a few.
It is not a necessity to let everyone into the nitty gritty of your struggles and pain. But, it is vitally important to trust others with your honest struggles, your honest thoughts, and your honest pain.
God has created us to be in community, not isolation. Sin thrives in isolation, but dies when it is brought to light in community. Find trustworthy people around you that can shoulder the burden with you.
This is not an easy thing to develop, but it is worth the short-term struggle for the long-term healing.