"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged:
condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned:
forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:"
- Luke 6:37
In your service to the Lord, do you feel like you are only going through the motions? Does the ministry you are involved in seem more like a rut you cannot get out of than one of service to others? If so, it is time to reevaluate your service or ministry. You may be experiencing burnout.
Many of us believe that if we have a talent we should use it as much as possible. If you are not happy in your service to the Lord and His people, you may be thinking that more activity will change your feelings. But when you continue in a ministry when you have lost the joy you once experienced, you risk hurting yourself and the very people you are trying to help.
Even when we are feeling emotionally empty or resentful, we may feel guilty about not continuing in the work we have been involved with. Why do we feel so responsible? Perhaps we feel that no one else is available to work in the ministry or that God has sent us to minister where others have not been called to go.
This misconception, coupled with the desire to maintain the status quo of a particular ministry, can keep us from exploring other avenues where the same needs could be met.
Easier said than done, you say? As I have learned, the effort you take to join Christ in the garden will give clarity to your walk with Him. You must set aside time to talk with Him, read His Word, and make an effort to know His will for your life.
Stuck in a Rut
My own burn out occurred after years of teaching the same Bible class. Although some of the techniques changed, the depth of the stories remained the same. While I truly felt God’s call on my life to teach, the activity left me feeling isolated from my church family.
A generation of students passed through my class before I experienced complete burn out. The lack of concern I felt for the children scared me. I questioned why God had sent me to teach where I felt this repulsion. Prayers to lift the feeling seemed to go unanswered.
Hearing 1 Corinthians 13:1 in my head, I realized the lack of love towards the children meant my actions had become “only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal?” (NIV). I removed myself from the class.
Satan’s desire to keep us from doing God’s will can attack us in many ways, and he can make us believe we should continue in an activity for the wrong reasons. A lack of faith caused me to believe no one else would teach these children. I had forgotten that God could provide 10 better than me to fulfill this role.
After my exit from teaching, I continued to pray for God to guide me. Yet, the guilt remained. I felt I had buried my talent when I left the classroom.
Like me, you may have heard well meaning Bible class teachers discuss the parable of the talents and how we should use our talent or be doomed. However, I noticed that the Master was aware of the qualities of each servant as he gave them talents in accordance with their ability (Matthew 25:15).
Because the Master took time to know his servants, he knew who should receive the largest portion of talents; he saw which servants acted in confidence and were productive; and he saw who could be productive, if given the opportunity. Although the one talent servant did not fulfill the vision his Master had for him, he had been given the chance.
God, our Master, knows each one of us. He loves us and sees what we can be, even when we cannot. If God wants to multiply our talents, He may place us in situations where we can renew, expand or multiply them. He exposes us to events that will develop our abilities for His purposes. It is up to us to proceed with confidence to see where He will use us.
In my life, I realized God had entrusted me with a talent, which I had been using to teach children. I was unsure of how I was to take the one talent and multiply it, or if this was to be my only talent. If so, why would I have become burned out?
Start From the Beginning
After acknowledging the feelings I was experiencing, I was careful where I volunteered my efforts in my church family. The next few months, I volunteered in established ministries, assisting in activities new to me. I limited my time commitment in those activities while I continued in prayer and the Word.
Time passed and I was presented with an opportunity to study ministry through an online course from a Christian university. Made up of mature Christian women, I felt challenged by the study, enjoyed delving into the Word and was encouraged by interaction with the other students. So much so, that I continued taking online Bible classes. Most of our Christian Universities offer these kinds of online classes and many can be audited.
I began to understand that teaching a Bible class all those years gave me knowledge I could build on. The focus on Bible study assisted me to trust God to put me where He wanted me and to be alert to the leading of His Holy Spirit.
In my home congregation, I became involved in the women’s Jail Ministry. While training to join them, God placed me at the feet of my Sisters in the Lord who were seasoned in the work. Their lessons encouraged me in my walk, gave me strength to try and confidence to know that I should commit to this ministry. I began to prepare and deliver devotionals at our county jail.
The experience I had with the online class reminded me I needed to connect with a group of Godly women for spiritual and emotional support. Online options are wonderful sources that I recommend, but I am thankful God brought me to serve with women in my home congregation.
The joy I receive when I share the Good News with women inmates reminds me of the inner struggle that brought me there. I recognize God has been multiplying my talent through this experience. By using my gift and becoming involved in a different ministry, God energized my walk with Him.
Most nights when I leave the jail, I am reminded what an awesome God I serve. He guided me into a different ministry where I could use the talent I have. And He energized my walk with Him, leading me to quiet waters to restore my soul.
In His wisdom, God also reminded me that my time teaching the children’s class was for His good. Each time I see my former students take their places in service to the Lord, I know He certainly has blessed me with the memory of having taught that young adult when he/she was only a child. The delight God gives me with such a memory is a sevenfold blessing!
Although the transition may be painful, there are times you must consider where you should use your talents for the Lord. You will be rewarded when you listen for God’s calling, and act on it. If your present service or ministry seems to be in a “rut,” consider that the rut may actually be just a furrow in fertile soil, one that God is using to help you grow into a more effective servant for His Kingdom.
– Donna Brooker lives in Gainesville, Fla. She and her husband, Don, are members of the University City Church of Christ and also work with the church in Cross City where Don preaches. They own Security Systems of North Central Florida, Inc. and are the parents of two grown sons.
Reprinted with permission from Christian Woman Magazine, Nashville, Tennessee