A few weeks ago, I met another one – an injured saint completely exhausted from serving God and others.
These wounded warriors seem to surface everywhere I go: former staff from a well-known nonprofit who are expected to pray 24/7 until they drop.
Missionaries fatigued from the struggle of cross cultural shock, language study and the stress of starting new churches.
Ministers – both male and female – expected to raise money for church programs while staying focused on the needs of the people.
Pastors’ wives criticized for each pound they gain or the style of clothing they wear or their failure to fill every gap in the church – play the piano, organize the library, show hospitality to everyone, attend every function.
Those who serve day after day with more and more tasks piled on them because the needs are so great and the money so slim.
Even when they try to set healthy boundaries, their voices are not heard. Their pleas ignored.
Then one day – they break. Tears choke and limbs refuse to move. They lie frozen in a fetal position as their bodies scream, “Enough!”
Then comes the judgment:
- “You’re supposed to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ.”
- “Complaining is a sin. So is laziness. The Bible calls it sloth.”
- “How can you be so selfish when the whole world needs Jesus?”
Condemnation wraps itself around the soul like a blanket of destiny. Burnout, broken relationships, chronic illnesses and a shattered sense of self.
The call to serve has become a death sentence and no one in the support group seems to understand.
Have these warriors failed or has the system itself failed them? Have we required so much of our workers they have nothing left to treasure of themselves? How can they possibly love others if they are denied loving themselves?
Even Jesus rowed across the lake to escape from the enormous needs of the people.
So what can we do for these wounded ones? How can we help them recover?
- Provide a place of rest – a retreat center, a rent-free apartment, a vacation far away from the source of the stress.
- Initiate the healing process – a leave of absence with expenses paid, a counselor to help them work through the grief.
- Show grace – no condemnation and no gossip.
- Solitude – allow them time and space. Don’t text, call or email because they will answer and automatically want to help YOU, pray with YOU, minister to YOU. They are programmed as helpers. Don’t force them back into that role.
- Meet their daily needs – a casserole on the porch, a gift card in the mail, a letter of encouragement. But NO condemning Bible verses enclosed.
- Apologize for devaluing their personhood, for expecting supernatural strength from a homo sapien.
- Pray for God’s healing comfort and for the gentle salve of the Holy Spirit to wash over their hobbled souls.
Then finally – commit to do a better job next time, to set guidelines that protect the hearts of those who serve, to listen to the cries of the faithful servants.
God does not demand that we kill ourselves for the Gospel. Jesus already paid the sacrifice.
It’s okay to admit, “It is finished.”
©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy