Humility. Or Burnout. Part 2

Let me start with a definition of humility derived from A Theology of the Ordinary by Julie Canlis; humility is understanding who God is and who we are. This truth is allowing me to begin to see and experience conviction in two areas: my utter lack of true humility and second, the way that my pride, stress, and anxiety are intrinsically linked together. My pride will give me an inflated sense of self, telling me to do and be more than I was intended for. Burnout chases after those who do life and ministry without humility.

We were going through an incredibly difficult season in ministry and on the home front. I felt so much anxiety and fear at the thought that I was missing something. Missing the magic conversation I could have that would fix it all. Missing the right wording or missing the perfect Scripture verse to share. Was there a sermon I could get them to listen to? All ministry problems and child difficulties would go away if I just could think of and implement a new rule or plan. In other words, was there something that I could do that would change their heart? At just the right time I received the most gracious and loving counsel. Someone took me by my shoulders, looked me in the eye said, "You cannot fix this."

What was I actually doing when I was trying to fix it all? I was putting myself in God's position. Clearly, I was not doing a very good job at that. If you are a parent, especially a parent of older kids, you can relate to trying to play God to your kids. The temptation is real! That same temptation exists in ministry as well. How many marriage counseling sessions have you sat in attempting to impose your will on couples so they would repent to each other and get along? I am tempted to believe I can do what only God can do.

Consider community groups. Sitting with people and week after week and the same person just does not get it. If they have a hard heart and a closed ear, what do I do? I maneuver conversation. I strategically share things on social media:“Oh, read this.” What am I doing? I'm trusting in my own power of communication and my own power of persuasion to produce the results that I want in their lives. But Scripture clearly tells us that that burden and responsibility lies on God's very capable shoulders.

Look at the psalmist. What does he do? He prays for God to open his eyes that he may behold the wonderful things from his law. In First Corinthians, Paul tells us that the person without the Holy Spirit considers the things of God foolishness. We're told in Ezekiel that God is the only one who can give a new heart, replacing our heart of stone with a heart of flesh. Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-4 "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sin. But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love for us, made us alive in Christ." God has the ability to do what I cannot do!

I Cannot Change Hearts

So, I am not God. I cannot change hearts. I think this struggle is true for you too. Pastor and author Zack Eswine says, "You were never meant to repent because you can't fix everything. You are meant to repent because you tried.” Even if we could be God for people, the fact remains that Jesus often does not have the kind of fixing in mind that you and I most want. Trusting him with people is far better!

Freedom and Rest     

So, what does this truth free me to do? This truth frees me to repent for trying to be God. He alone can save. I must cling to the truth that God is the one that changes hearts of stone to hearts of soft flesh. God is the one that opens blind eyes to see the beauty and the truth of his grace.

What does that produce in me, then? That repentance, that turning to the truth, that produces in me an ability to love people freely and generously without panic or anxiety or pressure. I am free to stop making everything about me. When my God-given limitations are exposed, it should drive me to dependence on him and trust that he is working in his timing and that produces rest. The kind of rest that is lasting. Vacations and sabbaticals can give relief but humility produces a rest that will last the long haul. That true rest will allow us, like Paul, to run with endurance the race that is set before us and trusting our Father for the results.

And that, friends, is far better than burnout.

Brannon McAllister