I was interviewed by a small Christian television program several years ago, and the man started talking about burnout. He wondered what my thoughts were on how we could make our lives less busy.
“Well,” I answered, “I don’t think God intends to make our lives less busy. Really, if we’re following God, he’s going to give us more to do. The trick is to make sure our busyness is in following his agenda and not empty activities.”
This obviously annoyed the interviewer, because I wasn’t giving him the answer he wanted to hear. Our conversation ended quickly after that.
What he didn’t know was that I had just finished a writing project for my church that had required me to read 10 missionary biographies and autobiographies in less than nine weeks, so that I could write a Bible study about missions for our congregation. This allowed me to see a compressed overview of missionary life all around the globe -men and women of all different personalities doing a wide variety of tasks to advance the kingdom of God. One element they all had in common was that they were extremely busy people and accomplished an incomprehensible amount of work. Their days were full, from sunup to sundown. Their lives touched an uncountable amount of people. They went to bed tired.
As of January 1, I officially became the women’s ministry director for our church of almost 1000 people. I figure this puts about 300 women in my care, and it is a massive job. Sometimes I can’t breathe thinking about it. And this is on top of my teaching job and AWANA lessons every week and my writing life and buying groceries and folding laundry and paying bills.
A few kind friends have expressed a concern that I will get burned out.
But I remember those missionaries, and I think we need to embrace the idea that living in the fulness of joy in serving God means we are going to sweat. We are going to put in long days and use our brains and bodies and hearts to their full capacity, as a demonstration of our love for God.
Let me present two Bible truths to you. The first is Jesus’ parable of the talents. He tells of a master who goes on a journey and puts his money into the care of his servants. All but one of them invests the money and watches it grow. When the master comes back, he says to each of the responsible servants, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV) Faithfulness in serving the master results in MORE responsibility.
But we chaff against this and want life to get easier, easier, easier. Maybe this is an American desire? This life of ease. Work hard so you can retire and go on cruises and play golf and get your nails done. That sounds ridiculous after reading the parable of the talents.
Here’s another verse I just came across: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne.” (Revelation 3:21a NIV)
A throne is a place of immense responsibility. I mean, it sounds lovely, unless you’ve ever been a leader of anything and realize it’s where all of the hard, heavy work is. Authority and ruling with Christ is going to be work, even when all things are made new.
Here’s the conclusion: we are intended to move into ever-increasing responsibility and labor for the kingdom of God. God gives us the bodies and the brains to do this kind of work. If you’re trying to think of how to move toward a life of ease, you’re moving away from God’s design for your life. But remember the end of the master’s words to his servants, “Come and share in your master’s happiness.” Happiness is what we want, but we need to embrace the idea that it’s going to come after we’ve put in some long, hard hours.
Happiness in this new year means we’re going to need to soak our feet at the end of the day and maybe take a few ibuprofen.