I was hoping to get to sleep in this morning, because I have been under a pretty heavy load the last week. However, I can’t sleep, which usually means I go to my Bible or God has something for me to write. Today, I write.
The last couple of days have been what I call “Dark Days”. It is a time when I have been giving too much, and my tank is now empty. Usually what happens next is that my eyes go from Jesus, to my circumstances and then right on to ME. The path from there can go to self-pity, discouragement or other self-destructive behaviors, but always ends up with me being mad.
So you might wonder why I am talking about this… I promised myself, when I felt led to start this blog and God led me to call it “The Mud Puddle”, that I would choose to share it all. I would put myself out there for all to see because I want to see the “Mud Puddles” of life become a little clearer. One of the only ways I believe that can happen is when we choose to become real with those around us.
This particular trip down self-destructive lane was caused by a concert, or at least that was the final thing. I have wanted to go to a concert in Salem for my birthday now for months. I have planned it out in my head how much fun it is going to be, and how much the kids will enjoy it. There is an air of spring and of course the weather is just perfect in my dream plan.
However, back to reality… Since last week the battle to even to get to go has been raging. It is work, it is finances and it is now other people in town and trying to make everyone happy.
While all of this is going on, a bunch of other hurtful things have happened. As usual I am stuffing every one and acting like it is all “fine” until the proverbial final straw breaks. Now the shut-down begins and I don’t even want to go to the concert. Next thing I know I am drowning in self-pity and having a hard time holding it all together to even function.
Yesterday I called my best friend and he talked me through what is going on and things lifted. I feel pretty normal again and I believe I am moving back into the daylight. All of this led to the question for me of why did that one phone call change something that I had been battling for 2 days?
The answer is simple. It was Bob’s love for me that chased away the darkness. It filled my love tank back up enough, to get off of empty.
I heard it recently called “Compassion Burn-out”, and I have it. At its core, it is that you give too much without enough coming in, and so your tank is always on empty. For me that leads to pushing everyone else away when my tank gets to empty, because I feel like I have nothing else to give.
The good news is that I am on the recovery side of “Compassion Burn-out”, so it happens less frequently and for much shorter periods of time.
Here is how I got to this point—I gave everything that I am for people, and got little to nothing in return for so long, that I depleted everything that I am. I really don’t know how else to explain it. I think it may have been what Jesus experienced when He got frustrated with people.
Mark 9:19New Living Translation (NLT)
19 Jesus said to them,[a] “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
This sums up how I feel when “Compassion Burn-out” hits.
I used to think that it was a sin or something, for me to have these feelings. It for sure was a disappointment to Jesus because of my lack of faith. However, I have realized now that what I really believe is that Jesus is not upset with those who give too much and leave it all on the table, but instead is sad at how many people don’t give anything.
We have become a society where Christianity is about going to a place and giving some money there. Having a fish on our car and giving the poor homeless man some change with our window down an inch so we don’t have to really get involved.
Our ministry has been trying to do things for Jesus for 5 ½ years now. We finally had to give up.
Yep, we have become one more group that had to throw in the towel due to lack of involvement. We had great Youth groups, but one of the adults would do something to blow it up. We have helped people with furniture, meet basic needs, counsel them and really try to join them in their “Mud Puddle”. But we finally had to stop because my wife and I can’t both work, take care of kids and do full-time ministry. So we do what we can, when we can and that is life for now.
I was upset about it for a while, but now I am actually relieved. It has been so freeing to be able to say “no”, I can’t help right now. Or you faithless people what do you want from me now?—as Jesus put it.
The real problem is that statistics say I am in the norm now of ministry. Burned out, tired, discouraged and ready to exit, so how do we change that?
I would like to submit that it requires going back to the beginning of the story of the Church.
It requires really looking into what has made the Church strong at different times in History, and what has been the common place when it is not.
So here is the answer that I come to. They loved each other… John 13:34-35New Living Translation (NLT)
34” So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Compassion Burn-out is when there is way more love going out than coming in. That is what has led me here along with I believe many others. They tried to help others and like us got mostly beat up, ridiculed, lied about, shunned, and any other unloving thing that can happen.
The church that was supposed to love and support its members that are all serving, became a place that was no longer safe to be a part of. Because, it takes more of me to go, then I can give.
Now this is not always the case and I am so thankful for loving churches that are living out Jesus new commandment. But, I have not seen many.
We have friends in Colorado that have one. We experienced it at both churches we visited in the Philippines and I recently experienced it with a group from Sisters, Oregon. People who live out the core of what the New Testament Church was supposed to be doing, loving their neighbors.
I could go down the list of all the “bad” things that people have done to us, but I have learned that is part of Christianity. The answer is really about finding a place where there is love flowing, so that I can tap into it in a tangible way and get my tank filled up. It is about finding a body of believers that is so in love with Jesus that they overflow into each other, and their tanks are all full. That is what the Church was all about.
I have been beaten over the head with Hebrews 10:23-25New Living Translation (NLT)
23” Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Because we have become another one of the many who have left organized church we get beat with not “fellowshipping”. However, the people forget that Paul gave us reasons why we shouldn’t stop and they are the things that the early Church was known for. They were known for being of One mind. (Acts 4:32) They cared so much about each other than they lived as One. (Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37) They lived out Jesus new command and because of that the promise of John 14:34-35 was realized also.
Acts 2:47New Living Translation (NLT)
47” all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”
So when people want to talk about Compassion Burn-out, ministry Burn-out, life Burn-out I think we should consider that it is not necessary. It is for sure not the Lords plan and it is not the way of the Church.
So again let’s start the discussion. The stats are saying that burn-out is common in today’s church. I know it is common today for me.
I want healed, and just like yesterday the only way I have found that it can happen, is when someone pours some love in my tank. But if we, as a Church, continue to deprive people of the love of Jesus, if we continue to choose to walk by those in “The Mud Puddle” without recognizing them, or worse yet throwing some scriptures at them and telling them to pull their boots up. If we don’t allow ourselves to become a free-flowing conduit of love to each other, and then to the world around us—well I am afraid that the world will look very much the same tomorrow as it did yesterday for me.
It will be dark and heavy and lonely.
I so desire to find health and wholeness in a body of believers who are striving for one thing. Jesus! When I have experienced that… Jesus takes care of all the rest. It is what He is best at, repairing the broken things of this fallen world and making them into new creations. Not perfect in the world’s eyes but perfect in His, which is all that really matters.
Bob Hiebert says
Compassion fatigue is a big problem not only in ministerial positions, but healthcare as well. I heard someone talking about this a couple months ago. The key seems to be repeated encounters with helping where it didn’t help. The helplessness leads to Secondary Traumatic Stress.
you may find this site helpful. http://www.compassionfatigue.org/index.html