Women's Minstry Help! I’m Exhausted

Women's Minstry - What do you do when your on the verge of burnout?

by Lynda D. Elliott, Life Coach

Serving people is exhausting. I never seem to get caught up. I’m even beginning to resent the people I have been trying to help! No matter what I do, hurting people just ask for more and more. What can I do?

I think that everyone who has ever been in ministry has felt as you do right now.   When someone is in a difficult place, she will take all that you will give her. That fact does not mean that it will be beneficial for you to give more, or that it is right.

Many people who are hurting feel as helpless as a child and often they invite helpers to take over their decisions, responsibilities, and well-being. When helpers give too much, the needy person is robbed of the chance to see God take over. You can easily become “god” in someone’s life, because her trust will be in you instead of Him. This is a very common mistake helpers make, so do not feel as if you are the only one.

Even though helpers can become burdened and weary from those they “over-help,” they can also feel very needed and significant. When you over-help, the needy person becomes more and more dependent. Neither of you are relying on Christ. Both are simply trusting another human being to meet their needs. This type of relationship is co-dependent, one that is a poor imitation of a true relationship with Christ.

Many sincere helpers grew up in families where they had to take responsibility for others. There may have been an alcoholic, or mentally ill parent, or someone who was disabled in some way. When they grow up, these caregivers automatically continue to overdue it, never questioning the load they might naturally assume.

I can understand this, because when I was growing up, my mother suffered from clinical depression. I learned how to sense her moods, how to calm her and encourage her, how to predict the next crisis, and divert it. I was “on call” from a very early age.

As an adult, I gravitated to social work and very quickly became a classic co-dependent helper. Within a few years I realized something was amiss because I was exhausted. I continued to help because I thought I should, but I no longer loved. I resented people who needed me. I realized this but did not know what to do about it. I asked God to teach me how to help and love at the same time.

One day as I paged through my Bible, the Holy Spirit led me to Isaiah 53:4-5. I read the words and then felt that He wanted me to personalize them. I read, “Surely Lynda should bear her mother’s griefs—sickness, weaknesses, and distresses - and carry her mother’s sorrows and pains of punishment. Lynda believed that she must be wounded for her mother’s transgressions, bruised for her mother’s guilt and iniquities, and she believed that the chastisement needed for her mother to obtain peace and well-being was placed upon her.” That Scripture refers to Jesus on the cross.

The Word pierced my soul that day and I quickly asked forgiveness for assuming that I could carry burdens that only He could carry. I realized that He was not asking all that I thought He required. I was free! I immediately resigned from the position of codependent helper, but it took me a while to break the habit. 

As I continued to study the life of Jesus, I realized that He took our sicknesses, weaknesses, griefs, distresses, and guilt upon Himself on only one day, the day of the crucifixion. If Jesus Himself could only bear such burdens for one day of His life on this earth, why did I ever think that I could carry even one?

If you grew up as a caretaker, you may automatically carry too many burdens just as I did. I suggest that you read Isaiah 53:4-5 and ask God to release you according to His Word. 

Even when you know the truth, it is easy to find yourself overloaded again. Learn to listen to your mind and body. Learn how you experience stress. Take notice when you begin to resent the person you are trying to help. You may find yourself wanting to dodge phone calls or resist visits. When you pick up cues, back off immediately, go back to the Word, and ask to be readjusted.

If we get our responsibilities mixed up with His, the relationship will go downhill quickly because another person’s life is far too heavy for us to carry. Do what you have been led to do and do no more. Jesus, who can carry it all, will carry the rest.

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