- Bad Theology
- Misplaced Priorities, Identity, Value, and Worth
- Unrealistic Expectations
- Poor Work and Personal Boundaries
- Inadequate Self-Care
In many cases bad theology is, in part, responsible for high levels of burnout and attrition in the ministry. As we discussed earlier in Theology of Self-Care, many Christians have gotten the message that to deny oneself means to live in denial of one’s humanity. Somewhere along the line we got the message that serving whole heartedly means neglecting the needs God has created our bodies with as well as the command to regularly practice sabbath rest.
If we’re not careful we can get caught up in a works-based mindset where we earn approval from God by sacrificing our bodies (and often our families) on the altar of ministry. This theology leads us to a “never say no”, give 100% of our energy to the ministry (even if that means stealing from our families to do so), it’s up to me to save the world mindset that is unsustainable.
While you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, God does not empower us to do what He is not calling us to do…that’s why you can’t leap from a tall building, sprout wings, and fly.
Jesus told many people “No” and was a big disappointment to even his closest friends expectations. God is not calling you to do everything. You get no extra credit for doing what he hasn’t asked you to do. In fact, if you misappropriate time and energy to things that are not God’s priority for you, no matter how good they are, it’s a failure in stewardship.
Sometimes, the most Godly thing to do in a situation is say “No” to a great ministry opportunity, in order to use that time for self-care (see Jesus – Mk 1:35, Luke 5:16, Matt 14:22-23).
Misplaced Priorities, Identity, Value, and Worth
Sometimes our priorities are in the ditch of secular hedonism/idolatry where our focus is on our wants, wishes, and what we believe will make us happy. However, there is another ditch on the other side of the straight and narrow. In this ditch, often due to bad theology, we try to seek approval from God by being out of balance. Instead of realizing God has multiple priorities for our life (our spouse, our kids, self-care, enjoying creation, engaging ministry) we get over focused on any one of His priorities for us, to the neglect of the others.
Sometimes this is motivated from wounds in our heart involving our sense of identity, value, and worth. We feel the only way to have significance or be worthy is to work without ceasing. We can never do enough, and we feel guilty if we aren’t working. We need to achieve or to please others. This need to earn our worth or the approval and acceptance of others drives us to an unhealthy, out of balance life. Our fear of disappointing others or failure causes us to say “Yes” when we should say “No”.
For some the answer to “How much should I give?” is always MORE. Nothing is ever good enough and we live with a constant feeling of guilt, that we aren’t doing enough. Especially in western culture we can buy into the myth of 110%. We talk about giving this or that 110%!
The truth is, we can’t even give anything 100%. Further, God isn’t asking us to give 100% of our time, energy, or attention to any one thing. If we did, we would be neglecting many other things that are important to God.
To some this may sound like sacrilege, but you can’t even do “your very best” at anything. For any area of your life, if you devoted 16 hours of everyday (allowing 8 hours for sleep), 7 days a week, 365 days a year you would do it better. That’s not possible! The question isn’t, what is your “very best”, the real question is “How much time, energy, effort would the Lord have me give to this?” The question is – What is “good enough”? If it’s “good enough” for the King – then believe me, it is indeed Good Enough. Even if you know it could be done better or it’s not good enough for others.
It is your King’s expectations that matter. So long as He is pleased with your stewardship of time and energy, that needs to be good enough for you. It is to Him alone that you will give account for your life.
This means you must daily be talking with the King about His priorities for your time. If you feel like the King is an unrelenting task master, there’s a real good chance that has more to do with wounds from some experiences in your life than Jesus.
Poor Work and Personal Boundaries
Boundaries, simply put, are how we use our “YES” and “NO” to manage our life. For reasons discussed above, many of us struggle to know when we should say YES and how to say NO. As a result, we commit ourselves to more than we should, and we allow others control our lives.
This doesn’t feel good and leads to resentment, but we find it easier than disappointing or upsetting others. We would rather avoid the conflict and neurotic guilt (false feelings of guilt when we haven’t violated God’s heart) than assert healthy boundaries.
The buck stops with you when it comes to self-care. When you were a child it was your parent’s responsibility to take care of you. As an adult, that responsibility rest squarely on your shoulders. God has given you the job of caring for the most precious resource/asset you have – your body.
Without it you cannot complete the good works God has prepared in advance for you, nor use it to bring glory to and revelation of your God or serve others as His body. You also cannot enjoy the abundant life He has created you for, experiencing all the good gifts and blessings he intends for you.
You cannot give what you do not have. You cannot lead others where you yourself have not gone. If you do not take good care of yourself, how then do you love others “in the same way” you do yourself and have that be a blessing to them? The only way to live life to the fullest, as God intends for you, is to be diligent about spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual self-care.