Find balance. Protect your family time. Get rest. Take care of yourself. Make time for your marriage.

These are all things that I’ve heard or read related to families that are in full-time ministry. Urban ministry workers, and those who work in cross-cultural settings are said to be particularly susceptible to experience work related fatigue or burn-out.

Is the idea of being “burnt-out” even in the Bible? It doesn’t seem to be. Paul didn’t appear to have a balanced life with all of his “run the race” and “fight the good fight” talk. The Old Testament prophets didn’t let up. They were constantly in someone’s face.   

Working here I feel like I am in some kind of crazy do or die race. I constantly feel like there is a battle happening. Sometimes, it’s just to get through the traffic. Sometimes the stakes are much higher…life or death. Hope or fear.

Exhausted. That’s what I titled this post. That’s what I am.

I have been coming up empty at the end of every day. I am glad to be in the middle of the battle, and part of me lives for the struggle of working to grow God’s Kingdom in the city of San Salvador. I don’t want to miss any of this. But I’m just so tired.

I can’t quite put my finger on it. The pressure to balance being a mom and a wife and go grocery shopping but still feel like I’m part of the ministry? The language-switching always going on in my head? The discouragement of watching people stumble and fall under the weight of poverty and addiction? The civil war veteran and the little girl begging at my car window at the stoplight? The desperation of wanting more for the beautiful people of this country but deep down feeling like it will never, ever change? And the questions, the endless questions, for God…Why this? And that? How could you? And why won’t you?

Being a missionary has shaken my faith to the very core.  Maybe it’s the distortion of comfortable American Christianity. When we “go big” for God we expect that it all will go well. We are tricked into believing that somehow the way will always be clear and we will “get” what God is up to.  The truth I have found about following God has less to do with the great things I can accomplish for God and more to do with the difficult and painful work that He is doing in my own soul.

But yet, God still uses my slow and painful growth process to touch the lives of others. He wants me to draw close to Him in the midst of it all. The Bible mentions the need to press on, and to fight the fight. But it also tells us that Jesus Himself took time away…to rest…to be with His Father.

Soon we will be taking a trip to the States. We are truly grateful to have been given this opportunity and to be geographically close enough to make it happen. I need the perspective, the quietness, and the time away. I want to listen to what God is telling me, and I want to learn to rely on Him again even when the path ahead seems so hard and so unsure.

5 Responses to Exhausted

  1. It is so interesting that you posted this. I am struggling with feeling tired and defeated. While I am not a full time missionary, I identify with your struggle. Mike is a pastor, so I have the “job” of a pastor’s wife. I work outside the home as a lawyer. I am a mother of three. I feel torn in all directions and wonder when there is time to minister to those in need. I am also struggling with what I believe about God. Today I just asked two coworkers why they believe we are here (not why Christians are here, but in general, why did God create people, and how did it get so messed up?) I struggle with the impact I am making – no matter how much money or time that I give, there is so much more need. I keep coming back to the core truths that I believe – God is love, God will bring justice, God is good. Jesus made a sacrifice for all of us, and Jesus loves us all. I keep repeating this to myself. I think it is especially hard for those of us involved in ministry to be tired or to question. Too often, other Christians want to give “churchy” answers – or may even make us feel bad for the way we feel. I want you to know that every day your family is in El Salvador matters. You are loving people that would be forgotten. While you cannot solve all the problems of San Salvador, your presence alone speaks of the love Christ feels for the people of the country. You and your family left the most comfortable place in the world – the US, to help people that would otherwise be forgotten. So even if you do nothing today other than love your kids, pick up groceries, and speak a little Spanish, you are doing more than most Christians. Love you all.

  2. I think and pray for you and El Salvador daily.
    Hope you’ll be at Discovery while you are State-side!

  3. Thanks so much for your comment Beth! It really encouraged me to read your thoughts on this all. It’s tough to balance it all, and then somehow feel like we need to have the answers. I don’t have answers. I’m just someone who wants to follow God…but I screw it up and question stuff and whine about it a lot! I understand your struggle of no matter how much you give, it’s not enough. It will never be enough, but I just see it as I need to try to get through one day at a time and follow what God wants me to do. Most of the time, I think I’m the one He’s working on anyway! Thanks again for posting…love hearing your thoughts!

  4. Dani, I can’t wait to talk with you more about this when I see you. I’m so glad you are back home. I really hope that the time spent with your family and friends will recharge you, and help give you more perspective on your feelings. You guys are doing such difficult work. Giving so much of yourself, and feeling weak or disillusioned from it, is normal, I think. You are human! Allow yourself this time to honor your feelings. I have so much love and respect for you. I know God is going to help you work through this!

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