“That’s the strangest thing about this life, about being in the ministry. People change the subject when they see you coming. And then sometimes those very same people come into your study and tell you the most remarkable things.” Giliad: The Novel by Marilynne Robinson
I loved this quote from this fiction book because it is so, absolutely true. I often say that you have no idea what someone is going to come up to you and say on a Sunday morning. They may want to complain about something, large or small, valid or random. They may want to offer a unique donated item to the ministry. They may have an exciting story to share. Or sometimes they may tell you about how their entire world has turned upside down. They may share a dark, soul-bearing secret. You truly just never know.
And the challenge in that, at least for how my heart is wired, is that it can become ALOT. There are seasons when the people needs can be overwhelming. I may not necessarily be a fixer, but I’m definitely a “want-to-make-it-better”-er. I find myself carrying the weight of these needs. I take on the responsibility of so many of them.
Perhaps your heart is wired that way as well.
In the book Leading on Empty, Wayne Cordeiro says, “Learning the difference between a concern and a responsibility may save your ministry, your family, and your sanity.”
If I take on the weight of even half of the hurts and needs that I encounter in just one week, I greatly decrease the effectiveness of my ministry. My energy becomes absorbed by worry, stress, and angst that is fruitless, because the reality is there is little I can do in many of these situations. They are concerns, not my personal responsibilities.
Interestingly enough, I had encountered language similar to this idea a couple years ago while reading books about identifying and working through traits of co-dependency. How interesting that perhaps in ministry we can become co-dependent on trying to be the superhero of all the problems that come along our paths.
What types of things are concerns that we might take on as our personal responsibility?
- The family whose issues are beyond help you can provide or the family who isn’t ready to accept help.
- The crisis that someone else is experiencing.
- The friend, family member, church member, etc… who makes choices that you disagree with.
- Others’ opinions of us
- Your child who forgot his homework… for the fifth time.
- Events – personal, social, or national – that are completely out of your control.
- The co-worker who stresses you out.
Does this mean we never take anything on or try to help? Of course not. There are times that God puts situations in our path and desires us to get messy. There are causes that God may call us to take on and be all in. But I’m speaking to those of you who, like me, take it ALL on.
What do we do to exercise concern over feeling personal responsibility?
Cordeiro says, “So what in the world do we do with something that concerns us? We intercede. We supplicate. We bring it before God in prayer and lay it at His feet – and we may do this a dozen times a day. Then the Lord says, ‘I’ll take it from here.'”
We pray about it and then emotionally step back from it.
We take seriously the words of Philippians 4:6-7 which say, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus takes every problem on. He is the only one who can fix any of it anyway. As we serve, let us do so by quickly taking concerns to Jesus, acting on those things that are ours to act upon, and leaving the rest in His hands.