I have nothing to give.
I remember waking up one Saturday morning a few years ago with that mantra repeating in my head. Over and over again: “I have nothing to give.” I was tired and weary. I had spent a month speaking and writing—I had overcommitted and wasn’t reading God’s Word. Well, I was actually reading God’s Word a lot, but I wasn’t reading it with the view of how I might learn more about God, instead my goal in reading was to find what I might teach about God. My relationship with the Lord had become a ministry and not a relationship. My busy schedule and “yes” to everything, wasn’t only affecting my focus on God, but also my family and health were all carrying the weight of my over-commitment. At the root of it, I realized, was that I didn’t want to disappoint others. So, I said yes a lot.
I imagine this scenario is quite common. We can find ourselves busy doing good things, many good and wonderful things, and before we know it we are flat on our faces exhausted. Maybe for you it’s serving in every ministry in your local church, bringing meals to every woman who gives birth, or picking up the phone instead of paying attention to that deadline. The Lord graciously used my Bible study with him to show me that I had my priorities mixed up and forgot to nurture my own love for Jesus. My Bible reading had become a task to do for others. But in doing that He also revealed my fear of what others would think if I simply said no. I saw how my over-commitment was affecting everything.
Now that I’ve had a few years to learn and evaluate, I’ve put in some safeguards to help me. I’m still busy, like everyone else, but I’ve learned that in order for me to prioritize more effectively, it’s okay to disappoint others to the glory of God. You and I can make decisions that will help us serve others, namely our families and churches, more effectively when we say no, even to good things.
I don’t do any of these things perfectly and neither will you. I will make a mistake and have a week where I extended myself too much and relied on my own wisdom and strength rather than the Lords. When we do we must remind ourselves that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We evaluate our time and schedule or our pursuit of God because we think we must in order to approach him—as if our pursuit earns his favor. It does not. We pursue God and the glory of God in all we do because our goal and hope is to know Him and glorify Him.
Are you growing weary as you serve others? Here are a few things you can do to not only nourish and protect your relationship with the Lord but to receive refreshment as well.
1. Read God’s Word with new lenses.
Remember I shared that I was in God’s Word but was only reading with the view of teaching others? I’ve put on new lenses so to speak. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to prepare to speak or write and not also learn. You can’t really teach what you don’t know. So, when I read I’m thinking about who God is for my own benefit as well.
2. Say “No.”
I know that’s obvious but sometimes the most obvious things for you and I to do are the hardest to actually do. Remember it is okay and sometimes the best to disappoint others to the glory of God. They will be okay. You and I are human and weak and limited. Often when I’ve said no to an opportunity the receiver of that no has had only grace for me. But even if it were to be upsetting, you and I can rest in knowing that God is glorified in us when we walk in faith and trust Him as we make decisions.
3. Say “Yes.”
The wonderful thing about saying no is that it can free us to say yes to other things. Our time is limited, and part of redeeming the time is being able to discern what is the best use of that time (Eph 5:16). Use your time wisely.
4. Ask for Help.
I am grateful to have people in my life that I can run opportunities by. I’m not always great at discerning what to say yes and no to but my husband and kids are great at it. And my pastor can assist me thinking through ministry opportunities. And my boss helps me. And so on and so forth. Enlist trusted people to help you.
Prayer is one of the most intimate aspects, I think, of our relationship with God. Hebrews 4:15-16 drives me to want to pray: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (ESV). Jesus empathizes with our temptations and weakness and calls us to come to his throne of grace. What an amazing invitation. We can draw near with confidence—not timidly. Now think of whom we are drawing near to—God! The holy, majestic, awesome God! Jesus makes it possible for us to approach God in prayer and to speak with our heavenly father. Even if it’s difficult, I want to do it. Ask Him for wisdom and discernment.
This might seem like a dirty word. But it’s a four-letter word worth saying, doing, and pursuing in ministry and all of life. Only God is capable of not resting and even he did (Gen 2:2; Isa. 40:28). But we aren’t capable of not resting, we must put down our labors or we will burn out. Resting is truly an act of trusting the Lord. We keep moving, working, and going often because we have given into the lie that if we stop, we might fail. It’s up to us to get everything accomplished. Wait…what about the sovereign God? Even youth grow tired but as we wait on the Lord, he will renew our strength (Isa. 40:30).
These six safeguards don’t exhaust the possibilities we have but perhaps they can provide a new start for you. Don’t feel like you must run on empty. Ask the Lord to refresh you not only so you might serve, but also because he is your father and delights to give you good gifts—no greater gift than himself.