A few months ago, Zach and I joined a gym here in Clayton. I’ve been trying to develop a routine of going to try out a group class or at least spend half an hour on the treadmill to keep working toward my fitness and health goals in this time of transition. I even tried a spin class (once) and managed to keep my legs moving the whole time while the German instructor continuously yelled at me to “Hydrate!”
When I walked out of that hour-long stationary bike workout, I was feeling pretty great about myself. Then I tried to go down the stairs leading to the parking lot. If anyone was watching, they may have thought I was doing my best new-born deer impression. Thankfully I managed to remain mostly upright and got to the car before my legs decided they were completely done for the day.
A few weeks ago I also added another rewarding but at times draining activity to my weekly schedule. I started my first leg of the internship I need to finish up my Master’s degree in mental health counseling. This means four days of counseling at two different placements every week for sixteen weeks. Both placements see mostly children and adolescents which is not necessarily the demographic I’ve ever envisioned myself counseling. This definitely presents a learning curve for me, and some days leave me feeling like I’ve left another intense cardio session at the gym when I walk out of the doors of the practice. Beginning my journey in this field requires a similar building of psycho-emotional “muscle mass” as starting a weight loss journey or setting new fitness goals.
This internship experience isn’t my first encounter with the heaviness that comes with helping another person carry the load they seem to be buckling under. You don’t have to be a therapist to feel the strain of bearing one another’s burdens. Just have a commitment to ministering to others, and you’ll quickly feel this heaviness yourself. Sometimes, this “non-profession” load bearing is even more difficult for me, because there’s no 50-minute session limit when the weights we lift are those of family members or friends, not to mention the burdens that we claim as our own.
Life leaves us feeling wobbly-legged and weak sometimes.
What do we do when ministering to the needs of those around us (or taking care of our own needs) amidst the craziness of life leaves us feeling wiped out? How can we respond when the next bend in our path is stressful or painful or just hard?
- Remember grace.
We are not meant to perfectly carry everything for everyone all the time. It’s okay to have burdens and it’s okay to need help with them. It’s alright to look at someone after they’ve poured out their soul and say, “I wish I had the perfect response but I don’t know what to say to make it better.” We aren’t supposed to be experts at every situation life throws at us or our loved ones, and it’s okay to admit that to ourselves and others. It’s also okay to take a bubble bath and go to bed at 8:30 after a long day. At least I sure hope it is. Which brings me to my next point.
- Remember rest.
In the best non-fiction book I’ve read this year, Shonna and David Murray connect our understanding of the power and sovereignty of God with our ability to rest. Our bodies were not meant to “burn the midnight oil” for days, weeks, and months at a time, and we need to get the rest we need in order to function properly. When life gets hard it can be easy to skip sleep to get more accomplished or even to spend time caring for others. But we have to take time to rest and get away from our burdens, if only for a night, if we want our burden-bearing to be a sustainable activity that we can continue to engage in for years to come. This concept goes beyond simple self-care or healthy living; it is trusting God to keep things going while we’re asleep or at rest, and recognizing that we aren’t the only burden bearers out there.
- Remember you don’t have to do this alone.
Sometimes we buy into the (false) idea that if we don’t help someone with a problem, no one else will. And sometimes we convince ourselves that admitting to others our own need for help, whether with our problems or in carrying the loads of others, is a sign of weakness or poor faith. But God gave us the Church because He recognized we are intrinsically social beings and we need one another to carry each other along through difficult legs of the journey.
When your legs begin to wobble and your gate becomes unsteady, find people in your local body of believers to help carry out in your life and the lives of those around you the command God gives His people in one of my favorite passages of Scripture:
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.Isaiah 35:3-4b
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!
Behold your God will come…