When The Called Feel Burned Out
I was 12 years old when I first remember “feeling” the call of God on my life.
It didn’t come with fireworks or some ancient voice whispering to me while I slept, but it felt and continued to feel like a stretching in my soul -- like God was widening my heart for a calling that was bigger than I could imagine.
Over the years I’ve talked with a lot of young adults who share this deep sense of calling on their lives, but I think somewhere along the way we assume that this means we will become famous or publically recognized for our gifts and calling. And so we start our education, jobs, ministries, books and blogs just waiting for our big break. We serve God with everything we have in hopes that one day it will finally be recognized, and we will feel the validation of our great calling.
But fast forward 18 or 20 years, and I sit across from a lot of exhausted, burned out, frustrated Christians. The big break never came. No one read the blogs. No one signed up for the workshop. The ministry is out of money. There are too many needs, and no one will volunteer or give. Marriage and ministry begin to feel like enemies. The kids get buried in the tax-forms and pre-orders and donor thank-yous. The busyness of work and calling can’t seem to soothe the ache of singleness.
And somehow in the middle of all this rush, we silently question this “calling” of God on our lives. It doesn’t look like what we’d hoped. It doesn’t feel like we’re doing the right thing.
Could it be that even the dearest friends of Jesus felt this way too?
I’m reminded of this scene in Luke 10:38-42:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (ESV)
It’s plain to the reader that Martha is missing the main Person, but what reader doesn’t deeply feel for her struggle at the same time? Martha is busy SERVING. Any of us who feel the calling of God on our lives know that obedience requires a lot of work, a lot of late nights, a lot of early mornings, a lot of pouring out everything we have, a lot of preparation and planning. Martha takes on the responsibility of welcoming the Savior into her home and she is busy working to meet the needs around her, but the Bible quickly tells us that she is DISTRACTED.
What did she miss?
The point. The Person.
Yes, it’s obvious from the text but it’s not so obvious in our lives sometimes, amen?
Perhaps we forget what “calling” actually means. According to Jesus, it’s much simpler than we assume: we are called to make disciples and love our neighbors. And although simple, it will demand a lot from us. But Jesus wants to make it clear that we cannot make disciples and love our neighbors well until we love Him the most.
Mary has chosen the ONE THING necessary: she is as close as she can get to Him. She is hanging on His every word. She is sitting in His presence. She is giving Him all her attention.
She doesn’t view Him as a means to an end. He is her beginning and her end. He is everything.
Her example challenges me. I feel like there have been seasons in ministry that I have “used” God as a way to get what I wanted most, whether that be recognition, praise, fame, or fortune. Whenever this happens, my ministry becomes a lot less fruitful and my heart becomes a lot more discontent. The “good works” start distracting me from my Savior and ministry becomes the idol.
One of the easiest ways to tell if my heart is idolizing “ministry” is to check my perspective on God Himself. Like Martha, my prayers can become demanding and demeaning, “Lord, do you not care?! Why have you left me to serve alone?!”
It doesn’t matter what it is that God is calling me to -- public ministry, marriage, motherhood, friendship, discipleship -- if I become frustrated by God’s “absence” in my work, it’s probably because I wandered away from Him through my anxiety and troubled heart, not the other way around.
Feeling rushed or upset over situations always tells me that I’m functioning like He’s not there.
And that’s when I know that I’m missing the point.
In a world that feels so entirely complicated, I’m so thankful for a Savior who made it simple. It’s not seventeen things that are necessary, it’s just one. And for people who are called by God, that’s what we need to remember. All fruitful work begins and ends with worship. If we sit and stare at Him long enough, we will realize the power He offers to those who rest in Him.
And if you’re like me and realize that things have gotten a little out of balance, guess what?
He welcomes you -- the weary and heavy-laden -- and offers to carry the burden as long as you stay yoked next to Him.
Perhaps it’s time to go back and listen, time to go back and sit (not serve). Perhaps it’s time to remember that He is not our staircase to fame, He is our door to salvation.
Kaysie Strickland is passionate about words + actions proclaiming the reckless restoration available in the gospel. She is married to her best friend on earth, adores her son Charlie, drinks lots of coffee + tea, constantly rearranges the furniture in her house, loves gardening and DIY projects, and enjoys serving women through the ministry of Homes & Havens. You can find her on Instagram | Facebook| Twitter | Blog