Does Fruitfulness = Exhaustion?
I have a confession to make: I’m tired.
I’m trying to do all the right things and volunteer in all the right places. I say “yes” when my church needs me, when friends need me, when work needs me and when my family needs me. I took stock of my heart last night and realized that I am exhausted, that all of this working isn’t making me better, it’s just wearing me out.
But, then I read what Jesus said in Luke 6:43-45: “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (NLT)
So what does the call for fruitfulness mean for my tired heart? Does God call me to exhaustion and disarray in order to be fruitful for his glory?
As I wrestle with this, I realize that I’ve taken the burden of fruitfulness on myself. I have to be the best writer, best mom, best wife, best volunteer, best worker, in order to prove my worth to myself and to God. Jesus’ words are about good fruit, pouring out of us because of the overwhelming grace of a loving God and his living presence in us. But instead of that good fruit, I’m striving for a fruit that I have to grind out, sweat forth and grit my way into, as though I can force good fruit in my life by the sheer force of my will.
Does that sound like good fruit, or surrendering to God’s grace? Not really. It sounds like me trying to earn my way into his favor and into a fruitfulness that I think I should have, not what he is leading me to.
Jesus also said this in Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT): “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “Come to me, and you’ll never have to work anymore. My couch is soft and my snack food is non-fattening.” He is clearly not calling me to simply give up on the life he’s called me to and become a couch potato in vain search of rest.
But Jesus does say that all of this work should be “light” and “easy” because he is with us.
He gives us the yoke and burden, and he walks with us as we do work that may sometimes be unpleasant or tiring. Just because a yoke is light doesn’t mean it’s a tropical vacation – after all – using that yoke is still work!
We know that the work is easier, when we let him guide it. When I trust him to be the author of my success, my relationships and my work, what I feel is a good, healthy tiredness and peace. Instead of the sapped, soul-crushing exhaustion of trying to force success in my own strength, I feel accompanied by him, and am able to do hard things because he is with me.
So, I’m tired today. Tired because I’ve told God that I can handle this on my own, and that I don’t need his light yoke. I’ve tried to earn his grace through my own determination and good works, rather than seeing my work as an outpouring of the love and grace he’s already given.
Today, as I try to rest in Jesus’ definition of fruitfulness, I will pour a cup of coffee and sit down to be honest and humble before God. He holds my successes, failures, hopes, dreams and even my tiredness in his hands.
Even when I’m tired, he gives grace, so that I may bear fruit through his strength and not mine.
Why is it important to avoid ministry burnout? Who is affected when a leader does not take the time to stay filled and balanced?
Take inventory of your spirituality, emotions and physical health. Are there any warning signs of burnout that you might be ignoring? What steps can you take today to be and remain filled so that you can persevere in the calling God has placed upon your life?