Editor's Note: We are a non-religious magazine. However, we acknowledge that spirituality is an important part for some. Our Faith column is a place for anyone to discuss how faith positively affects their mental health and how to improve the conversation around mental health within faith communities.
Of the many things we can idolize, the most dangerous are those that masquerade as religious discipline. We start out with a fervour to serve God, but with time we begin to use our religious practices to glorify ourselves instead of God, often without even realizing it.
As western culture has begun to praise constant busyness, the “workaholic” idol has infiltrated the Christian subculture, leading many Christians to view over-commitment and a denial of their needs as selflessness.
In reality, pushing ourselves past our limits is not selflessness; it is idolizing control.
It is a way of avoiding the need to trust Jesus’ death is really, truly enough to affirm our value and forgiveness. It is our way, consciously or not, of trying to prove our worthiness and righteousness.
It is our way of trying to control our standing before God, of telling Him we are so important to His work that we are exempt from the need to follow his example of rest, renewal, and Sabbath.
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In the end, we often find ourselves wondering what is “light” about Jesus’ burden, and what is easy about his “yoke” as we face burnout and overwhelming guilt about our desire to just take some time for ourselves.
When we have a susceptibility to depression or another mental illness, it is particularly dangerous for us to fill up our lives with “service.”
By always taking on every available opportunity to volunteer, counsel someone for hours, etc., we put ourselves at risk of failing to recover or of relapsing. In addition, we are setting ourselves up for burnout.
Too often, we sacrifice mental health, never taking the time to invest in our own spiritual, emotional, and physical selves.
Despite what we may believe about our own strength, we do nothing on our own power and if we have let our service encroach on our time to connect with the Source of true strength, we become ineffective laborers instead of world-changing servants.
The wonderful truth of the gospel is our all-knowing God is eager to draw us back into a life of true selflessness, a life in which we follow Jesus’ example and recognize our need to be good stewards of our spiritual, emotional, and physical health.
When we begin to live to bring Him glory, the pressure to “prove” our righteousness fades away and we can once again see the godliness of a day spent relaxing alone with God, even when there are fourteen opportunities to serve at your church that day. We can once again see the wisdom of deciding not to volunteer in our church’s children’s ministry when we will need extra time to rest and focus on our recovery.
We can once again refuse to feel guilty for investing in ourselves, our families, and our personal relationship with God.
It will be hard at first. It is never easy to let go of control and trust Jesus to be enough. It is never easy to go against the cultural grain and face judgment from those who have confused over-commitment with faithfulness. But what if it is this step of bravery, this practical living out of God’s command to “Be still and know that I am God,” that is actually what God is calling us to?
What if He is calling us to start setting an example of returning to a life of true faith, of balance, and of good stewardship?
I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with service and ministry, but I urge you to take a look at your commitments and think deeply about why you said “yes” and whether you are truly bringing glory to God through what you do.
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