March 21, 2013

Bummed Out

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“Let us not become weary in well doing…”

Bummed out?  What’s that?  Let me share a story that might help define it.

tiredWithin 5 minutes, even before we had ordered lunch, I could tell. Don—to use a great definition of being bummed out—was  “weary in well-doing.” He was tired of meeting after meeting, slightly angry that so much of his time was spent with people who didn’t take his counsel anyway.  He was weary of complaints such as failing to visit a sick person in the hospital (when he didn’t even know the person was there). Sunday after Sunday he preached his heart and what did people talk about after the service? Where to have lunch, or who that woman was in church that morning with the funny hat, or whether or not corn would be “high as an elephant’s eye on the fourth of July.”  Seldom, if ever, they talked about how God had spoken to them from His Word that morning or how real the presence of God was that day.

He cared for people and yet he didn’t really.  “Frankly,” he said, “I’m bored.” He was starting to feel that he hardly made any difference any more.  He asked me for lunch to see if I knew any open pulpit to which he could apply.  Not quite burned out, though that’s next.  Don’s experience defines a pastor “bummed out”.  Call it “light burnout.”

That “weary” phrase is a word from Paul to Christians in Galatia (Gal. 6:9). If we become weary doing good or right, he counsels two steps to take:

First, remember your work will never go to waste.

The good of it may not be seen immediately but “at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  I was a pastor over 40 years.  Especially since retirement I’ve learned this:  God’s Word has the power to teach, train, rebuke and more for it is alive and active and will, I say, will accomplish its intended purpose even though we may wonder at times where the harvest is. God’s Work has in it many days when we may feel whether it’s all a waste. But then I remember the encouragement I received from many cards, or calls and conversations recalling a sermon that turned a life around, or a word at a memorial service remembered for decades, or a casual remark at a church picnic being just the word needed—all this and more has convinced me that God’s Word and Work will never be a waste.

Second, keep on doing good.  Don’t quit now.

cup of cold water“Therefore, let us do good to all people…” (Gal. 6:10). I discovered early on what I had to do as a pastor to turn bummed to blessed. I had to get off my office chair (call it get off my bum) and visit someone lonely or hospitalized or share the Gospel with someone needing Christ, or in general, do some kingdom work often undone in my bummed-out brooding. And soon self-pity was gone, hope was refreshed, God’s calling renewed.  It was not quitting I needed. As tired as I was, it was working right through my weariness and doing good.

Let me say somewhat parenthetically that I wish, almost every day, that I could go back to being an active pastor again and be able to take my own advice (really, it’s God’s advice). Despite being older and dealing constantly with Parkinson’s disease, I’ve learned now how to handle my bummed-out days.

Weary in doing good?  Bummed out? Then it’s time to remember that first, the work you have done will not be a waste.  Second, do good; don’t quit now. More in my book, Pastors at Risk.