SERVING - TINY SHIFT No.4
Updated: Mar 1
In the not too distant past, my schedule was full of all the things.
Making dinners for friends who had surgery/babies
Hosting baby showers, playdates, and small group
Leadership position in women's ministry
Mom's prayer group and school volunteer
Watching friends kids whenever needed
All good deeds that I truly enjoyed, until it all became too much. How did I get here?
I was at a point in life where some circumstances were out of my control. I was pleading with God to take away the stress and worry they caused. In waiting on him to answer, my stress and worry remained.
I was desperate to find some relief.
I sought advice through sermons based on 'Waiting on the Lord'. It acknowledged how hard waiting on God's answers and gave suggestions on what to do while in limbo.
Most sermons advised turning your focus outward instead of inward, explaining how inward focus causes stress and worry. The way to alleviate those were to look outside of yourself. The best way to look outside yourself was to help others.
Taking the advice I dove in head first, filling up my schedule. I was working hard for the Lord, and a little part of me thought maybe after doing these good deeds my worries would disappear.
That is not what happened.
Filling my schedule while keeping up my current obligations led to exhaustion most evenings. Exhausted, I would still wake around 3:00 AM to thoughts of worry. Worry about the future, the past, or even a small conversation that happened a day before.
The advice to focus on helping others did not relieve me, and it did not speed up God's timing. It just led to burnout, which seems to be where God humbles me the most.
Tiny Shift #4
Focusing outward by serving others also served myself. From the outside it looked like I was following the Christian way, to love our neighbor as ourselves. But I enjoyed taking on tasks where I had 100% control while I waited on God to take away the circumstances that were out of my control.
After my burnout I was faced with a decision. I could rest and go back to normal life, still helping others but with boundaries put on my time and energy. Or I could ask God to change my heart and reveal what I was missing.
The former option was much more appealing, but also closely aligned with how the world would approach the problem. My heart was pulling me towards God. With fearful anticipation, I took a deep breath and prayed for God to change my heart. Good thing he is always listening, because it was a fast prayer muttered under my breath before I fell asleep.
This prayer was frightening because, for the first time, I was asking God to change me not my circumstances. It is much easier to ask God to change something outside of myself - that didn't require humility or change on my end.
The next day during my time with God I was struck by the first commandment "You shall have no other God before me". Was I fully focused on God throughout my entire day, did I seek him first before making daily decisions? Short answer, No.
So I shifted my focus from outward (helping others) to heavenly. Daily I prayed "God you are my first focus." Gradually, God changed my heart. Two big changes grew out of this shift.
First, I was no longer waking at 3 in the morning to worry or stress. I felt a deep peace within me. This was the result of my focus being first and foremost on God, and acting on a previous tiny shift :Giving worries over to him in prayer.
Second, I was no longer saying yes to every request for help. Daily, I prayed "God bring me to the people/places you want me to help". This prayer reminded me to check in with God before answering any request. Helping became a time to be fully present and enjoy the opportunity, it was no longer a distraction from my worry while I waited on the Lord.
God directed opportunities to help are a million times more enjoyable compared to my decisions to help, that led to burnout and persistent worry. I pray this helps put your focus solely on God and let him lead all your actions. If you are in a season of waiting on the Lord, try this shift before you take actions into your own hands, like I did. Learn from my mistakes!
Before, I was putting my focus on helping others which caused burn out, an unintended consequence of my actions. After, my focus is now on God and my actions are led by him.
Do you currently view helping others as a distraction from your own worries?
Evaluate your current schedule. Pray over all your activities and ask God to reveal areas that could change.
Ask for the courage to act on what he is calling you to do.
Start every day with a short prayer "God you are my first priority, my sole focus today. Bring the opportunities where you want me to help today."
Take note how you feel after a few days of praying this. Do you feel change, do you feel a greater sense of peace?
Following what God calls us to do is an act of humility. If we are looking to God every minute of our day we create a greater capacity for God to work within us. He changes our hearts to align with his, in turn our actions become a work of the Holy Spirit through us! It is so amazing, and so freeing - I highly suggest it!