by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC
“Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast,
immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work,
knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
— 1 Corinthians 15:58 (HCSB)
We need to make sure that when we practice self-care that we are taking care of all the multifaceted parts of who we are. Taking care of our spiritual needs only represents one-fifth of who we are. Each part is like a tank that is empty, full, or somewhere in between. As human beings, created in the image of God, we have five “tanks” that we need to keep filled: spiritual, sensory, emotional, physical, and social. We can be running low on one tank, several tanks or all tanks. Even if only one tank is low or empty, we can lose our effectiveness in the ministry. Let’s Take a moment review from Part 3 of this series, Thom Rainer’s twelve responses from 17 pastors that were asked: “What did you do to reverse the dark spiral of burnout?” The twelve responses were:
- spent more time in prayer and the Word
- dreamed again
- stopped comparing
- developed relationships with non-Christians
- moved my focus from the negative to the positive
- learned to have fun
- ended draining relationships
- expressed gratitude regularly
- spent more time doing things that energized me
- got in better physical shape
- made a commitment to have a greater servant spirit
- began to pray for my community (Rainer, 2013)
For each response, see if you can relate at least one of the five “tanks” that we need to keep filled.
Now, take a moment to do some self-evaluation. For each of the “tanks” listed below, evaluate how full your tank is right now. Then as we explore each of these tanks, I will ask you again to self-evaluate and see if you change your response.
- Spiritual Tank:
- Sensory Tank:
- Emotional Tank:
- Physical Tank:
- Social Tank:
Which of your tanks are on empty right now? Which ones are between half-full and empty. As you look at your self-evaluation, perhaps your spirit cries out to God, “Fill my cup, Lord!” Maybe you look at it and say, “Not doing too bad.” Or maybe all your tanks are full to the brim. Whether you are reading this blog series because you are in full burnout mode and ready to call it quits or because you know someone who has reached this place, this blog series will help you find the way back to full tanks so that you can then, once again, pour into others. As you continue following this series of blogs, I will first break down what self-care is. Then we will discuss the differences between stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue. As we break those down, you will learn the danger signs of stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue. We will next look at each of the five tanks individually and give you ways that you can practice self-care in each of the five areas.
I must point out that self-care is no miraculous cure-all to what ails in your ministry. It will not fix the problems or make them all disappear. It will not make all your parishioners get along. As long as Satan prowls this earth like a mighty lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), then we are on a battlefield and we need to be able to stand firm in our calling until the day of Christ’s return. Practicing continuous self-care will allow you to keep your “tanks” as full as possible so that you will be more capable of standing firm, steadfast, immovable and always excelling in your work for the Lord. It will give you the strength you need so that you don’t choose to throw in the towel and walk away from your calling.
As we close out this blog, let’s return to 2 Corinthians 4:8. Paul wrote: “We are pressured in every way…” Look up the verse in your Bible and read verses 8-9 out loud as it appears in the box below as a letter God wrote to you. Say your name in the blank and then read the verse.
This blog is part 4 in a series on Self-Care. Be sure to begin with part 1.
Return on Monday, October 1st for Part 5 in the blog series on Self-Care.
Part 5: Understanding Stress