Friday, 18 June 2021
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How to avoid burning out while doing prolife work—and what to do if it happens Henrique Jacob/Unsplash

How to avoid burning out while doing prolife work—and what to do if it happens

A few blocks before he reached the church that was his destination, the man sank down onto the sidewalk and began to weep uncontrollably.

Had some horrific tragedy befallen him? Was he an unbeliever desperate for God? Had he heard some awful news that crushed him?

Not exactly.

The man was a well-known pastor who was scheduled to be the main speaker for a conference about to take place in the church that he now couldn’t quite reach.

He sat on that sidewalk, unable to take one more step toward ministry. 

Why? 

He was burned out, leading on empty

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Ministry burnout doesn’t just happen to pastors; it can happen to those of us who give ourselves to the life-affirming mission, too.

As with any kind of burnout, steps can be taken to prevent it.

Paul exhorts us in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

How do we keep from becoming weary or giving up?

First, take a big step back and examine your motivation for pro-life work.

Maybe you got into this ministry because you faced your own unplanned pregnancy. Maybe you wanted a justice/mercy ministry outside the four walls of your church.

Maybe you simply adore babies.

We may be drawn toward life-saving ministry for various reasons, but to sustain our passion, we need to establish a rock-solid “why” as the foundation for what we do.

Let’s ask why five times to drill down to that bedrock.

1. Why do we do prolife work? To help moms and dads choose life for their babies.

2. Why do we want them to choose life? Because God forbids abortion.

3. Why does God forbid abortion? Because it takes innocent human lives.

4. Why does he command us not to take innocent human lives? Because humans have special value in his eyes.

5. Finally, why do humans have special value in his eyes? Because we alone, of all his creatures, bear His image.

God loves and values every single image-bearer He creates, regardless of the circumstances of their conception.

In the days of ancient Israel, when God’s people strayed from him and followed the ways of their pagan neighbors, they would sacrifice their children to idols by burning them to death.

The enraged, grief-stricken response of God the Father was this:

“And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.”—Ezekiel 16:20-21

Whose children? God’s children!

Today’s version of child sacrifice is abortion.

 As I put it in Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion“Circumstances are weighed against personhood, and personhood loses.”

Since God knows and loves every image-bearer long before they are born, He feels the same way about today’s child sacrifice as he did about the fires of Israel’s idolatrous past (Jer. 1:5; Psalm 138:13-16).

At the end of the day, we do pro-life ministry for the sake of our heavenly Father. We work to save His beloved image-bearers because they matter so much to Him.

Tweet This: We do pro-life ministry for the sake of our heavenly Father. We work to save His beloved image-bearers because they matter so much to Him.

But here’s the trick with all of this: we must stay rooted and grounded in the love of God lest we risk having our motives devolve into simply fighting for a good cause.

If we pour effort into the life-affirming mission mainly because abortion is wrong and our cause is right, we may drift into self-righteousness religiosity—something Jesus regularly condemned. 

We may end up thinking of abortion advocates as enemies to fight rather than people to love. 

We may fall into the same error as James and John did when they asked Jesus to rain down fire from heaven onto the Samaritans (Luke 9:52-55).

We can become “sons of thunder” instead of examples of the love of Christ.

Watch out for grouping people into “us” and “them” categories. Be careful not to think of yourself as better than “those people”—abortion advocates, folks in poverty, people of other religions, and so on.

Ironically, as soon as we distance ourselves from certain people groups by categorizing, we contradict the very principle upon which the Sanctity of Human Life rests—the truth of imago Dei, that every human being bears the image of God. 

Besides leading to hypocrisy, the other problem with allowing our motive to devolve into fighting for a cause is that it can cause burnout.

After all, fighting is exhausting.

Here’s the truth: you cannot possibly do this work in your own strength. There’s no way. 

You must lean into God constantly for His strength. You must receive and experience His love for you regularly. 

It’s not a matter of trying harder. 

To be effective in this work, to do it for the right reasons, to keep from burning out, you must do it for the sake of the Lord and in the power that comes from His love.

Tweet This: To be effective in this work you must do it for the sake of the Lord and in the power that comes from His love.

Maybe your motive has been a little mixed. Maybe you’ve drifted away from a rock-solid “why.” 

Maybe this work has become less about love and more about fighting.

If you’re weary and you feel like giving up, God has a promise for you:

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” –Isaiah 40:29-31

Are you exhausted and discouraged? 

Take a listen to “Wait on You."

Then wait for the Lord. Let His love renew you.

He is your “why,” and He is your strength.

Susanne Maynes

Susanne Maynes is an author, speaker, and biblical counselor who served at a pregnancy help center for ten years. She blogs about church & culture and spiritual growth at SusanneMaynes.comHer educational devotional, Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion: 40 Reflections on Rescuing the Unborn, uplifts and strengthens the pregnancy help community. Susanne is currently pursuing a Master of Theological Studies degree at Regent University.

Website: www.susannemaynes.com

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