“I can plod,” said William Carey, the father of modern missions. “That is my only genius. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
An apt description, isn’t it? I understand William Carey’s quote. Perseverance allows us to plod along as we “press on to the goal in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14). But the perseverance in character that many global workers possess can have a downside. Plodding without rest and renewal can lead to burnout. I was reminded of this during a recent training event on debriefing for global workers. Two of our youngest, hardest working members scored way too high on a burnout assessment. It is one of the main reasons global workers return from the field.
Isaiah’s words in chapter 40 are timeless. They speak to Israel’s vulnerability as a nation under threat from Assyria. However, these ancient writings also bear witness to the vulnerability we still face today, especially when we push ourselves too far without the self-care we need.
Four words stand out like a flashing red light in this passage: weary and tired, wait and renew. They speak of God’s power to transform emotional and physical exhaustion into strength and renewal.
Warren Wiersbe describes it this way; “The word ‘wait’ … means ‘to hope,’ to look to God for all that we need (Isa. 26:3; 30:15) … meditating on His character and His promises... The word ‘renew’ means ‘to exchange,’ as taking off old clothes and putting on new. As we wait before Him, God enables us to soar when there is a crisis, to run when the challenges are many, and to walk faithfully in the day-by-day demands of life.”
Let’s redeem the concept of plodding. If you feel like you are just going through the motions, saying what you think you should say, or doing what you think you should do, let your plodding reflect patience. Continue putting one foot in front of the other as you wait, and rest in the Lord to renew your strength.
Everyone has a window of tolerance. When we are close to being outside that window, we are at risk of burnout. Do you recognize your signs? What are they?