Everyone I know is carrying a heavy load. Some are “developmentally age appropriate” challenges like mine are currently. Others are life-altering-yowzers-ouchy like divorce, disease, etc. Everywhere I look, I see people struggling under the weight of their lives.
I’ve made covenants to “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”
I genuinely desire to emulate the Savior and “lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”
Yes, yes yes. I should and I want to do those things. But today, it occurred to me that I’m looking beyond the mark.
Jesus. Jesus Christ. The PERFECT guy. THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD. He mourned with those that mourned, strengthened the feeble knees, and visited the widow, but He wasn’t everything to everyone. He didn’t heal every person He encountered. He left many needs unmet. He wasn’t in more than one place at a time. He didn’t remove every obstacle for everyone in His circle. In fact, it seems like those closest to Him had more than their share of suffering.
If Jesus, being divine, didn’t do it all, why do I feel like I should be everything to everyone? Somehow I’ve adopted this impossible idea that I must alleviate all of the suffering I see. If asked for help, I cannot say no. “Because I have been given much, I too must give.” I am constantly failing at this absurd duty I’ve given myself as I can barely manage the needs of my own household.
So how do I keep my covenant to serve others without taking on more than God intended and driving myself crazy in the process? At Church and in scripture, all I read about is GIVE GIVE GIVE, LOVE LOVE LOVE, SERVE SERVE SERVE! And I believe in this. Truly. But I’m realizing I need to be more mindful about WHERE I do that giving, loving and serving. I’m finite. I have limited time, energy and resources. I’ve covenanted to use them to help others – and I want to. But I need to be able to determine ENOUGH.
Its easy with tithing and fast offerings. Ten percent is a tithe. Fast offerings are the cost of the food you would have eaten (and more if you feel you can). God doesn’t ask us to give our entire paycheck to the Church and then hope for manna from heaven to fall and feed us. We are instead told to be good stewards over our income. Spend less than we earn, and save for emergencies.
When it comes to serving others with our time and energy (and sanity), its not so cut and dried. There is no quantifiable way to determine “enough”. From the greatest saint to the least, I don’t know a single one who feels like they’re doing enough. Many of us not only carry our own burdens, but add to them the weight of guilt for not doing more for others.
Today Valerie was talking about how terrible she feels that she hasn’t done more for an acquaintance whose husband died, she hasn’t provided more meals for her old friends who recently had quadruplets, and she’s feeling like she’s neglecting too many other outside needs. Looking at her life, its easy for me to see that she offers warmth and humor to every person she encounters, she is deeply dedicated to the needs of her family in a very very demanding stage of life, she is consistently and lovingly serving the youth in the Church, and all of this while going to school. She feels guilty for watching something on Netflix before bed (probably while folding laundry or something) instead of feeding the homeless or reaching out to the people she mentioned. It was easy, because its not my own life, to say “Val, God will take care of them. It doesn’t have to be through you. If there’s something specific He wants you to do, HE WILL TELL YOU.”
But it gets cloudy when I look at my life and I see my own list of needs I’m not meeting and think “But if its on my mind, does that mean God is telling me I should be doing something?”
Perhaps this is another one of Satan’s way of discouraging us. He takes some of our limited mental energy and squanders it on feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Perhaps there is some way to stop overthinking everything and taking on burdens that were never meant for us. Perhaps God does have a way of helping us determine “enough”. I mean, I haven’t figured it out yet. But I think it has something to do with learning to hear HIM instead of listening to the pressures we put on ourselves.
Maybe I need to stop worrying about how much I can do, and just worry about the LOVE I put into what I CAN do.