One of the things that I love about the Bible is that every time you read it, it’s different. Recently, I found a passage about self care in Exodus that I have never seen before– even though I know I have read Exodus many, many times before. I didn’t even know that there was anything about self care in the Bible, other than keeping the Sabbath.
The passage I found was Exodus 18, Jethro visits Moses.
This passage is right after Moses has led the Israelites out of Egypt. Jethro brought Moses’ wife and sons to him in the desert.
Burnout and Self Care in the Bible
It says in verse 13, “The next day, Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning until evening.”
When Jethro asks Moses about it, Moses said that the people want him to seek the Lord about each of their disputes.
Here’s the crazy part: Jethro basically tells Moses that if he continues to do this day in, day out, then he will burn out.
Not only are they talking about self care in the Bible, but they are addressing burn out. Anyone who has been in ministry for more than a month can tell you that is is a real and scary thing for ministry.
In verse 17, it says, “Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.'” It goes on to say that he should teach the people the ways of the Lord so that there can be other people who are judges, and other people who can help.
Anytime that I read a story to my students, I always end it with this question: So what? Why does it matter that thousands of years ago, Moses was headed towards burn out?
It matters because this is a real thing today.
I have taught Children’s Church forever. The day after I was too old to go to Children’s Church, the teacher decided I would be a helper. From there, I started teaching, and eventually became in charge.
I was there through so many different teachers. I was the constant in the student’s lives. I was there every week, whether I was teaching or not, because our volunteers kept changing and fluctuating. Sometimes there were four.
Sometimes there was one. And that one was me.
I love my kiddos so much, but being solely responsible for them every single week is stressful. Not being able to take a week off ever is stressful.
I was where Moses was. I was giving and giving, thinking I was doing this good thing.
And I was! It was so great for my kids to have the consistency. It was so good to teach them about God.
But, just like Moses, it was too big of a job for just one person.
When I found some consistent help, it made my life so much easier.
I still teach Children’s Church, but I have another teacher who helps me. We switch off, so I only teach every other week. In addition, we try to have one or two teenagers in the Children’s Church to help. It makes a huge difference to have another people to keep their eyes on the kids, grab the coloring sheets from the back, take someone to the bathroom, contribute new games I’ve never played, etc.
The best thing? As these teenagers grow older, some of them want to come back and start teaching on a Sunday or two. That’s how I got the other teacher that works with me every other week.
You may be where Moses was. You may be where I was. If so, I challenge you to make a change. Read through Exodus 18, and see how you can apply it to your own life.
You’ll be amazed at how it can change your life.