The Care of the Caregiver
By David Reynolds
“And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while; for there were many coming, and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark
At a recent conference the following question was addressed by evangelist Ben Jordan, “Who encourages the encourager?” This is an important issue for all teachers, as shown by an incident that happened at the first ACTS Conference we conducted in Indianapolis. There were over two hundred Christian teachers and principals present. At this conference Dr. Sidney Poe offered a workshop on, “Coping with Teacher Burnout.”
He had between thirty and forty in his session. Soon after he began, a teacher began to sob; followed by others weeping as Dr. Poe acknowledged that stress was a legitimate concern for teacher’s even Christian teachers. Some felt guilty about the symptoms they experienced and others felt they had backslidden. The workshop finally broke up into a prayer service-how appropriate. Remember, as teacher’s we see a lot of the pain of life and feel all too often helpless to change it. There is no shame in admitting our helplessness at these times.
“And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus. And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Luke 6:11-13).
Who encourages the teacher? Here in our scripture text we see the Master Teacher under pressure. Yes, He was very human. His enemies who are critical of His teaching are attacking him. He is also faced with an important decision, that of choosing the men who will be charged with continuing His gospel. While under this load we see the Master Head for the mountains to pray for strength and wisdom. I do not believe it was just to set us an example. I really believe He needed strength and encouragement that only His heavenly Father could give.
Teaching lends itself to intense personal involvement with people and their problems. This is true, especially if you are in the classroom for a good share of the day and you are responsible for not only the learning but also monitoring behavior. There is no relief from the concentration of emotion. Couple this with the fact that most teachers then go home to their own families with all the expectation for performance found there.
Those who advocate a year round without extensive breaks for teachers do not know what they are asking. They will bum out their entire faculty within two years. All principals have experienced the difference in staff morale between September and May the above incident with Dr. Poe happened at the conference dot May just before the end of the year.
I feel it is important that we Christian teachers, day school as meet during April or May for experience less resignations in schools schedule times for administrators to get together, but few schools seem to take their faculty along. Sunday Schools need to schedule retreats and even short breaks so they can sit in the Bible class for renewal.
Balance: Not Burnout:
The secret to renewal for teachers is to learn to balance their lives for the long haul and not burn out in the sprints. We must constantly be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Romans 12:2) or we will burnout in the flesh.
We can control some of the pressure by scheduling times of renewal and rest. A bridge is designed to carry only the traffic of the moment not the traffic of the day. When we feel overwhelmed it is time to follow the example of the Master Teacher and head for the mountain for prayer and renewal. Jesus was known even to withdraw to a fisher’s boat to escape the crowds for a short recess. Fishermen are always telling me it is God’s will for us to do the same.
“And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him.
For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as saw as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straightly charged them that they should not make him known. And he goeth up into a mountain and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him” (Mark 3:6-13).
As A Man Thinketh:
Many times it is not the circumstances, which brings the stress but rather our perception of those circumstances. The same circumstances can be exciting and a challenge to one, but to another it may be the reason for a nervous breakdown. The only difference is how it is viewed. “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content… I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
I well remember a time at my school when we as a faculty had the opportunity to plan an in service day. After getting input from the faculty it was decided we should have a workshop on stress. I then asked around and contracted a lady from one of the local colleges who was known as being an expert on the subject of stress within schools.
We had the workshop and found the lady to be truly knowledgeable but all she did was add to their perceived stress level. The staff became very angry and showed their disappointment with her message. They were looking for ways to change the situation circumstances at our school which they felt causing the frustration. Her message was, however.
* “Change what you can and accept the rest.”
* “Change your attitude and you will change the level.”
* “If you cannot accept that, then get out of teaching.
As you can well imagine this was not a pop message. Popular or not there are many things in which are not under our control as humans what we control, however, is our own perception and our o attitude. Over and far above this is the assurance, as a Christ’ teacher, that we have a big God who is in control and that we are part of His master plan. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He also has promised that nothing will come to us that we are not able to bear. We may not be able to change some things but He can.
We Must Make A Difference:
One of the things we must realize is that we have been created to build. One of our emotional needs is to feel that our life is worthwhile and we are making a difference in this life. We need to be stimulated by our environment and we need to feel we have an impact upon it. This will bring some stress our way, but the satisfaction that comes by turning on to living and its challenges gives us the help to continue the good fight of faith. We are not comfortable in being comfortable all the time.
Not All Stress Is Bad:
Not all stress is bad or harmful. In fact we would never get motivated to change any situation unless some stress is interjected in the form of a need or a challenge. I saw on a church sign one time, “If we continue to do what we have always done-we will be where we have always been.”
As long as we are comfortable about our situation or the situation of others, we will never teach. We became teachers when we were stirred enough to want to change others for the better. We need to acknowledge the stress that builds, and control the stress that destroys. Let us constantly remind ourselves that it is not the event but our perception of it that either hurts us or enables us.
Advice for the Encourager:
Let me now give some encouragement to the encouragers and some advice to the weary advice comes after being on the front lines for over thirty years.
We are a Human Being not a Hems Dow:
In our society we get much of worth and our identity from what we do. This is especially true for men. The first question, we as men are asked after we meet, is “What do you do?” God values us for who we are. What we do is because of who we are.
This message needs to reach especially to our teenagers. They are not their grade point average. Let us stop trying to justify our existence. We are here because God made us and placed us where we are. We are a son or a daughter of God. Sons do not have to justify their sonship. Although there is duties required of a son it is ultimately the Father who takes the responsibility.
You were a human being before you were a teacher.
Is it Stress: Or is it a Challenge?
Many times we can choose our reaction. Remember, stress or challenge resides not in the event many times but in the mind of the teacher. Our perception of the event determines our attitude and our attitude determines our altitude-whether it is looked upon as stress or a challenge.
Income Must Balance Outflow:
What is true in economics is also true in teaching. A Christian teacher cannot continue to give and give without having spiritual bankruptcy. Do not be surprised when you do not take in of the spiritual water, your life becomes a desert. On the other hand you cannot continue to take in without giving out or you will become a spiritual Dead.
A Christian teacher should constantly be recharging his batteries, physically, mentally and spiritually. It is not wise for a Christian teacher to teach both on Sunday morning and Wednesday night never getting into a Bible class for their own renewal. A Christian schoolteacher cannot teach all week and then teach all Sunday morning, without spiritual breakdown. Pastors must attend spiritual retreats and conferences. Just getting away physically on Mondays will not suffice; there must be spiritual intake. Remember your prayer life. Jesus knew the secret of renewal was in His communication with His heavenly Father.
A teacher needs to be ever learning mentally in order to keep the mind sharp. We also need to take care of our bodies physically. A tired and sickly teacher cannot enjoy teaching. I believe every teacher should take the time to walk or to exercise every day. I try to walk two miles a day. When I don’t feel not only more physically refreshed but also renewed mentally.
Change What You Can Accept Mot You Cannot Know the Difference!
“And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?” (Luke 12:25). The NIV says it this way, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Apostle Paul underwent a lot of stress trying to change the plan of God. God had to knock him off his horse and tell him, “It is hard to kick against the pricks.”
Are there brick walls in your life that you are constantly kicking, which only results in hurting your toes? Stop kicking them!
A Bridge is constructed only for the Traffic That Can Pass over Now!
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34-NIV).
A bridge is constructed just for the traffic of the present. It cannot carry the weight of the traffic of the whole day or the week. We can handle only so much stress. God has promised to help us carry today’s problems today, but He never promised to help you handle the future problems as well. We must learn to live each day to its fullest and know that there is nothing which will come our way today that we and Jesus cannot handle.
We must also learn we really must handle today’s problems today, and not let them compound for tomorrow. Some problems must be faced for they do not go away just by ignoring them. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).
Today is Cash! “Yesterday is a canceled check and tomorrow is just a promissory note but today is cash!” It is OK to desire growth for tomorrow and even feel satisfaction in some of your accomplishments of the past, but today is the only cash you can spend.
Life is lived one day at a time. Treat it as though it will not last for it will not. As you fulfill you’re calling as a teacher live your life to its fullest. Jesus came to not only give us life for eternity but he came so we might have abundant life here. “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Worry Is Interest Paid on Debt before it is Dust
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answer are worried and upset about many t 10:41-NW).
Mark Twain once said, “All my life I have lived with problems and trouble… most of which never came about.” I know this to be true for I lived with someone near and dear to me who constantly worried all her life about being assaulted and it never came to pass. Living this fear is as destructive as though it had happened. Worry is something that a child of God should not have to live with. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1Peter 5:7)
As a Man thinketh so is He:
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:20). Nothing will destroy a teacher and bring more stress than harboring envy and strife. I believe this is a disease that attacks especially the ministry. As I watch minister’s functions, they may be morally clean but many times they succumb to a competitive spirit followed by bitterness and even strife. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
We must learn the difference between the complaint that relieves stress and the complaining that does nothing except add to the stress. We can be constantly renewed in our mind if we would learn to think positive thoughts and reject the negative. We need to foster positive working relationships, to look for the positive traits in people and refrain tram the negative assumptions of people. “Finally breathers, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever shiny honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Set Priorities in Your Ministry:
The Apostle Paul said, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). However, he did not say, “I can do all things for all men, so that I can save all.”
We are continually trying to take on too much, so we dilute our effectiveness. I heard of one administrator who threw all incoming requests on his time (in the form of memos) into a special drawer and only took them out and acted on them: When the senders kept requesting and justifying the need. He found out that just a few requests of his time were really important and ever came up again. He also found that many people were requesting things that they should be handling themselves. People many times would like you to take their monkey’s off their backs and put them on your own. Don’t let this happen unless they are incapable of carrying them.
A teacher must recognize he has physical and mental limitations. We must set priorities in our lives. Not all things are of equal importance. Do those things God has called you to do and reject the rest. An effective teacher must learn to say, “No,” to that which would distract him from those things that count for eternity. If you never say “No,” what is your “Yes” worth?
“And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it”(I Kings 20:4).
Clutter is Confusing:
This is one piece of advice that I am still trying to accomplish myself. I want to keep everything. I file it but I have so many files I forget where I have it filed. I also forget my filing system, so, I pile it until I remember where to file it. This does not help bring tranquility to my life.
Some of the advice I need to follow is:
Do it, delegate it, or ditch it.
Clear your desk every day
Organize it, file it, or throw it.
Have a Professional Detachment:
One of the lessons I did learn is to mentally detach myself in my mind, from my professional duties. Making sure these duties did not detract from my family and from my spiritual life. One cannot bring the job home constantly without hurting all three. Work hard when you are working then you can justify leaving it there. It is better to spend a few extra hours at work then really leaving it when you leave.
Don’t Work at Your Relaxation:
The other side of the coin is that many today are working during their time of relaxation. Their weekends are more strenuous than their workdays. Relaxation should be fun. Remember, we do not have to win or prove anything when we are taking a recess from our ministry. There should be times of recess during the week. When you are in the House of God, you should be feeding, relaxing and renewing your spirit. Learning to rest in His Spirit. I do not like to do anything on Sundays except go to church, visit good friends and rest.
Have a Sense of Humor:
Many times in the teaching ministry, because of the seriousness of the hour we bacon, too serious.
The outcome of the universe does not all depend upon us. Trust the process.
“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God…” (Disiderata, 1693).
A good laugh is, at times, a good tonic. Respect yourself but have a playful attitude. Remember always you are a child of God and God don’t make no trash. You are special in His sight so be faithful; then relax and enjoy your position in the great scheme of things.
Using This World: Not Abusing It:
“… Those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31-NW).
We are here just for a short time; we are just passing through this world so it is not ours to hold forever. We use it and then recycle it on to someone else.
When we try to hold on too tightly it causes us much stress.
He that Loveth Silver: is Never Satisfied by Silver:
We will never be satisfied with the material things of this world. Only what is done for Christ and for eternity will last or bring lasting satisfaction. If you waste your time accumulating things you will also spend more time building bigger and bigger barns to store them. Have you ever noticed how people spend the first half of their lives gathering things and then the last twenty years giving it away and when they die the only thing they need and value is God and family? Why don’t we spend more time with them all through life? Davis Mostman said, “Until you make peace with who you are you’ll never be content with what you have.”
“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-NW).
Thanksgiving: Is Every Day:
One of the things most refreshing to the spirit is a thankful heart. We need to constantly count our blessings and be grateful for what we have. Longing for that which we do not have saps us emotional and spiritual energy.
“In every thing give thanks: for this will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
Take Time to Smell the Roses:
On my drive home from school I had a beautiful view of Mt. Hood. Many times, however, I found myself looking at the trash in the ditch beside the road. I was looking at the garbage when I could have been lifting my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help.
We need to take mini vacations in order to look at the lilies. We can be so busy tending the garden that we do not see the roses. In teaching, we must not be so engrossed in the curriculum that we miss the beauty in the students. On the way home from school, focus on the good things that occurred during the day.
Keep Healthy and Physically Fit:
If you are not physically fit you will be mentally and spiritually tired. God has given us these bodies as vehicles to do His important work. In order to do it our bodies must be rested and healthy. To stay healthy one must work at it. Notice, you do not catch health you catch sickness. Health and physical fitness take effort. To stay healthy we must stay active.
You Are Not a Magician:
You are a change agent but you cannot change another person; only God can.
God can help you to show the way and encourage your students to follow it but you cannot change them. The responsibility for the results is the Lord’s.
Make a Difference:
Nothing restores you mentally and spiritually as when you know that what you are doing is making a difference. Make your life count, live your life like it won’t last and it won’t. The teacher must have this assurance within his heart: “It is his to plough and to sow the seed, but many times it is not his to see the harvest” (H. Stephen Glenn).
If you believe in the effectiveness of the Word of God, you know without a shadow of doubt that it always will bring fruit in the hearts of all those who are hungry for it. The teacher never knows who is good soil and who is not.
“And of some have compassion, naive difference… “(Jude 22). Conclusion:
Who encourages the encourager? God does! “Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1Samuel 30:4- 6).
When there is no one there to encourage you, learn the secret of encouraging yourself in the Lord. Like Jesus, learn to resort often to the garden of prayer for rest, renewal and encouragement. Find your own hermit spot and use it daily.
“When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forthwith his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples” (John 18:1-2).
Physician heal thyself. Recognize your mental and physical limitations. Those of you in the helping professions many times have difficulty seeing the need and then finding the time for renewal. There is a balm in Gilead. There is a Doctor here!