meet my frenemy sisters, stress & the sabbath. you might be thinking, *gasp* how could you call the sabbath a frenemy! God meant it to be good for you!
on the mission field, missionaries are always encouraged to keep their sabbath. it’s biblical, it’s beneficial, it’s restful and yada yada yada. yeah, i’ve heard it all. So let’s start from stress, because that is directly related to how we keep (or, don’t keep) the sabbath.
Stress – i get it, everyone faces stress. whether you’re married, single, young, old, male, female, there is stress, so there’s nothing to complain about there. oftentimes, when we say “stressed” – we might just mean “i-need-to-be-able-to-share-with-someone-the-things-on-my-mind-and-then-i’ll-be-okay-and-can-move-on.” what i want to address is the fact that when singles face stress about something, we don’t have a way to share about that stress without hearing (from married people) “You need to trust God, He will take care of it for you” or “You need to relax. Take care of yourself.”
hey, you know what? a lot of times, it’s not really the stress that comes from ministry that is overwhelming (because we know that God is in control) – often it might be all the other things we have to deal with (as a single) added on top of that tiny thing, that – in that slight moment in time – can end up being all quite stressful. what things, you might ask? well, things that take time and effort to do like: having to write a newsletter, meeting deadlines with home offices or field offices, paying bills, dealing with everyday household things breaking down, doing laundry, grocery shopping, etc. you know…life.
and as a single, we don’t have another “half” who can share those responsibilities with us. so even though it might seem like our ministry stress is not that big, it might possibly be lots of other things piling up. with not enough time to really share verbally with people (because let’s face it, everyone on the field is too busy and you know it!), the last thing we want you to “encourage” us with is that you think we don’t “trust God enough.” that is when i go cray-cray.
i’m sorry, but is God going to physically do my laundry for me? or wash my dishes for me? or clean the house for me? in a sense, you don’t have to “trust God” in those things, you can “relax and take care of yourself” and do the things you like, because you do have a spouse there who can handle those little things for you when you take time off. i don’t have anything against that, i really am glad for you that you can do that because i know how important it is. what i need you to understand is that i have similar responsibilities, too, except without a spouse to help me.
who is going to write my newsletter for me when i don’t have time to? who is going to take time to cook for me so that i can clean up after having people over? who is going to sit and wait for laundry to finish while i go out to buy groceries? things would get done a lot faster if there were two of us…i know that and you know that. and i’m not saying that i need a spouse to share my workload, but telling me that i’m not “trusting God” enough is the opposite of helpful or encouraging – it just adds to my stress. YES, i trust God. YES, i am trying to take care of myself. but realistically, in my everyday life, things still need to get done. and well, just sitting around to take care of myself and trusting in God is not going to make my dishes clean or my whites white.
the Bible tells us to bring our burdens and Him and He will be our rest. He also reminds us to believe in Him and to not let our hearts be troubled. to not be anxious in anything but in everything, prayer and going to God. These are all true, and all things we should always strive to do each time we feel a stressor coming on. however, i’ve also looked into ways to handle stress, and all of them involve finding someone you can share with and listen, encourage, and vice versa. we’re meant to share our burdens with one another.
so, you wanna help the single? offer to do something practical. when you see that i am getting overwhelmed, don’t just tell me you’ll pray for me. actually offer to help me with something, just like i would offer to watch your kids or cook for you if you just had another kid. invite me over for tea and give me some time to share something that’s been on my heart (without trying to give me a solution). don’t add to my stress by doing or saying unhelpful things (hoooo boy, i could write a whole other post about the insensitive things said to singles on the field!)
Sabbath – so you can imagine, when it comes to enjoying the Sabbath, our one day of rest, how much we look forward to it. except…”Wait, what?! why is my mind wandering to the long list of things that need to be done? I’m supposed to be enjoying my prayer walk in the park, and instead, everything i’m praying for/about is related to ministry and the things i need to do. Lord help me!”
That’s what our day of rest is often like. trust me, i’ve asked quite a few single missionaries, and they agree. our day of rest is spent not really “resting” because we’re just still thinking about the rest of the week! we can’t hang out with our local friends because they’re all working, and we don’t want to bother other missionaries/families because they need that day to rest as well. so our Sabbath ends up not really being a day of rest – just a day of not “doing” anything, yet still thinking about stressful stuff. sometimes some of us just give up and end up trying to “do” the things we need to do to help take some of the pressure off. no day to enjoy. just a day to try and not think about stuff.
I had another single missionary share with me how she shared something similar with her team (about not being able to really rest on her sabbath), and everyone just said they would pray that God would help her not to think about those things on her day off – but nobody offered to have her over for board games or anything else to help her take her mind off of things for a few hours. seriously sad, people.
so if you’re a single missionary who is facing this problem, perhaps this might be helpful for you:
1) get out of the house and to another place – i only started this year to figure out a solution for myself, actively seek out things to do. i started taking taiko drumming classes (something i’ve wanted to do since a long time ago) and for 3 hours of my Sabbath, my mind is not on anything ministry/life related. it is free and just running with rhythms and beats through it – it’s a wonderful feeling!
2) do something active – I also joined the gym last month as well, and for at least one hour of each day (i go 5x/week), my mind is at rest because i’m drowning in my own sweat and keeping pace with the one-direction-ish dance beats they have playing in the background.
3) do something that requires no brain work – sometimes i put on my music (sometimes country, sometimes hip hop, whatever helps my mind relax) and start colouring (i bought some colouring books that are just awesomely funny – one called Unicorns are Jerks).
4) end each day with 3 things that you are thankful to God for – they don’t have to be overly spiritual; just simple things during the day that you can say thank you to Him about.
these are just some of the things i’ve done within the past 8 months and so far they have been quite helpful.
so there you go. if you wanna know how you can help a single missioary, there are some ways. if you are single and spend your Sabbath not really enjoying your Sabbath, there are some ways, too. the point is, stressors are a part of life, and even though we are Christians, believe and trust in our Father above, know that He is good, and know that only He can bring peace in our hearts – we still need very practical ways to help. so next time, when a single missionary says they are “stressed,” ask if they need a lending ear, or if they need help with something – don’t take the initial no for an answer because they may just be polite and not want to take up your time.
and most of all, don’t don’t don’t tell them that they are stressed because they don’t trust God enough, or that they need to take care of themselves without helping them with a solution.