“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NIV). Over the summer, home every day, all day with three little kids, I tried to be generous with our space and time. I hosted company and play dates, I cooked and packed up meals to feed friends and neighbors walking through difficult times. I was doing a lot of good.
When my sister-in-law, who lives alone, broke her leg and needed help during her recovery, of course I offered our home and help. Of course I meant it, even though I didn’t really understand what I offered. And of course it’s been hard.
I provided food and drink, physical and emotional support, laundry and shower help and company and everything in between. Meanwhile, I also cared for my three little ones, managed our household and only left the house for an hour or two here or there.
I don’t want a pat on the back. I would do it all again, and in the big picture it’s nothing. I’d probably do it better next time. I count it a privilege to help someone I love in this way.
But I had grown weary in doing good. My attitude suffered; I complained, if only to myself or my husband; I became short with my children, who fought out of boredom; I raged against the laundry, the seemingly constant feeding of five other people, my complete lack of time to myself or ability to sit down; the TV always droned on, and my living room had become a bedroom. I felt invisible and, in short, I grew tired of not being the one in control of the condition of the house or the way I spent my time.
“I’m not okay,” I volunteered to my husband after the second week. But, of course, he already knew that.
Maybe you’re a caretaker who has forgotten to take care of yourself. Or a mom, always meeting the needs of others. Maybe you’re a single parent, or maybe your spouse is deployed. Maybe you’re a teacher, weary of friendly fire, or a volunteer, tired of making more with less. Let us not become weary in doing good.
Our caretaking situation is approaching week four. We feel fortunate that, this time, for our loved one and for us, the timeline is relatively short and everyone should be back to normal soon. I know that’s not everyone’s situation, but I’ve stumbled upon a few tips that have helped guard me against weariness in doing good:
Take a break. For me, this has looked like going grocery shopping alone after my husband came home and hiring a babysitter who didn’t flinch at also serving dinner to my laid-up sister-in-law so we could go out to dinner. If you’re in a long-term caretaking situation, look for backup. Ask a relative to cover for you on occasion or seek out a professional who can offer you regular breaks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to protect yourself by saying no to other commitments at this time.
Feed yourself in the fringes. Maybe there isn’t a way for you to get an actual break in this season, maybe you’ve already tried. Try being more creative with the time you have. Try getting up earlier to have a cup of coffee by yourself (I am writing this before sunrise). If you’re home with small children, claim naptime for yourself, or set aside time after bed. Your well-being must be a top priority.
Connect with a trusted friend. Recently I shared my frustrations with a close, but objective friend. Constant outpouring, especially when you feel depleted, is hard. I knew I was complaining, but I also knew that she got it: she understood that the difficulty of the past few weeks did not negate the purpose of the work or the love that drove me to it. Sometimes I find it necessary to bleed the line, to release the frustrations that might block me emotionally, from continuing to do good work. Knowing someone saw and heard me—that both the difficulty and worthiness of the work had been validated—helped me to persevere.
Care for yourself. You cannot properly care for others if you are neglecting yourself. Prioritize sleep, eating real, wholesome food, getting the exercise you need, and doing the things that you love. When I felt like a shell of myself, even though my people had what they needed, I ended up serving them out of duty, not love, and they knew it. I had to draw boundaries and ask for what I needed.
Remember why you’re doing it. In a frank conversation with my sister-in-law, we discussed her future plans and fears. I gently told her that this situation had been hard for me. She shared her discomfort needing so much help. Hearing her struggle forced me outside of myself, and what the time felt like for me and reminded that, no matter my difficulty in handling it, this situation is more unexpected and inconvenient for her than for myself. Our conversation was awkward at times. We struggled to find the right words, and in the end nothing actually changed. But it drew me outside of how I felt and refocused my attention on her. I felt renewed energy and purpose to carry on.
If your body and soul have grown weary from doing good today, take heart. May you find rest, peace, support and a renewed sense of purpose “forat the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”