Nearly Burned-Out in Pakistan

It was a typical case of frog-in-the-pot syndrome: I could see the steam, but couldn’t feel the heat. The tell-tale signs of poor memory, impatience, and struggles engaging deeply in conversation were only a few of the indicators that I was in trouble. Not wanting to mess up our kids’ high school studies in Pakistan, we had decided to put off a lengthy home assignment until our youngest graduated from grade 12. Instead, we opted for two- to three-month whirlwind trips to Canada every two years, during which we attempted to catch up with supporters and family in two provinces 3,500 kilometers apart. We knew that there would be a physical and emotional cost to such a decision. Our problem stemmed from neglecting to provide adequate soul-care to compensate for the largely break-less long haul we’d set out for ourselves.

When we arrived in Canada, close friends quickly recognized that all was not well. Forty-five minutes into any conversation, I had nearly exhausted my ability to remain engaged — even with family members.

Both our leadership and my mentor had encouraged me to make rest and renewal a top priority during our time home, which I did. Focused reading and working with my hands were only a couple of the things that helped to heal and restore my body and mind. However, as the smoke started to clear, a soul-restlessness remained that hadn’t been dealt with, even after the deliberate rest. A nagging emptiness and lack of purpose combined with a desire for a deeper relationship with God continued to gnaw at me. Through the prompting of my pastor, I set up a two-day retreat to seek God in a new way. He used this time to give me a renewed vision — not of what I should do, but of what my life should be. My spirit instantly received a  whole new level of rest and purpose.

One thing remained, however: occasional bouts of depression and extreme weariness continued to surface occasionally, even late into our home assignment. This left me worried about the prospects for our return to Pakistan, a place known for chewing people up and spitting them out. On day two of my retreat, while searching for a book to read, I “happened” on John Ortberg’s book, Soul Keeper. Through it, I came to understand the cause of the state in which I’d placed myself — a prolonged neglect of soul-care. “I and no one else am responsible for the condition of my soul,” points out Ortberg. On this point, I had much work to do. 

 While I had maintained a meaningful daily quiet time and fed my mind with good ministry and leadership resources, I had not done well in the area of nurturing my soul: listening to messages and music, using healthy self-talk, and spending time with friends just for friendship’s sake, to name a few examples. God not only showed me the specific things I needed to change in order to keep from getting back into the same state, but He also did one other amazing thing for me. He reached down and healed me — a direct soul-healing that I knew had come from God. The bouts of depression and weariness were gone, by the grace of God.

Terry Wiley has worked as a Fellowship International missionary in Sindh, Pakistan, ministering to Muslims for over 25 years. He serves as the Pakistan Field Chairman.