When You Feel Guilty for Being Worn Out {The Grove – Renew}

velvet ashes renew grove

Much of this post comes straight from the pages of my own journal. I’ve journaled a lot of my thoughts on the subject of renewal in the past months as I have desperately searched for and found renewal.

I had reached a state of depletion. After a very long period of pushing through, I “hit a wall” as they say, and felt like I had nothing left. Overwhelm was my constant companion.

This wasn’t the first time. If this is sounding familiar, it’s likely because you’ve been around Velvet Ashes since the beginning, and you’ve heard me share this kind of story before.

So how had I ended up here? Again! Hadn’t I learned from previous burnout and intensive counseling? What was wrong with me that I was feeling like this? Again!

I felt guilt and shame over my exhaustion and overwhelm.

Never mind that a baby and moving (again) were part of my season. There’s no grace for yourself when shame is the voice you hear.

My thought process went like this:

I’m feeling this way because I haven’t managed my time and responsibilities well. I haven’t rested enough or had good boundaries or had enough time alone time with God. I haven’t created margin in my life to have space for the unexpected. I’ve tried to do too much, been unwilling to cut back.

The list went on. Ultimately, I saw my lack of renewal as a result of my failures.

I knew I could do what I usually did, which is to recommit myself to time management. I could pep myself up to redouble my efforts to be renewed. If I structure my life better, if I go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, eat better, exercise more, don’t skip Sabbaths, say yes and no to the right things, make a schedule, stick to a schedule…

All these things help. You and I both know that they do. But I knew that after a while (or no time at all) I would fail and slide right back into stress and overwhelm. Then the guilt and shame would come back and I’d begin the vicious cycle all over again.

And I was SO done with the vicious cycle.

Around this time a friend said, “There’s this book called ‘Humble Roots’ by Hannah Anderson. It’s about pride and humility, and it’s so good. I think you’d really like it.”

I smiled and nodded, all the while thinking, “My pride is low enough right now, thank you very much. Yes, of course my pride still needs refining, but I just can’t. Not now.”

So I passed for a few weeks. But then I needed a book to read, and that Holy Spirit nudge said, “This is your next book.” Sigh… fine.

Then I went and highlighted the entire book. I resonated on a deep level with the author’s struggles. I’d be engaged by her delightful stories of being a small Appalachian town pastor’s wife, and then suddenly she’d hit me with a two by four with statements like these:

When we believe that with enough effort, enough organization, or enough commitment, we can fix things that are broken, we set ourselves in God’s place.”

Humble Roots made me re-think pride and humility in a way that I never had before. And the result was a surprising freedom. I realized that in attempting to manage my life, I was treating the symptoms, not the root. The root was my own pride, hiding behind good intentions. Hannah Anderson says that those of us who “work for Jesus” are especially prone to this. It’s my pride that causes me to live beyond my own limitations. I attempt to deny those limitations, in essence to deny my humanity, by thinking myself more capable or more necessary than I am.

“If we are to find rest from our stress, if we are to have any hope of escaping our pride, we must be grafted onto the one who is humility Himself. We can no longer simply be content to attempt to imitate Him; we must become part of Him in order to reflect Him.” We do this… “by encountering Jesus Himself. Through His humanity we learn what ours is supposed to be. Through His deity, He enables us to be what we are supposed to be. And when we are, when we exist as God intended us to exist, we will find rest.”

I needed a truer understanding of who I am, that I am but dust he has breathed life into, a full-fledged member of broken, limited humanity. I needed a truer understanding of who God is, the all-capable one who does not need me. His kingdom and ultimately, even my own family could go on without me.

Rather than being morbid, this was freedom and joy. Success or failure does not rest on my shoulders; it cannot define me. Anything I do can fail and ultimately God can redeem it and me. Instead, they become things I get to do, or not do! Either way, my identity is secure.

I have the freedom to fail, the freedom to rest, and the freedom to simply follow Jesus.

Will following Jesus lead me to times of weariness? Absolutely. We see that in the life of Jesus Himself, in His disciples, and in kingdom workers throughout history. But there’s no heavy guilt to bear with the weariness. Instead the weariness becomes an invitation to retreat into His sweet and sustaining rest.

We get to follow his pattern of serve and retreat, serve and retreat. Of course we’re not going to get it right all the time. We. are. human. I will likely end up hitting more walls in my life. But when I do, when I reach those face-down moments, I want to brush off the dust from which I was made, and encounter God’s heart for me. I know that when that happens, I’ll circle ever close, coming to a truer and truer understanding of who I am and who God is.

And that, friends, is renewal.


If you’ve been around this community for long, you know that “serve and retreat” is part of our DNA. Together we nudge each other to step away from the service we’re involved in to spend a time of renewal with Jesus in our annual Velvet Ashes Retreat. And we’re thrilled to announce this year’s theme and dates.

If you’re new around here, here’s some good news for you. This retreat comes to you, right where you are. It’s a personal or group retreat that we all do from wherever we are, historically in more than 90 countries around the world.

Registration is not open yet, but we want to let you know the dates now. Mark April 19-22 on your calendars. Check out more details here, including our new “two-night ideal timeframe for groups.”

Sign up to be notified when registration opens, so you don’t miss it.

Get Notified About the Next Retreat!

If you’re interested in hosting a Retreat Gathering, check out our Host Page, where you can sign up to receive the Host Guide when it’s ready. Plus, you can already join the private Retreat Hosts Facebook Group.

If you’re hungry to encounter God’s heart, if you need the rest and renewal that only comes from His hand, then this retreat is for you. The heart of this retreat is to usher you into God’s presence, knowing that he has a very personal way he wants to touch you with his sustaining hand.


Let’s talk in the comments!

Anyone else out there feel guilty when you reach exhaustion and overwhelm?

What’s been your journey with pride and humility?

Who’s looking forward to the Retreat?! Where in the world will you be doing your retreat?


This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.

Share your images on this week’s theme with #VelvetAshesRenew. You can add yours!


  1. Michele January 18, 2018

    This is just SO good. You”re spelling out the lessons I have been learning the last year or so, like putting some of the same truths God has been revealing to me in new words, which is so helpful in sealing them into my heart. I’ve already put that book on my Amazon wish list and hope to get to it soon! And i am so excited for the next retreat! Actually, it was during last year’s that I saw how ashamed I was of my own weariness, and the revelation of the Father’s tender heart toward me is something I am still reveling in. Sustain feels like the perfect word for this year! Thanks for the way you share your heart in these blogs, Danielle! You are such a blessing!

    1. Elizabeth January 19, 2018

      I discovered a lot of shame hiding in my own heart during last year’s retreat, too, Michele. It surprised me, but there it was, lurking around, taunting me for all the ways I didn’t measure up, made too many mistakes, wasn’t perfect.

    2. Danielle Wheeler January 19, 2018

      This is such sweet encouragement, Michele, thank you. I love when God affirms his message to us through someone else’s story. Isn’t it beautiful the way he tenderly reveals his heart to us? So excited to see how he will meet us through this year’s retreat!

  2. Elizabeth January 19, 2018

    I’m so glad you’re leading our community in this conversation, Danielle! It is exactly these types of things Jonathan and I are preparing to talk about at the Family Education Conference in Chiang Mai in a couple weeks. It is wonderful to be on the same paths and to be having the same conversations as other people on our journey.

    And I’m so excited to hear about the retreat and the retreat date! That weekend will mark the end of our homeschool year and the beginning of our preparation for a 4 month “home” visit. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of school work (for a while) and prepare my heart and mind for time in the States with its potential culture shock moments and ministry of a different sort. (Of course I hope to see YOU there too!)

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 19, 2018

      I love hearing that He is syncing our hearts and journeys. And not for the first time! I am beyond certain that you will be such a blessing to those at the conference.

      Hooray for his perfect timing for the retreat!

      And oooh, I will so look forward to seeing you when you’re back!

  3. Hannah January 19, 2018

    Wow. Wow, this was for me. The shame? Yes. Fear? Check. “If only you would do _____ better you wouldn’t be here!” Wow. God reminded me this morning of giving me humility as one of my words for 2018. This post was exactly what I need today. I shared my thoughts with my husband and he was really encouraged too. I especially need the part about Humility Himself indwelling me. I can’t muster it up. Thanks for all you do at Velvet Ashes.

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 19, 2018

      Exactly! We can’t muster it up ourselves. I never saw true humility as the source for rest and freedom from shame and fear. But oh, I am experiencing that to be true! And yes, true humility only comes from Humility Himself. Any humility we muster up is a fake version and ultimately only leads to weariness and shame.

      Thank you for sharing, Hannah. Your words were an encouragement to me.

  4. Kathryn January 19, 2018

    I feel like you read my journal or something.
    I am trying to deal with my pride, my need to control, and my perfectionism by perfectly giving them up, having more control over my life so that I won’t need to be so controlling, and proudly believing that I actually can do something about them. Counseling, journaling, and having more margin (though all incredibly helpful) won’t fix my sin problem. That’s why I need Jesus.
    Abide has been my word for this year, though I haven’t been very good at it (Ahhhh! Perfectionism strikes again).
    I think abiding is the opposite of this pride, perfectionism, and need to control that are, in reality, controlling my life. Abiding is giving up control, knowing that you can’t do it and that you won’t be perfect, and finding complete rest in him. My pride wants to figure what exactly this looks like and to master abiding perfectly, but the very second I start doing that, I have stopped abiding. All I can do to abide is to trust the one who gave it all to show that he is trustworthy.
    Thank you for this reminder.

  5. Danielle Wheeler January 19, 2018

    Haha, I’m glad our journals look alike. “Abide” is such a great word. And yes! Isn’t that what we do?! Set out to master abiding perfectly. Ha!

    So often we can get stuck and we need someone else’s voice via counseling, books, blog posts, etc, (I’m a big believer in all of those!) to help us get unstuck, to find the layers to peel back so Jesus can transform the root. But you’re right, sometimes we can get caught up in finding the right method instead of seeking his heart directly.

    Thanks for sharing, friend. Here’s to the continuos journey of learning to trust!

  6. Joyce January 19, 2018

    Danielle, thanks for sharing. Thoughts about humility, abiding, … and allowing God to be God and not me taking on that role really resonated with me. I’m into my 4th year of re-entry to the USA and working now full-time at a retirement community as an activities aide– mostly in the dementia unit. And I am exhausted. And I’m trying so hard to not to feel that way. But that’s the problem… “I am” trying to do it. I can’t do everything right. I can’t meet everyone’s needs. I can’t make everyone happy. I can’t get everyone’s platitudes. And it’s okay. I’m not supposed to! And in all my “short-comings” I am still God’s child, and I am allowed to rest and let Him work through me. Its about Him, not me! (and I just bought the Kindle version of the book you mentioned)

  7. Kaylee January 20, 2018

    Yes, Danielle! I just finished “Humble Roots” today and felt every word was written for me. It was such an encouragement and a challenge too. I am realizing how much “fear of man” drives my pride. I must perform to the best of my ability because others are watching. It’s amazing how after being filled I can blindly turn my back on Him who gives me rest. Those stories of the Israelites play repeatedly in my mind when I realize what I’m doing. I’ve been studying the book of Hebrews in my personal study and it has been so good to be reminded of who Jesus is and what a treasure we have in Him. He is worth it. Thankfully He loves me when I forget and my pride gets too big! And I love when He puts little things in my path like reading this the day I finished Hannah Anderson’s book yet not knowing that was the heart of your post. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  8. Gina Butz January 22, 2018

    Humble Roots is on my list! Thanks so much for sharing your heart. I went through a season in the fall of coming to the end of myself. It was so hard to admit that I couldn’t do it all and I had to step back from some responsibilities, but it has been so freeing and life-giving to do so.

  9. Casual Friday Care Resources | Paracletos January 26, 2018

    […] worn out a sin? Something to be ashamed of? Do you know anyone on the field who struggles with guilt for being overwhelmed? Danielle Wheeler has something to say to […]

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