When I became a Christian, I knew I'd found my life purpose. I wanted to serve God with my last ounce of strength. I read Christian biographies voraciously and latched onto any report of modern-day Christians who were giving their all to Christ and his kingdom. I often felt that my life was too easy - that I never suffered for Christ as some people did, which to my way of thinking made me an inferior Christian. What this translated into for my life was that I said yes to everything anyone asked me to do and constantly looked for challenging people and situations to be involved with.
What this eventually led to (it took about 20 years - I'm tough) was burnout. I over-extended myself in almost every area of my life. In my false idea that only doing the hard things would please God, I worked part-time for a Christian organization, volunteered for three different organizations, and mothered three children. I wanted to do all of this perfectly, better than anyone had ever done any of them before. I also looked for practical needs all the time that I could meet. During this time, I remember telling the women in my small group that I always worry that I'm not doing enough to serve God. They looked at me shocked and said, "You worry about not doing enough?" I could tell by their expressions that I'd just put them all under the pile, but I stuck to my conviction (that I truly felt) that I wasn't doing enough.
To illustrate this, I remember getting a prayer letter during this time period from a couple who worked in the inner city. They said that they'd taught their children to hit the ground if they heard gunshots. When I read that I cried and cried, because I thought, Now they're really serving the Lord. If I was serving God, I'd be doing something like that.
What happened is that I completely crashed and ended up quitting my job and many of my volunteer activities (I kept my children). I didn't want to do anything except play mindless computer games all day long. For a long time, I was mad at God and mad at Christians for placing so many expectations on me. Finally after having meaningless days and sinking into apathetic depression, I faced the fact that I was to blame. Instead of listening to God and doing only what he had gifted me to do, I charged ahead following every need that came across my path. I had developed some kind of weird philosophy of life that said I had to fix everything I saw that seemed wrong, and that I was only serving God if I was suffering. I thought I was listening to God, but instead I was listening to some kind of inner slave driver who was relentless. I also wanted my life to count for something important, and only by being completely self-sacrificing could I see that happening.