Burnout, What’s That?
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Burnout is commonly described as an exhausted state in which a person loses interest in a particular activity and even in life in general. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, social, and spiritual exhaustion. It can lead to declining health, social withdrawal, depression, and a spiritual weariness. Many times, burnout is the result of an extended period of exertion at a particular task (generally with no obvious payoff or end in sight) or the carrying of too many burdens (such as borne by those in the helping professions or those in positions of authority, among others). Burnout can be common among those in high-stress jobs who feel forced to please an earthly master in order to maintain their job and continue to provide for their families. The god of money reigns in our culture, and his demands often lead to burnout.
Perhaps you are a single mother who’s working full time and your kids are with a babysitter or in day care all day. You feel angry, bitter, guilty. Or maybe you’re a pastor or youth worker in a church and you spend every hour serving God, loving people, and making a difference in the lives of others. Yet, your own marriage is a disaster. You’ve lost the art of communication with your spouse. Passion is only a word in the dictionary and maybe you’re ready to call it quits. Perhaps you’ve gained thirty pounds over the last year, and you’ve finally admitted that food is your only true friend. You may have a problem with drinking, or are afflicted with a sexual addiction, or find yourself emotionally or physically abusing others. Whatever your challenge may be, it has you in a vice grip from which you can see no escape. One thing for sure; You are exhausted. Each day is another twenty-four hours of pain and struggle. You scream inside but no one can hear you.
What do we do when life seems hopeless or out of control? We move into areas we think will help: more work, more alcohol, more obsessive/compulsive activity, more entertainment, more frantic escape from reality. But it’s always more and more of the wrong thing. Instead of helping us regain control of our lives, it produces an internal environment that evolves into burnout. We feel an uncontrollable sense of disease, but because we’re on a vicious cycle of unproductive activity, we keep doing the same unproductive activity over and over. When our burnout and stress builds to a level at which we cannot endure the pain any longer, we cross the line to physical and mental exhaustion.
Burnout is often the result of self-reliance. The self-reliant take upon themselves the role of savior rather than trusting God to accomplish His own will. They begin to see every need as their call, rather than asking for God's wisdom and direction. This can play out in a ministry setting when a pastor attempts to do the work of the entire Body of Christ, in a business setting when someone forces a certain plan or project, in a family setting when a parent takes responsibility for the success and happiness of a child, and in numerous other settings.
What does relying on Jesus look like practically? It will be different for each person. For some it will mean examining their own hearts and removing the idols of self-reliance. For others it will be challenging their trust in God by learning to say "no." For some it will mean consulting with God before saying "yes." For others, it will mean being more intentional about self-care. Self-care implies not only caring for one's body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19-20) by getting proper exercise, sleep, and nutrition; it also means taking time to laugh, to engage in hobbies, to be with friends, to be alone, to go for a hike, to soak in a bath, to read a book, to journal, in essence to actually enjoy those things that God has made to be life-giving to you. Taking steps to rely on Jesus may have very real consequences. When we are following God, we can trust that He is faithful to provide for our needs (Matthew 6:33). God has designed us and He knows what is best for us. When we rely on Him, we can trust Him to make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5,6). It takes wisdom, discernment, and faith to live within God's parameters, but it is there that we find true life.
Thought: We recover from burnout by entering God's rest. We avoid burnout the next time by staying in tune with God's specific direction for our lives. That means we consult Him about our schedules, we take time to care for ourselves, and we learn to depend on His strength to carry out our duties. Our identity is not drawn from the tasks we accomplish but from our relationship with Jesus. We do the work He calls us to, and we do it with all our hearts, but we do not go beyond the limits He has set. We accept His rest because it is the gracious gift of a loving and wise Father. God is more interested in our relationship with Him than He is in our work (Hosea 6:6). There is nothing spiritual about "burning out for Jesus."
Jantz, Gregory L. (2008-08-01). How to De-Stress Your Life. Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.