I’ve struggled with burnout several times and in several seasons of life and ministry. Some seasons of burnout were fixed by a vacation or a weekend away. Other seasons of burnout were accompanied by a deep depression and an inability on my part to “fix” it.
A few months ago, I found myself in the latter place. Tired. Depressed. Unmotivated. Exhausted. Grouchy. Spiritually dry. I could feel it.
Then we went on vacation. In my mind this would fix me. This was just what I needed. This would reset my energy level and fill my tank.
But it didn’t.
I’ve lived most of my Christian life believing I was in control of burnout. I believed I could do certain things to avoid it or if I wasn’t wise enough to avoid it then I could do certain things to overcome it.
Vacation…didn’t work. But I have a formula. I have a “get out of burnout jail free” plan.
- Guard my calendar and don’t overcommit
- Set boundaries and don’t open my computer or check email in the evening
- Go out on dates with Trish
- Spend extra time with the boys
- Take a day off
- Have a quiet time
- Pray more
- Read the Bible more
These things will fix me.
A few weeks after vacation I remember praying this prayer, “God I am doing all of these things and I’m still exhausted. Why aren’t you showing up? I’m doing my part, you need to do yours. Reenergize me.”
Then I came across this passage of scripture in Matthew from Jesus (Message version):
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30
What I realized is that burnout isn’t a condition of our calendar; burnout is a condition of our heart.
I was trying to DO all of these things to overcome burnout and in the process burnt out more. The things I was trying to do became heavy burdens I carried. I was forcing the rhythm of grace in my life and heart.
I felt God speak to my heart, “Stop focusing on what you are doing and start focusing on who you are becoming. I don’t want you to DO; I want you to BE.”
Overcoming burnout happens as we shift from doing to being.
Here are a few things God is challenging me to BE as I deal with burnout, I hope they are helpful to you.
1. Be Broken.
Brokenness is simply remembering your need for God and your inability to be God. It is living as if grace is truly amazing and you’d be lost without it. Brokenness is a daily awareness of your desperation for Jesus.
2. Be Honest.
Christians are the most dishonest people I know. We have a keen ability to fake each other out. Our goal is to impress others with how put together we are, but we fail to realize the damage our dishonesty does to our own heart. Being honest about how you are doing is one of the first steps to overcoming burnout and living light and free.
3. Be You.
A direct path to burnout is comparison. We compare other’s wins to our loses We are jealous of other’s success, not their faithfulness. We see their platform not their failures. We compare who others are in public to who we are in private. God didn’t create you to copy or mimic someone else. He created you to be you. Freedom is found as you feel comfortable in your own skin.
4. Be Humble.
There is a difference between humility and insecurity. Humility makes you small and Jesus big. Insecurity makes you wish you were big and causes Jesus to be small. Ask for help. Confess your hurts, struggles and weaknesses to someone. Get counseling. Counseling isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a sign of humility and wisdom.
These are four things I am asking God to help me become. When I focus on becoming, the doing of Christianity doesn’t feel as heavy.
How do you overcome burnout in your life?