Burnout seems to be a common term thrown around church services, almost exclusively. We use it to describe a person who can no longer go on, they have been burning their candle at both ends till their was no wick left.
And often these people backslide.
We’ve almost built a doctrine around how to help people to stop from burning out, or the warning signs of someone about to burn out (their relationship with God suffers, they become complacent and uncaring, often times they are discouraged and lethargic), yet people still burnout.
But why? What causes it? How can it be overcome?
I suffered from burnout, and I almost spiraled into a pity party and depression. I was in a state of severe melancholy, and I just didn’t care. Looking back on that time I questioned God. Why was I feeling the way I was? Was I being punished? As far as I knew I was very dutiful, I diligently served him in as many areas as I could. I was a youth leader, I vacuumed before and after services, I took responsibility of organising communion, I made and edited video’s, I painted, I went to every service, I went to bible college, yet I was burnt out. It had me confused.
And for a long time, my walk with God suffered. It just didn’t make sense.
Deciding that I no longer wanted to wallow in this self pity, I cut back on all of my duty’s at church and decided that I needed to get back into the Word of God, and into prayer. The two things I really didn’t feel like doing. The enemy was trying to keep me away from the power of God and the solution to my problem.
So I stopped doing my works and started getting fed. As I did this I slowly started to come out of this malaise and my enthusiasm and zest, and my heart for God suddenly sprang back to life, And I felt I was ready to serve again, and help other young leaders and servants in the church overcome their burnout.
And it was in helping others that I started to piece the whole puzzle together. Upon talking to others who were burning out I started to notice a pattern. They were doing LOTS around the church, and exhausted, would come to the end of their tether and burn out. They had done everything they possibly could to serve God, but they were doing it under their own strength.
As had I.
Which reminded me of the story of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, while Martha busied herself with much serving. In the end Martha got quite upset with Mary and rebuked her. Only to have Jesus tell her that she is worried about many things, but Mary only with one. And that one thing was a good thing. Being near the Lord. (Luke 10:38 -42) [My Paraphrasing]
We only suffer burnout when we try to do things to please God. Whether we know it or not, we have fallen into thinking that we can please God, and fellow man with the amount that we are doing. But our works don’t please God. The word makes this quite clear, but this doesn’t mean all our efforts are futile.
We just need to come to the realisation that God couldn’t love us any more or less than he already does. He’s already pleased with you. He doesn’t need you to do tasks for His approval. He wants you to serve Him out of that love you have for Him. He wants you to surrender your life completely over to Him, and serve him in His strength. That is the only way we can ever truly avoid burnout.