I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly sure how to start a part two.
(Find part one HERE )
I wasn’t sure that I wanted to so publicly delve deeper into burn out, mostly because my experience is minutely small when I think of those who have sweated and fought hard on the frontlines of ministry for decades.
I won’t pretend to know the answer as to why God created us with limits in the physical realm.
I just finished reading Expectations & Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission, and found it absolutely timely and refreshing.
It seemed to put the frustration of burnout and/or tiredness into perspective.
Out of this, conversations with others, and Jesus bringing a fresh energy in my heart, I want to share a few things that may be helpful for you or those close to you.
The list below certainly is not exhaustive nor is it meant to “diagnose” whether or not you may experiencing fatigue or burnout. It’s simply me trying to sum up my own experience in a few brief paragraphs.
1. Burnout does not mean you are not “strong enough.”
A part of living in a fallen world is that our whole bodies (physical, emotional, spiritual), to a greater or lesser degree, have limits.
It’s not necessarily wrong to stretch limits, because how else can a person grow?
However, when those limits are constantly stretched without a break for months or years on end, we wear out. I was recently listening to a speaker who compared burning out to be a rubber band stretched tight. At some point, it will break. If it continues stretching without a pause, it’s not if it will break, but when.
“Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
I think the reason Jesus spent so much time on speaking words of rest and comfort is He knew/knows that so many of us (or perhaps it’s just me) like to prove our identity by over-doing. Do=Worth.
I’m glad that in His Kingdom, Love=Worth. We are commanded to do and go and serve, absolutely, but not for the sake of our identity or value. Separating the two, doing and value, is so crucial to ministry life, because they often get mish-mashed together.
2. Burnout does not mean you have failed.
I am convinced that anyone who is spent and tired will experience this feeling of failure to some degree.
When one is exhausted and spent, it’s hard to see much good or potential, even in yourself.
Once again, it is a signal to my mind, body, and soul, that something needs to change- I am learning that instead of looking at burnout as failure, I can choose to look at it as a time to allow others to speak into my life- for real.
Looking back, I see my high expectation of what I thought ministry would do for me. This placed me in somewhat of a danger zone, because it was easy to base my worth on whether my circumstances felt “successful” or not. The higher my expectation of ministry, the greater the danger of feeling like a “failure.” I have no regrets in how, where, and when I chose to “serve.” But I went in with the mindset that I am there to “fix things” or people. Ministry and working with people doesn’t work like that.
It’s important to recognize our imperfections and shortcomings. However, to sit and wallow in personal failure only worsens our feeling of inadequacy, and certainly doesn’t get us anywhere.
Instead of sitting in our failures, personal or otherwise, let it draw us further into His Presence as while brokenness is glaringly obvious. He will speak Truth for each individual heart.
3. Burnout is not permanent, but recovering from it does take time.
I deeply appreciate the concept of having seasons of life. It fits so well in this area.
There are seasons I just want to rush through because they are hard or frustrating, and my demanding spirit doesn’t like the idea of patience.
A season or an extended season or several different seasons of burnout… they don’t happen overnight nor do they disappear overnight. The truth of the matter is that I wouldn’t even care about burnout/fatigue if it had instantly “disappeared” one day.
Sometimes He gives us the gift of instant healing, but sometimes it is the gift of eventual healing. It takes time to gain fresh perspective and fresh vision and fresh energy for life.
And that’s okay, even if it doesn’t make sense right now.
4. Burnout can reveal how desperately we need Someone to save us.
I found myself the other morning asking Jesus if it’s actually ok to need Him so badly. Some days it’s easy to look back and be almost shocked at how often I mutter or outright cry out, “Jesus, I need You!”
He spoke His answer: “I cannot work through you if you don’t need Me.”
It’s okay to need Jesus very badly, all the time.
It’s what we were created for.
5. Burnout can be a part of a greater, deeper journey- if we let it.
At the end of the above mentioned book, the author made the comment that they wouldn’t want to go back to who they were and what they knew before experiencing burnout and fatigue.
It was a new perspective for me, but I realized it’s true.
Burnout or exhaustion has refined and re-defined my view of what ministry and life is about.
It has caused me to recognize weak spots in my own personal life that I would have by-passed or ignored otherwise.
While in this imperfect and fallen world, the hope Jesus has given me is this: whatever is broken or battered or scarred? It can be turned around into a powerful tool for good.
It sounds so cliche, and yet, when I choose Jesus and believe that He DOES redeem, and He IS good, I have every reason to hope. There may not be full restoration now, on this earth.
And that’s okay.
It gives me an ache for heaven, and maybe that ache, that longing for something better, beyond this earth, is actually what we were created for.
“Lord, keep me eternity conscious.” [Leonard Ravenhill]