Burnout Part II: 5 Things

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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]

Burn Out and Rest

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////This post was started soon after I moved back home… er, back to PA. God has showed me so much since then, but in the process of moving back and choosing to rest I am sharing this because maybe there are others who need to know that there IS life and purpose and hope in the middle of exhaustion.///

Ministry is HARD WORK.

It’s exhausting and excruciating and painful and glorious and fulfilling and has the potential to be chocked full of joy and sorrow simultaneously.

The past 2 years have been some of the most painful and most beautiful years of my short life thus far.

They have been the most exhausting 2 years of my life thus far.

I didn’t go into full-time “missionary” life expecting to come out so soon and so…tired.

It feels rather raw to write such personal details when all the feelings of burn out and vision-less-ness still make their presence known.

It’s not disappointment in the different ministries I worked under, though I know very deeply that ministry has an imperfect human side to it. It’s not disappointment in the people I spent hours and days and months with. It’s not disappointment in the daily and not-so-daily tasks I did.

I found I was disappointed with me.

There was this expectation placed on my heart that I should be all things to all people. I began to believe that people only like me or look up to me based on what I do and how well I perform and….

I began to live out of this idea.

So maybe I didn’t “begin” to do this, because somehow I looked back and realized I had been doing this performance-based thing for a very long time.

It’s just that I never had to notice it before now- before your character is tested, and you are responsible for things you know nothing about, and patience turns threadbare.

Living a performance-based life only gives you a stage and an audience.

Acting is hard work.

At some point you have to get off the stage and hide in the dressing room, because you see what a mess you really are.

I wanted to stay behind the facade of performance. It’s comfortable.

Jesus gently nudges me to leave the performance behind.

I want to stay because it’s easier, I think.

He uses a friend to ask, “What do you want?”

I want Him.

But it’s anything but easy.

Life is hard.

Not because I am a pessimist, but because accusations hurt and God doesn’t always give you nice cars and the soup always seems to burn sticky, black goo on the bottom of the kettle no matter how much I stir it.

I copied the following words of Amy Carmichael into my journal at the beginning of the year. They gave me this ridiculous hope for mankind, for myself.

Looking back there is so much to grieve over. We can see nothing at all in ourselves to praise, but so much in our Savior. He has never given up hope for us. There is something very heartening in this. All that we see as sin, He sees, He saw, and far, far more. But “Thou knewest me before I was,” so nothing can surprise Him out of loving me… The Cross covers, the Blood cleanses, and His eternal love will keep that which we have committed unto Him, until that day…”


“That day” is beholding the glorious-ness of heaven.

I’m so glad my story, your story, doesn’t end with burn out and exhaustion and the feeling of hopelessness.

He never gives up on us when He would have every reason to.

These days of raw searching and vision refining don’t become easier.

They were never meant to be easy in the first place.

But Jesus is somehow, unexplicably, giving hope- that the story is far from over, and He DOES restore and He IS good.

YES.

///I do want to clarify that if you are burnt out, it does not mean you’re not spiritual enough or strong enough or ____ enough. I’m learning to take it as a signal to my mind, body, and soul that it’s time to rest, because work and rest are both biblical and I believe they hold equal value. I have spent a lot of time in the past week gazing at the picture above- It embodies what I believe He delights in- us being content to rest in His presence.///