On this Monday morning, a fresh week just starting, are you already looking forward to Friday? I loved those popular 1980’s Dunkin’™ commercials featuring Fred, the baker, waking up before dawn declaring – “Time to make the donuts.” Over the years, we met Fred time and time again heading for the door because it was ‘time to make the donuts!’ The phrase entered our American language as a short-hand way to acknowledge our mixed emotions about work. Go ahead today and say, “Time to make the donuts” and even somebody who never saw one of those commercials will know what you mean!
One of the by-products of the age of COVID-19 is a phenomenon called ‘burn out.’ For many of us the rewards of our work is deferred, the ongoing responsibilities increased but apart from the things that helped make life richer. “Burn out” describes those combined feelings of cynicism, depression, and anger that rob us of our joy and creativity, reducing us to a drone who realizes that ‘it’s time to make the donuts’ but without any sense of fulfillment! It’s more than fatigue. We all have days when we wonder why we do what we do, when we feel that we are just a cog in a machine. When those days turn into weeks and then into months of unbroken output, when we have no sense of meaning, or when life seems to be beyond our control, we are at risk for ‘burn out.’
Those times put us at great risk of making short-sighted choices and, yes, vulnerable to many kinds of temptation – overspending, quitting too soon, getting into pornography, abusing alcohol – to name a few. In my calling, this time is producing ‘burn out’ in many pastors who are giving it all they have with little in the way of visible return, preaching to mostly empty buildings, unable to connect meaningfully with the people for whom they care.
It’s not just executives, pastors, or doctors that burn out. Mommy fatigue is real. Toddlers who seems to have endless energy and teenagers that seem not to care much for the love a parent offers are things that make life exhausting. Marriage ‘burn out’ is real. Spouses who fail to connect, care, and prioritize grow apart and stale.
Christians can and do ‘burn out’ when they no longer can connect worship and/or service to anything that resembles results.
One of the most important ways to avoid burn out is to maintain a balance of work and rest, something growing more rare as we work from home, stay connected 24/7, and feel limited about going to places that break the routine – like church, a night with friends, or a family vacation. We will not find real renewal in self-indulgence! If we are at risk of real burn out but think that we will recover if we are selfish or walk away from responsibility, we make a real mistake.
The issue of perfectionism plays into burn out, too. Comparison is a cruel taskmaster that eat away at our heart, making it almost impossible to give thanks for whom we are, where we are. Not everyone is an Olympic athlete, blessed with the brains of a neurosurgeon, or gifted with the compassion of Mother Theresa. If we come to believe that we are not valuable to God unless we are working at that kind of level we are at risk of burning ourselves out chasing the impossible. Who has God gifted YOU to be?
It is possible for us to live at a high level of productivity and remain fresh, vital, and joyful! How?
Renewal is accomplished by choosing our priorities and learning to align our daily choices with the important rather than the ‘urgent.’ No one person can do everything, be everything, or make life right for everyone. One of the most difficult questions in the world to answer is this- “What does God want specifically from me?” As Christians, there is nothing more critical than making our choices – time use, money, entertainment, privates thoughts -that are aligned with God’s will. When our values and actions are in sync, our risk of burn out is much lower.
Renewal flows out of worship. You know this but I’ll say it anyway. Worship is not just something that happens on Sunday morning! Worship is a lifestyle, cultivated by ongoing pursuit of the Holy, as real on Monday morning as in a church sanctuary on a holy day. I cannot overstate the importance of hitting life’s pause button, first not last, for meditation, prayer, and giving God His place. There is a conceit that grips too many of us in which we are convinced that we can make life work just as we desire if only we do more, start earlier, or stay later. That lie will kill your soul and leave you a burnt wisp of a human being.
This Psalm invites us to a life of renewal. Before you read it, pause and ask the Spirit to make it a living Word. If you have worked too long, put God in second place, or failed to take care of your primary relationships – confess those choices as the sins they are, and take the grace He offers to change your heart. RENEWAL is possible.
The word from the Word …
“A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and
beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
(Psalm 63:1-8, NIV)
Graves Into Gardens
(take a few minutes to soak in this song of renewal!)
I searched the world but it couldn’t fill me
Man’s empty praise and treasures that fade
Are never enough
Then You came along and put me back together
And every desire is now satisfied here in Your love
Oh there’s nothing better than You
There’s nothing better than You
Lord there’s nothing
Nothing is better than You
I’m not afraid to show You my weakness
My failures and flaws
Lord You’ve seen them all
And You still call me friend
‘Cause the God of the mountain
Is the God of the valley
And there’s not a place
Your mercy and grace won’t find me again
You turn mourning to dancing
You give beauty for ashes
You turn shame into glory
You’re the only one who can
You turn graves into gardens
You turn bones into armies
You turn seas into highways
You’re the only one who can
Brandon Lake | Chris Brown | Steven Furtick | Tiffany Hammer
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