Like a piece of burnt toast?

It is as subtle as a developing cancer and every bit as deadly if left untreated. It grows in the soul, feeding on good intentions and high goals that are misfocused. I am talking about ‘burn out.’ Is your life about as appealing as a piece of burnt toast?  If you hate life, feel exhausted, don’t want to get out bed, are slipping in your performance at work, have trouble sleeping, are finding yourself in more arguments, and are not focused;  you may want to have a conversation with someone about making some changes in the way you live. Burnout generally results from stress and stress levels are way up since the pandemic started. Burnt out people have allowed themselves to be overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities.

Burnout is not indicated when we have a few bad days in a row. Everybody has those times when it feels like nothing is working, when life’s demands overload the schedule, when they arrive at the end of day exhausted. Burnout is different!  A person who is suffering this way starts the day exhausted, week after week. She may drive herself to work, but productivity is diminished.  A burnt out person has no motivation to excellence, has lost any joy in life to duty.

So, if you’re saying, “Jerry, that’s me! Want can I do?” 
First of all, don’t quit your job. That might sound like a fix, and it might even feel good to hand in your keys … for a few days, but burn out is more about HOW we react to life than it is about life itself.  We can work at high levels of productivity without burning out.

1. As a Christian, we must accept the Word’s principle of breaking up our work schedule with times of rest. In the Old Testament, the people of God were instructed to observe the 7th day of the week as one of rest. The law of the Sabbath was important. It followed the Creation story of God’s own ‘rest.’  Genesis says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 1:31 -2:3, NIV) 

We must discipline ourselves to set aside the constant clamor of responsibility at least one day out of the week.  Many of us are ruled by the notifications on our smartphones, by laptop computers that let us bring ‘the office’ into our living room, by work expectations that we will be ‘available’ at any hour of the day.  It can be difficult to remind ourselves that the world will not stop if we turn off the work email at 6 pm! We might even be passed over for a promotion if we insist on honoring God with a true priority of rest. But … we will be emotionally and spiritually healthier.

2. Christians who adopt a standard of ‘perfection’ put themselves at a much higher risk of burnout.  The call of Christ to a holy life of devotion is a worthy one and in the memorable words of Oswald Chamber’s devotional book, requires ‘my utmost for His highest.’   IF we turn knowing and serving Jesus into keeping measure of hours spent in prayer, chapters read in our Bible, Sundays spent in church, or time invested in ministry work any ‘joy of the Lord’ that could renew us will be lost in the statistics.  The sweet relationship of a loving God will be replaced with the rigorous religion that exhausts us.  Who intends to become one of those drudges who occupy church pews, joyless, hanging on to God knows what, to stay out of Hell? 

Of course Christians will be diligent in the spiritual disciplines, but for the purpose of knowing God, not gaining approval of others or even to try to find some inner sense of worth. They are a means not an end. Jesus wants us to know Him even as we serve Him.

3. God calls us out of isolation and into His Church, into loving relationships. If you ‘don’t have time’ for relationships, something is wrong with the way you understand life itself.  Having even 2 or 3 real friends with whom we can be ourselves, who have permission to ‘call us out’ when needed, who we know we can call at 2 am if needed, are a primary defense against burnout! When you invest a couple of hours at a table with people who know you, who listen to your stories, who make you laugh, and you will feel renewed. Share a passion for some project with 3 or 4 other like-minded Christians and you will multiply your effectiveness and find joy in the journey!  Solomon should have taken his own advice when he wrote: “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT)

Let’s learn how to pursue our God with real love, with a diligent desire for excellence, observing days of rest, receiving His grace for our imperfections, and reflecting on the journey in the company of friends.  Let’s not miss out on Jesus’ promise that through Him we can know ‘life to the full,’ because we are living in a pressure filled environment that controls us. 

Meditate on this word from the Word and see what the Spirit is saying to you today.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV) 

Eugene Peterson offers this commentary on that passage – “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, The Message)

Now that sounds like a life I want to live.
How about you?

_________________

Goodness Of God

(CeCe Winans reminds us of His love)

I love You Lord
Oh Your mercy never fails me
All my days
I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
I will sing of the goodness of God

All my life You have been faithful
All my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a father
I’ve known You as a friend
I have lived in the goodness of God

Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

Ben Fielding | Brian Johnson | Ed Cash | Jason Ingram | Jenn Johnson
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