I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, right? Therefore, the words spiritual and burnout shouldn’t need to go together. But spiritual burnout is a real thing we face when serving Christ. Yet, it seems to be little recognised. We tend to have this notion that if we are doing something for the Lord, we can keep doing it zealously without reaching exhaustion. And yet, I see spiritual burnout in faithful people all over the world.
I think many of us wish we were like Saul-turned-Paul: meeting Jesus, receiving his purpose for our lives and going out instantly to serve faithfully, passionately and enthusiastically until our dying die, despite the terrible circumstances we face. But in my experience, it doesn’t work like that for most people. The road is not that straight and narrow. And it’s far messier.
Spiritual Burnout is understandable.
A calling from Christ to serve him and his church is not a small request. It requires all of us. It requires our time and effort and our money. It requires us to rearrange our lifestyle. It can often require our families to come alongside us and support us. It requires sacrifice. It is not a small thing when Christ calls us to serve. It is a life thing. And the dedication required can often be tiring.
A calling from Christ to serve him is long-term. And sometimes it required years of service before we see change. As we dive into doing God’s work in the world, we step out of our comfort zones and see how much of the world needs God. This can often be overwhelming and lead us to question if we can ever really make a difference which, in turn, can make us feel discouraged.
When we respond to our calling with action, we often face obstacles and opposition because Satan doesn’t want us doing the Lord’s work in this world. Not only will the work we do for God impact others, but it will also grow our own faith. But as many of you have come to realise, faith is often grown when we go through trials. And these tests can often leave us feeling drained.
When I think of burnout, I think of Elijah. Having served God zealously, he flees Jezreel when death threats are issued against him. He has had enough to the point that he wishes to die. When we reach a point of having had enough of serving the Lord, that is when we know we have reached a point of burnout.
It is at this point that God restores Elijah’s mind by letting him lie down and sleep. God then restores Elijah’s body by sending the angel to feed him. And only then does God restore his spirit by bringing Elijah to the mountain where the Lord appears to him. It is after Elijah has been fully restored in mind, body and spirit that the Lord gives instructions for Elijah to continue doing the work that God called him to.
My friends, when we become burnt out from doing the Lord’s work, we need to take the time to restore our minds, bodies and spirits before we continue. The clichéd saying is true: you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you are feeling empty inside, how can you give of yourself? Because giving of yourself is what serving Christ requires.
Better yet, we should aim to be disciplined in ensuring that our minds, bodies and spirits are constantly being fed so that we are continually able to feed others in the work that Christ calls us to.
There is no same in becoming burnt out in serving the Lord. But there is a danger in wanting to give up completely when you reach this point. Instead, my friends, this is the time to go on your knees before our Heavenly Father and ask Him to restore your mind, body and spirit so that you have the strength to do whatever it is He has planned for you to do.