I have had 2 conversations lately (1 via email, the other in person) with friends who've confessed they were going through some "burnout". I recently blogged on a similar topic having to do with a trend I'm sensing (and seeing) with some ministers these days who are swinging the opposite way toward laziness. You can read that post HERE. But this issue of burnout is in no way exclusive with pastors and ministers. Many Christians within the Church are beginning to feel the ramifications and consequences from years of being over-committed, excessively involved in one program after another, all "irons in the fire", and to put it simply, over-involved in everything! There is an army of people with the Body of Christ who are drowning in their overloaded Christians lives - consumed with what they're "doing" for God, and dangerously neglecting WHO they're becoming as a result. There's no room for margin. In fact, there's no room to breathe! Something has to be done. And I'd like to share what I believe can be the first step on the road to recovering your life and your faith.
This morning I had the opportunity to cook breakfast for the large team of servants at our church who monthly make Angel Food happen. All I did was scramble eggs. Most of these folks are there every single month, serving others in our church and our community. A month or so ago I was there all morning, taking part in what happens, taking pictures, and witnessing this incredible commitment and efficiency with my own eyes. I was blessed! But the thing that stood out to me above everything else wasn't tangible. It wasn't the teenagers I saw helping older adults to their cars with boxes of food or senior adults filling box after box with the exact items a single mom needed to keep things going at home. What impressed me more than anything wasn't something I could reach out and touch. But you could definitely see it. It was unmistakably visible. It was written on each face in a way that you couldn't ignore it. It was JOY. And it was the kind that you can't take away.
On the hand, one thing I couldn't find anywhere present on the faces or in the attitudes or hearts of the people serving there that morning was burnout. No one was walking around telling everybody else how overcommitted they've been and how they've "gotta start making room for margin in my life". There was just JOY! And I submit to you that the reason for this is that, when we serve others - especially those who are in NEED - we lose sight of all our "light and momentary troubles". (2 Cor. 4:16-18) And I'm not talking about showing up 30 minutes before everyone else on a Sunday to hand out bulletins or to point people to a good seat. I'm not knocking that - we have to have those people to make Sundays work. And there is great blessing and satisfaction in serving that way. But I'm talking about getting sweaty and dirty - getting deeply involved in the lives of people whose situations and circumstances make us feel like we're living the dream. When you put food in a box for someone who is actually counting on that food to feed their family this week, your perspective changes. You stop thinking about the fact that you're "overcommitted" and you start thanking the Lord that He's so overcommitted to you! Have you thought about that?
If you're experiencing burnout - if you've been leading and teaching and serving to the point that you have nothing left to give - then I say QUIT! Stop doing all of it! And do 1 simple thing. Serve. Find an opportunity to give of yourself to those in NEED. Stop handing out bulletins to your middle-class church friends on Sunday morning and start handing out food on Thursday nights to someone whose stomach is shrinking. If you're overcommitted, stretched thin, burned out - if your priorities are misaligned and messed up - if your family is beginning to forget what your face looks like - STOP! Stop the madness. And find 1 simple way to serve. I assure you, God will show up in the midst of your sacrifice.
Here's the irony in all of this: The only way things "burnout" is if they're on fire. When you begin to actually SERVE - give yourself for the sake of others - God doesn't put out the fire, he unleashes it! He won't pour water on it - He will fan the flames and cause it to burn for the things that His heart burns for. People. God loves people. Serve people. And watch your burnout...well, burnout.