ministry, The Church

3 Things I Learned From Burning Out

August 20, 2014 • By

burned-carAs I write this, I’m winding down the final days of a one month sabbatical.

For the last four weeks, I haven’t worked at the church or my business.  In fact, I haven’t answered my phone or returned any emails.  It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done because I’ve spent the last three quarters of my life training my mind and body to do one thing; work.  After all, I’m from the Midwest and the highest compliment a man can earn here is “He’s a hard worker!”

It was like trying to stop a train whose breaks had become stiff and rusty from never being used. 

Before the sabbatical, I was compulsively working, checking emails, doing “one small thing” after another until I found myself horribly burned out, but unable to stop moving long enough to recharge and rest.

The last few weeks have been incredibly eye opening and I just wanted to share a couple of things I learned from it.

First, you CAN have too much of a good thing.
The fact that you’re called, gifted, or super passionate about a vocation doesn’t mean that it’s healthy to work 70 hours a week at it.  One day you wake up wondering why it all just feels like a dry, laborious, joyless chore (because you’re burned out).  If God wanted us to work that hard, He wouldn’t have given us the sabbath.  Pace yourself.  After 40 hours of work (in a week), the law of diminishing returns kicks in and the extra work begins to work against you.

Some of the stuff we learn in church can really hurt us in this department.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked myself to exhaustion while Steven Curtis Chapman was singing in my mind, “We will abandon it all for the sake of the call.”  Phrases like “totally abandoned to God” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” are wonderful when taken in context, but are often used to push ourselves into unbalanced, unhealthy work habits.

It takes discipline to rest.
I’m all about discipline.  I discipline myself to eat right, exercise, pray, and study the Bible.  I usually see discipline as an action.  I like action.  I’m a person of action.  I’ve discovered that it takes an incredible amount of discipline to be still and rest.  I mean really rest.  Don’t check email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Unplug.  It’s in an environment of rest that our minds can refresh, creativity can begin stirring, and we can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.  But it’s so hard in our culture of constant motion, information, and narcissism.  Schedule times of unplugged rest.  Put it on the calendar.  It will pay off in a big way!

This Sunday I go back to work.  I’ll be preaching at my church for the first time in a month.  I can’t wait!  God has given me a fresh love for our congregation, creative ideas for our future, and an excitement to see us live a passionate mission together.  These are all things that I needed badly, but couldn’t receive because I was too busy “gittin’ ‘er done”.

So, what does your discipline of rest look like?  Would you mind sharing some ideas in the comment section?

If you’re tired and burned out, take a look below.  You might find some great ideas!