Burn out is something that I believe I have experienced.
Maybe I have crossed to the other side of burn out, though often I wonder if I am still emerging in and out.
I have been a Christian for most of my life, and I am now close to 60.
Burn out is something that may happen despite faith, but because I am a Christian I want to put some thoughts down that may help someone else, then again, you may not agree with my thoughts, and that’s OK, I may be wrong.
I do think that burn out is something that happens after many years, and may have many contributors.
But before I suggest what contributes to it, I want to describe what I believe it feels like.
The following are some of the feelings I experienced.
Anger, my mood would often flare.
Frustration and impatience. I found I had much less tolerance of others not doing things a certain way, or taking too long to do something that I felt should be easy to complete.
I was judgemental of others, and impatient with what seemed to me as incompetence.
I was less considerate of how my words would affect others, and more self-righteous in how I performed given tasks.
I was more vocal in criticizing anything that I felt needed criticism, which included work environment, church environment, and any other situation I felt I had a right to criticize.
I certainly had a sense of abandonment by “the system”, “the government”, my peers, and even some members of my family.
I also carried a strong sense of failure, in my job, my family relationships, and my Christian walk.
I did not stop going to church, but I was more critical and less active.
I surprised myself more than once that I brought fellow workers to tears, when I simply felt I was stating true facts that explained why I had or hadn’t done something.
I also faced situations which I could not undo, such as failing to visit someone prior to their dying, that was hoping I would visit.
Getting back to anger, I know I was angry that God had not “done” certain things, that I thought he would have, and I felt I deserved.
probably other things I haven’t mentioned, but you get the picture, someone who
professes to be a Christian, but the mirror that I glimpsed from time to time,
only showed a hard, rude, angry sinner, the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit.
May I also throw in at this point, that I think we generally paint a much rosier picture of ourselves than what the people around us see. Whether we are burnt out or not. And, if I am completely honest, I think we easily look down on others and consider ourselves, in general, “better than average”.
So now I am hinting at the things that I think can lead to burn out.
thing, I believe, is a wrong personal expectation of life, and of God.
We are motivated by many things, but if, for example, you work hard at your job, thinking that one day you will be the boss, and able to lead an easier life, yet a number of years down the track you realize, that nothing has changed and no-one is offering you a promotion, then this can change our motivation.
As a Christian, we may think that if we continue on in our church, serving, worshiping, leading, teaching, that the church will grow, and who knows, you might be the church that breaks out in revival, even though no-one else, “out there” expected it.
Maybe we will even rival some of the famous mega churches, after all, God can see the deep honesty of our faith at work.
But after many years of faithful service and attendance, you only see more and more empty pews, this can be disheartening, and suddenly we question our initial expectations and abilities.
So I am saying that we are more prone to burn out, if we have a high view of our abilities and high expectations, that are not from God.
This is a type of pride, and it isn’t actually from God.
If we go back to basics, the reason we are Christians, is because God has given us his son, Jesus, and by the cross, has taken away our sin and shame. Our forgiveness and adoption is God’s great gift to us, and everything we do comes out of that. If we spend our whole lives in thankfulness to God, joining other believers in fellowship in order to better give thanks, and we die without ever experiencing anything of our own making “going viral”, no richer, no more famous, no more considered by others, and not promoted to any position of leadership, then we are still incredibly blessed to have had all of our sins forgiven, and others to share that joy with.
Unfortunately, especially today, we have open access to media through internet, giving us too much fuel for envy of others, and ambition in ourselves.
We suddenly consider our current state as inadequate and seek to achieve something that we see as better than what we actually already have.
If we achieve these things, we become hungry for more, and if we don’t, at some point our motivation comes crashing down.
Either way, we can easily reach burn out.
The good news is that God’s love does not burn out, disappear, or disappoint us.
Our understanding of God’s love and will for our lives might need important editing, but the truth of who he is and what he has done for us because of his incomparably great love for us, does not change.
While we were still sinners, he sent his son to die for us, and as we continue on in our prideful religious sinning, he has still sent his son to die for us. We are not worse off, in fact we are better off.
To see what God has done for us more clearly, we sometimes need a good dose of humble pie, and, unfortunately, often the only way we will swallow humble pie, is when someone else has forced us into it. Thankfully, God is sovereign, and though the adversity might come through other people causing us what seems to be unfair suffering, God never allows us to fall beyond his love, and is still able to keep his promise of working everything for the good of those who love him. Unfortunately, or fortunately, what we see as good, and what God sees as good are often at odds. But what God sees as good is very good, and one day we will all agree.
I think as burnt out Christians, we are more ready to hear God speak to us, and also more ready to hear God not speak to us outside his perfect word in the scriptures.
I think “burnt out Christian” is the step before “mature Christian”.
And I think “mature Christian” is not much different to child like faith.
As in faith I grow older, my heart
Remembering with sadness the things I’ve done wrong.
Though I may be a Christian with years of religion,
I still need His mercy and love.
More precious with time, more precious with time,
That's how God's sweet Gospel grows.
Just to know that he lives, just to know he forgives,
And that one day to Jesus I’ll go.