Burnout suggests that the flame is flickering and there is no stoking the fire this time. You have nothing left to give. Stress comes to us by way of engineering. The building is under too much weight; there is too much pressure, and fractures are beginning to appear. You have too much to do, what you do is substandard, and you can’t do it all. Something has to give or … you don’t know exactly what will happen but you know it will be bad.
Burnout and stress are recurring pastoral maladies but lately they are getting more attention. A recent example is David Murray’s fine book, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture. He makes the case for more sleep, a real Sabbath, limits on social connectivity, and many other important matters—all in a clear and biblically persuasive structure. We recommend it. What follows is an occasion for you to consider this topic yet again. It should always be on your personal agenda.
Here are some ways to locate it.
- When do you feel like quitting?
- Do you feel as if most of your work and ministry gets a barely passing grade? Do you ever feel hollow? Do you ever feel like a fraud? Do you think that others have it together but you don’t?
- How often do you start your morning with “I just can’t do it all today”?
- Are interpersonal conflicts part of your daily life—tensions at home, infighting at church, divisions in the staff, relentless critiques of your preaching or ministry? Who can bear up under such things?
We could quickly identify a long list of potential contributions to burnout and stress—our own sins, the impossible expectations of others, inadequate finances, and the sheer burden of caring for so many souls. Our goal, though, is not simply to say “no” more often and keep our anxieties in check. Those help, but we want more. What we hope to do is grow—grow in mature, child-like dependence on the Lord, grow in asking for help and prayer, grow in love that can weather conflicts. We hope to grow in wisdom expressed as an ordered life, in humility before God and others.