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Breaking out of Burnout

May 30th, 2018

If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:6)

It seems simple enough. If we want to bear fruit then we should remain in Christ. To remain means to abide with Him, to stay with Him, to live life with Him, to take all that we do and think and say, all our relations and responsibilities and expectations, all of everything we have and think and do, and bring them to Christ, and to bring Christ to them.

If we do not do this, however, we burnout. Here Christ used an agricultural example of what farmers do – they burn away the useless parts of plants at harvest. A branch that does not bear fruit, the vintner cuts off. It dries out in the ditch until it must be gotten out of the way. Then it is tossed into the fire.

A couple of years ago I wrote a book “Burnout: Causes and Recovery” with the subtitle “Rediscovering the Joy of Ministry.” If you are dealing with burnout I recommend it to you. It is available on amazon. In it I identified seven main symptoms of burnout for ministers:

  1. Frustration in being unable to change our circumstances in life
  2. A false sense of self-importance, feeling that we are irreplaceable
  3. A sense of being unappreciated by others
  4. A sense of disappointment in God, that He had not done what we had expected Him to do
  5. A feeling of being overwhelmed, of having too much to do – unrelenting responsibilities
  6. A sense of being isolated and alone
  7. The death of those dreams and hope we had earlier held of being able to make a difference for God

These traits were seen in the lives of both Moses and Elijah – two great men of God. Moses exploded in anger (Numbers 20) and Elijah imploded in fear and defeat (1 Kings 19), but both were dealing with the same inner problem.

Perhaps you feel similar today. Take some time to speak with Christ about your feelings. Let Him remind you that you are not alone, that He is with you. Let Him refresh and renew your excitement for service and for knowing Him. We all need to learn the discipline of constant dependence on Christ’s strength. Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21), and because he could say that he could also say:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

Burnout

Enlarging Your Steps

June 6th, 2017

Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. (Psalm 18:36 KJV)

Here is a promise for us that was an experience for David. Twice in the Holy Book he described his experience in these terms: God enlarging his steps. In his psalm recorded in 2 Samuel 22:37, and in Psalm 18 above.

The modern translations tend to say that this means, “You have broadened my path,” always trying to find the dynamic equivalent. Yet the original is clearly steps, and not path. God does straighten our paths (Prov. 3:5-6) and broaden them on many occasions. In His grace the rough places become smooth (Isaiah 40:3-4). That is stated in His Word. But David was describing something different here – not that the path became level but that he himself became stronger. His steps were enlarged so that he stepped over the rough spots.

Does not God do this for us? Is not this His plan as much as smoothing the path is? Children cry over the slightest of hurts, but a grown person knows these things are not worth crying over. Immature people fight to get their way, or erupt in fear over the slightest upsetting of their hopes, but mature people trust God in all things and know the difference between a major issue and a minor one.

Sometimes God does this through giving us a bigger problem. A few weeks ago I flew to Asia where we lived for twenty years. My knee was giving me such problems that I considered cancelling my trip – I am scheduled for knee replacement surgery next week. But I decided to go anyway, and while I was there I came down with shingles – a much more serious concern. Suddenly the knee pain seemed as though it was nothing, and God has often done things like this in my life.

The bigger problems seem sometimes to be easier for us to give to Him than the smaller ones, and perhaps that is why God allows us to have them. Cancer we will give to God, knowing we cannot handle it alone. But a sore toe we will nurse ourselves and complain and whine about. But all matters we can place in His hands and learn to stand in His grace and strength.

Our child’s studies may disturb us and cause us to worry if they will apply themselves, until they have a serious sickness. Then, in a matter of seconds, everything is put into a different perspective, and God has enlarged our steps to handle the harder matter. If we can step over a dangerous illness, then we also learn that the minor frustrations of life are really nothing at all to worry about.

Sometimes God does this by giving us a larger vision. We are often worried about how we can reach one person for Christ, when we ought to have entire cities and whole nations on our hearts. We trip over many stumbling stones in service and witness that are practically nothing at all. The Christian must learn to take great steps for God and not become disheartened over one little rejection.

Poet Sam Walter Foss, perhaps unknowingly, spoke of this spiritual enlargement in the hearts of Christians when he wrote:

Bring me men to match my mountains.
Bring me men to match my plains.
Men with empires in their purpose.
And new eras in their brains.

We need people who are not afraid to dream dreams with the Holy Spirit, to let the Spirit enlarge their hearts and enlarge their steps as well.

The vision of one single man from Macedonia got Paul and his companions to go there and begin work, but once he was there he realized a whole continent that needed Christ. Baker James Cauthen, speaking to newly appointed missionaries, spoke of this matter of a vision and the experience in living out the vision.

You have visualized the need, but in your place of service you will discover that the vision was smaller than the need really is. When you tackle the responsib.ility, the size, weight, and extend of it will make you feel your need of God that you may “be strong and of good courage.”

You will find that even though you have prayed about your mission task and carefully planned for it, the results you long for may not come as readily as you desire. You will need to be strong in your readiness to let God’s results come in God’s time – knowing that he will bring his word to fruition if you trust him. You have to be strong in your faith that when you share God’s word it will not come back empty.*

Our steps, if they are enlarged must also have the pace of God behind them, that we do not panic or become discouraged when things do not happen when we wanted them to. Large steps endure difficulty, maintain hope, see the mountains to which they are headed, do not stumble over the little pebbles in the way. They keep pace with the Spirit of God and trust Him in all things. This strength comes from God and we have no reason to boast in it on account of ourselves.

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*Baker James Cauthen, Beyond Call, Broadman Press, 1973, pp. 11-12.

Burnout, Dealing with Difficulties, Encouragement , , ,