When you felt like you were finally surfacing from burnout–or as I called it, tired-mad, I might tell you what I found out. That sometimes burnout is simply burnout, because life is hard. And even though God never gives us more than He’ll give us strength to handle (He says so here and here), it still can feel like a rightful scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel, ta-da-I-survived type thing. (Whether it’s godly or not to be burned out is another post for another time, perhaps. But pretending it’s not there doesn’t really help.)
Questions that may help as you process burnout
- How have my responsibilities challenged me? How have they changed me?
- What activities “give me life” after I’ve helped someone?
- Who do I feel comfortable debriefing with?
- What questions do I find myself asking—and what lies am I tempted to believe (“I’m the only one who can help.” “I can’t afford to rest.” “Jesus wouldn’t say no here”)—when I am burdened by helping someone?
- In what Scriptures do I find hope and comfort when I am helping someone? (I like Isaiah 55:1-3.)
- (One of my favorites:) What would a compassionate friend say to me about this? (I often afford more compassion to others than I do to myself.)
- What sense of purpose and meaning do I find in my work? What do I love about what I do?
- What do I do when I am not handling stress well? What does the “stressed” version of me look like?
- What methods, people, and practices have helped me in the past?
- What do I think God thinks about my work?
- What questions do I have for God because of my work?
Sometimes, my own burnout simply comes from, as Romans 12 puts it, thinking of myself more highly than I ought, or making decisions about “opportunities” based out of fear rather than faith. (You can read more about my struggle with my opportunity vs. my call here.) Actually, the longer I am in Africa, the more clearly I see that my American value of achievement and hard work is tightly braided with my view of successful Christianity.
Am I playing the martyr?
Personally, I can get a little martyr-ish when I’m tired-mad (you might not struggle this way). I might feel angry
- that people haven’t stood up for my rest (yes, that is as dysfunctional as it sounds—that I can’t actually ask for or initiate the rest I need).
- that so much is being asked of me…which is often a problem with my own boundaries. Or, as Paul David Tripp puts it, I am indirectly blaming God: “You are essentially saying: ‘My problem isn’t a heart problem; my problem is a poverty of grace problem. If only God had given me ____, I wouldn’t have had to do what I did….’”
- about some “shoulds” of mine, which perhaps should not have been shoulds at all. Perhaps I can acknowledge that I am an adult and I have choices.
Martyrdom: My own personal thief
Here is what I am realizing about playing the martyr: It actually robs me of a lot of things I don’t want to give up.
- The choice to see all the good stuff God’s piling around me rather than what isn’t going the way I want it–and admiring myself for all my lofty self-sacrifice.
- The choice to be joyful, content, and peaceful, rather than lumbering around like the Incredible Hulk.
- The choice to trust God and ask Him for what I need.
- The choice to care about people (and my family) enough to courageously choose rest and set healthy boundaries.
- Being humble enough to receive from others—and to put on my big-girl panties, accepting responsibility for my choices rather than blaming.
- Choosing grace to validate me in God’s eyes, rather than all my illustrious contributions (isn’t God lucky to have me on His team?).
- Choosing rest; choosing simplicity (my kids can have pizza one night; stand down, Supermom). By choosing the Sabbath as His day, God associates rest with worshiping Him; He says, I am your rest. I found intriguing this blogger’s recent distinction regarding starting our week with the Sabbath:
According to the Law, we are to work first, and then we are granted rest. Jesus reversed this pattern for us when he perfectly obeyed all of the Ten Commandments and kept the law on our behalf. By living the perfect life, Jesus has met God’s perfect standard.
So I don’t have to “earn” chilling out. And though I long to be a living sacrifice, denying the rhythms and seasons God has designed is not always noble. Rest is my own restatement that I trust in Jesus’ work–not mine.
Like this post? You might like
- Your Opportunity…vs. Your Call
- Memos to Myself: On the Dangers of Overcommitment
- The True Cost of Overcommitment
- In Praise of Sabbath: On Letting Go
- Battling the Joy-suckers of Motherhood
- Diagnosis: Burnout
- Avoiding Burnout: 31 Tips for Avoiding the No-Fry Zone
- 6 Ways to Pray for Your Kids (and Yourself) When You Actually Want to Tear Your Hair Out