Burnout. That terrible feeling that fills us when we have poured our whole life into something or someone and we are sure we cannot do it for one more minute of one more day. We desperately try to remember how passionate we are about our vision, but it just makes us tireder. We know the person we are trying to love must have at least one positive quality. But try as we may, we just cannot think of it. It seems all our work has been fruitless or at least produced insignificant results. We are done. We quit.
I have thought a lot about burnout prevention during the last few years and found my own antidotes. I followed advice and spent more time with God. I studied the epistles of Paul, seeking to learn how someone with such a hard life of service made it to the finish line without burning out. Somewhere in one of the notebooks floating around my apartment, there are several answers to that question. But two have remained with me. One is that he kept a razor sharp focus on Jesus Christ. The second was his understanding of the purpose of his own existence. On the screen of my phone (and in Acts 20:24), Paul proclaims, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” It keeps calling me back to the purpose of my life.
Last week God showed me another way to prevent burnout. When it comes to ministry, I need to take step one. I need to step off the throne and let God step onto it. In some ways I need to quit having a vision. At least quit having a vision other than the one He has planted in my heart, but I have no idea how to pursue the one He has planted in my heart. When I try to be logical about reaching the vision, it does not work and I become exhausted. My opinion about how the vision should become a reality seems to be radically different than God’s. I keep fighting with God about it. When I finally surrender, I restart fighting a few hours or days later. Maybe I am actually just taking a timeout and not surrendering at all.
Frankly my problem might come down to something I have been telling the people around me for years, “God has to do a great work in us before He can do a great work through us.” It is having the work done in me that I do not always like. While the innermost part of my being longs for an experience on earth where I learn to trust God in the deepest way imaginable, my intellect would like to create a life that is so “safe” I do not have to trust Him at all. I would have a lot of resources besides Him to fill my needs.
I have spent an incredible amount of energy trying to make my life safe. Some of the energy that I did not use pursuing “safety”, I spent longing for it. God has been showing me if I spent less energy fighting His call to selflessness, I would have energy to be selfless. Life would not be such a battle if I did not make it one. Peace is mine for the taking if only I choose to submit.
Over the course of the last week, I have become more active in stepping off my throne. Do I suddenly love all the things I was fighting with Him over? No, but I have a choice to use my energy serving Him or fighting Him. I want to be honest and authentic, so I will tell Him it is not the way I would choose it. Then I will surrender and offer my heart to Him, so He can change it. I will do the same thing tomorrow and the next day, too.
I have thought back on the Greatest Commandment and how such a short time ago I declared if I kept it, I would have no trouble endlessly loving my neighbor as myself. I have realized much of my fighting with God has had myself at the center of it. I do not want to make the sacrifices He is asking me to make. I am at the center of the vision for my life. Jesus needs to have that place. If I surrender the position to Him, I will not burnout.
I can fight with God and keep begging Him to make it about my reputation and my comfort, or I can surrender and let it be about His reputation and His Kingdom. I want to surrender and let Him be God. What about you?