Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Sometimes you hear people talking about stress and burnout, or emotional burnout. What are they talking about? Long-term stress is exhausting and can have an awful impact on your day-to-day life. Life turns sour and dark, you no longer enjoy things.
This is burnout, too much stress over a long period of time. Burnout is exhaustion in its purest form. It’s both physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion, and emotional exhaustion.
When you are in burnout, you have nothing left. You are in survival mode, where life is happening to you. Signs of burnout include:
- feeling exhausted and unable to perform basic tasks
- losing motivation in many aspects of your life, including your work and friendships
- feeling unable to focus or concentrate on tasks
- feeling empty or lacking in emotion
- losing your passion and drive
- experiencing conflict in your relationships with co-workers, friends and family
- withdrawing emotionally from friends and family.
When you’ve reached the point of burnout, it can feel like you’ve had the life sucked out of you. You no longer feel capable of caring about what’s important to you, making any effort, or staying motivated.
It’s important to keep open the lines of communication with family and friends, with people who you like and respect. After all, you’re not really alone. But there’s something else that’s quite strange—it’s the mistaken idea better to burn out than rust out.
Do You Think Everything Depends on You?
There is a badge of honour that comes with exhaustion in our society. Worked 60 to 80 hours last week? People will be impressed. So busy that you forget to eat lunch every day? What a cool new diet trend, they’ll say.
We have been taught to admire this burnout way of life, and we are all suffering because of it. When you are stressed out your brain gets stressed out. Too much stress also has a negative impact on your brain’s ability to function at a high capacity. Studies have shown that children with high levels of stress have a decreased ability to learn in school. Same is true for adults.
Pastor Rick Warren says that people burn out because they try to control everything themselves. He calls it the Atlas Syndrome, where you live as if the whole world rests on your shoulders. It doesn’t, and you can’t live like that. You can’t be the ‘general manager’ of the whole world. Only God can do that, and you’re not God to have to make it all work out. You’re setting yourself up for burnout, when you try to be general manager of the universe. This is a burden God never intended for you to carry.
I found a very helpful quote from John Wesley who helped start the Methodist Church. A committed Christian and respected Christian leader, he was very busy. But he said;
Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake more work than I can go through with a calmness of spirit.
And that is a great thought. Why do we rush through life thinking everything depends on us? Do we take on more responsibilities than we should? And there is that word ‘should’. It certainly causes anguish today.
A New Song To Sing
King David wrote Psalm 40 from the Old Testament at a very difficult time in his life. He was emotionally burned out because of his son’s rebellion. Psalm 40 are his words of anguish, his cry to God for help.
You listened and pulled me
from a lonely pit
full of mud and mire.
You let me stand on a rock
with my feet firm,
and you gave me a new song,
a song of praise to you. (Psalm 40:1-3 – CEV)
David was a mess. We all face times when it is hard to carry on. The stresses of life can be very hard to overcome.
When we face emotional burnout, one of the things we tend to do is isolate ourselves. We think we are alone, we feel that no one cares. King David was facing one of the darkest moments of his life. I think this was worse than what Saul was doing to him because this was coming from his son, whom David loved dearly. One of the things that David learned throughout his life was that he could count on God. God did not remove him or shield him from problems, but God was there to help him through it.
David had learned the value of that one word, patience. He waited patiently on the Lord to help him. When we are hurting we can cry out to the Lord because he hears us. The struggle we have many times is that we do not think God is listening to us because we are not seeing the action and outcome we want in a given situation.
David had gone from the depths of despair to the heights of joy. But God helped him get out of his rut and placed David in a position of victory. Instead of feeling burned out and in deep pain, God was able to give David a new song to sing! And, you know what, he can do the same for you!