Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 28-30
It’s been a long year and a half. For all of us. In the entire world.
There have been so many moments when I’ve had it up to here with ministry, with church, with people in the church (can you relate?). Changing expectations, constantly having to adapt, and the increasingly virtual world making it so tempting to compare our church against other churches. It’s become hard to connect to the community with everyone feeling too full to take on anything else. If you came to the staff of our church with anything new that needed attention, the look on their faces said it all.
We are tired. We are weary. We are unsure. We don’t know how long we can keep this up.
I’m a lay leader, meaning that I am a non-clergy serving member of our congregation. I’m on the Church Council and lead the Grow Team, which focuses on supporting the Christian education of the church. I’m not on staff, but as all church volunteers know, the workload can get extensive. Emails to send, meetings to host, trying to build a team virtually, keeping in touch with people and then trying to somehow get my head in the right space to worship on Sunday (or Tuesday…shout out to virtual church). My prayers are sounding a lot less like “Our Father who art in heaven” and a lot more like “God, how on earth are we going to get through this?”
When I’ve been burnt out of a hobby or volunteer activity or a job before, the best way I’ve handled it is to step away for a while, allow myself to recover and then decide how best to move forward. But when it comes to stepping away from your faith community or even your faith, that doesn’t always seem like an option. Stepping away from my faith community feels like I’m not just abandoning my sisters and brothers in Christ, it feels like I’m abandoning God.
So what does a Christian do? How can we break through this overwhelming sense of apathy and frustration, while not pulling ourselves away from God? The answer looks different for everyone. What I’m sharing is not how to “break out of your burn out,” but three things to remember when you’re at a place you know you need a change.
- Taking a break from church and church responsibilities, doesn’t mean you are taking a break from your relationship with God. Church work is hard and messy, and when you work on a church staff or serve in lay leadership, there are times it can become too much. I want to reassure you,
It is okay to step away to give yourself time to heal.
If you’re experiencing burn out, sometimes the thing you need the most is to take a Sabbath. Whether that’s a vacation, a leave of absence, or a redirection altogether, I encourage you if you are experiencing burn out to allow yourself guiltless time to prioritize your relationship with God, the Giver of Life. Sabbath looks different for everyone, so do what works for you. Our God is the Great Healer and Restorer of Faith. Allow yourself the chance to look at your relationship with Jesus, and fall in love again.
- Continue to share God’s love however you can. Have you ever been the “yes” person at church (or in life)? Someone asks you to chaperone a mission trip, you say yes. They ask you to lead a Bible Study, you say yes. Those things can be lifegiving, but one of the BEST ways to combat burn out is through allowing yourself to say “no” to those things.
In a season of “burn out recovery”, continuing to feed your spirit is essential, it just may look different.
Draw close to God however you can. If it’s through loving on your family? Do it with your whole self. If it’s through an intimate Bible study with a close friend? Rejoice in it! If it’s through 5 minutes of quiet meditation before you start your day? Block out everything else and cherish that time. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, says, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” By taking this time for yourself, you are preaching your faith in small ways, and by preaching it, you rebuild it for years to come.
- Remember, this is a season, and seasons pass. Odds are, you feel anxious, frustrated, tired, apathetic, annoyed, all general feelings that come when you’re burnt out. In the middle of the mess, sometimes the most useful phrase to remember is the most cliche, “this too shall pass.” As cliche as it is, there’s a reason that it’s been sewed on pillows and tattooed on arms for years. The season of feeling frustrated, tired, and burnt out will also pass. Take the necessary steps to take care of yourself and your family, and let the Lord work on your heart. It is never easy, as it takes a lot of work to build yourself back, but through time and discipline, you can walk out of this season a new creation, hand-in-hand with the Lord.
If you are weary, burdened, in need of rest, take the Father’s yoke upon you. Listen to the warning signs that your body, designed by God, has given you and act upon them. Remember these three things I’ve shared, and seek guidance from those who have experienced this before.
Dear friends, our God is with you now and will be with you always, even in the middle of the mess. Amen.