The Gift of Burnout

From Darla O. (see "Place" blog)

from Eric B. "The places that move me to prayer are the places where He’s needed the most."

I’ll continue to post pictures in following blogs as you send them to me.   Thanks for sharing with us!

Now, about burnout….


Say what? I know, you must think that I am joking.

Allow me to quote myself from down the page and then elaborate.

“Put bluntly, saying that we are burned out is a nice way of saying that the idols in our lives are wearing us out.”

If it weren’t for being absolutely burned out a few times myself, I wouldn’t know what I am talking about.  But holy moley, I really do.

I believe burnout is a gift from God to us, to show us where our allegiances are.  When we carry a load we weren’t meant to carry, think we are more important than we are, neglect our need to be connected to the Vine, we sooner or later get to burnout.  Burnout is a gift because for many of us, (in particular, la autora,) it is the only way we will see that Jesus is not our first priority; we are.  And I can’t think of any of us that wants that.

There are valid wounds that go along with burnout.  God allows this for a purpose, not just so that we can feel proud about being such a giver that we are all used up.  Put bluntly, saying that we are burned out is a nice way of saying that the idols in our lives are wearing us out.  The gift part of it is that we can lay down those things that have captivated our heart, and return it fully to the Lord again.  Burnout is His automatic shutoff, the water pouring over the reservoir shelf, the circuit breaker, the tipping point, the surge protector, in our hearts.  Once things shut down, that is His opportunity to start repairing, replacing, and renewing.

I would like to suggest that King David might have said that he was burned out the year that he did not go to war.  (Read 2 Samuel 11 to 12:25)  Or maybe he was bored.  The months of camping in the wilderness every year, managing thousands and thousands of soldiers, seeing all the bloodshed….it really was time for him to stay back.  King David had more than proven himself in battle. Very capable men were in charge of the front lines.  But during his time off he did some things he regretted for years to come.

We have the benefit of Psalm 51, which shows us King David’s response to his fatal choices. In this psalm he mourns the loss of his relationship with God and……

nothing else.

He is able to quickly get to the bottom of things to ask for and receive the restoration of the Lord.  He was so confident in the Lord’s forgiveness that he sincerely asked God to spare his newborn son, despite the mockery of his servants (12:21,22).  He suffered the promised consequences, mourned the death of his son and the destruction of his relationships (12:11-14). But clearly in this psalm, it was his sin against God that weighed on him the most.

Taking a break and getting away from what we think causes burnout is not the answer. We certainly will need to take a break, but in order to adjust our priorities. Our heart drives us to burnout.  We can stop blaming “those people” or “my crazy schedule.”  So then, what do we do with our heart?

God will allow us to suffer loss in ministry to see who or what has our heart.  When we get wounded by those we minister to or with, we see who or what we have handed our heart over to.  If our ministry or other things or people are too important to us and they are damaged, taken away, or go away, we can get offended and angry with God.  Why doesn’t He get mad at us for putting them above Him in the first place?

But, He doesn’t.  He allows the natural consequence of burnout get our attention.  If you are one that made a bad decision during burnout, stop holding it against yourself.  God wants to heal you and put things in order.  I pray that burnout would be a beginning, not an ending for you.

Next time, what to do with our heart……



  1. I have often heard it said that if one is in the habit of listening for God’s voice and ready to respond to what he is saying there wouldn’t be burn out. The problem with most of us is that we think that if we stay busy doing all sorts of good things for the Lord then we must be good and faithful Christians. Even those good and wonderful things can become idols. A good example is found in I Samuel 4 when the Israelites faced off with the Philistines for battle. They decided that if the Ark of the Covenant were in the camp they would be vitorious. It was. They weren’t. I suspect that it was because their eyes were set on the Ark and not on God. The Ark was a good gift, but not better than God who had given orders to build it. As a result they were utterly defeated. I agree with you that burnout does bring us to the end of ourselves. The problem is that when we get there, what will our decisioins be. What I often see happen is a “pulling up the bootstraps” and entering the battle right were we left off instead of letting ourselves sit by that dark pool of despair long enought to really see what’s happening but not too long to let it suck us in completely. By the way, I think it would be nice for you to submit some of these articles to the church newsletter which would help move it from a “begging” motif to something that might actually benefit some people’s lives.

  2. Well said, Jen, and VERY thought provoking. I am afraid I have been one of those people who keeps busy doing “for the Lord” because no one else will do it or because I feel this is the right thing to do not really keeping my eyes on what God is wanting from me. Hence…burnout.

    You should write for the Colums…it desperatly needs a facelift.

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