We were looking forward to this family trip down to Portland. All that separated us from good food and coffee was a 500 km drive. I usually find driving enjoyable and therapeutic. That morning was different.
I was irritated. I was irritated by how tired I was from loading our entire apartment into the car. The traffic lights irritated me. The other drivers irritated me. The 20-minute border wait irritated me (that’s actually quick already). The coldness of my coffee irritated me.
Even the voice of the lady in the GPS irritated me – constantly mocking me of how much farther I have to go.
What is burnout?
I learned a valuable lesson from my GPS experience: The device highlighted my constant need for control. The GPS served as a constant reminder of how I’m at the mercy of space and time.
It was a reminder of how I’m powerless and this irritated me because it went up against my pride. Though I was literally in the driver seat, I still wasn’t in control.
A desire for constant control is dangerous and the source which feeds and fuels burnout.
Some don’t believe in burnout, yet that’s not what I’ve observed. I would say burnout is very real, but it’s not meant to be our reality.
Burnout is different from feeling tired and stress. Tiredness and stress are normal where they point to the state of your finiteness. The need for sleep and rest is God’s way of reminding us of who we are – human.
Burnout, on the other hand, is not normal. You know you’ve experienced burnout once you lose that fire and desire to do what you once were passionate about. That job and task, which you enjoyed enjoyable, becomes a burden. Everything is irritating. You lose focus and purpose in what you do and why you’re doing it.
All this could happen in an instance.
How did Jesus do it?
If anyone had a valid reason to burnout, it would’ve been Jesus.
He could’ve said He’s burnt out when the disciples were disobedient or abandoned Him. He could’ve said He’s burnt out when society was against Him. He could’ve said He’s burnt out when He was left dying on the Cross.
Yes, Jesus is God and yes, He was in perfect communion with the Father and Holy Spirit. Yet, Jesus was also human. So how did Jesus do it?
We get a hint as we glimpse into Jesus’ humanity in John 22:42. Just before Jesus was led into an unfair trial and later crucified, He prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus showed us how letting go of control kept Him from losing control. Jesus revealed how letting go is the antidote to burning out.
By living in God’s will, Jesus discerned the difference between priorities and what’s voluntary. This ability leads to the separation between the must-do’s and the could-do’s. Displaying love, justice, grace and mercy were a must. Dying on the Cross for the sake of humanity was a non-negotiable.
For us, taking care of our family and children are a must. If we need to work to provide for our family or ourself, that’s a must. If you’re called to be a student, then being good stewards of your education is a must. Looking after our body is a must. If you’re Christian, then worshipping God and putting Him first is a must. Nothing should go above God and there’s a word for when that happens: Idolatry.
What’s voluntary should not take precedent over what is a priority. The moment we confuse the two we’re on our way to burning out. We only have so much time and energy. That’s why it’s important to discern whether what we consider a priority really is a priority.
Some people say “live a balanced life and you’ll be fine.” Life isn’t about balance – it’s about following the right priorities with conviction. When everything is “balanced” and becomes a priority then nothing becomes a priority.
What some don’t realize is our pursuit of balance leads to burnout. In the name of balance, some use it as an excuse for laziness, while others use it as an excuse for busyness. Regardless, chasing after balance puts us back in the driver’s seat – and our desire to be in control is the problem.
So what’s the solution? Let go.
There’s nothing more freeing than being in God’s will.
Our lives aren’t meant to be a comparison to others. We’re meant to live within our calling and God-given capacity. You still might end up tired if you let God steer your priorities you, but you won’t burn out.
So let go of whatever plans you might have for yourself and live in what God has for you. It won’t be easy but it will be good. God really does know better and following Jesus will be your best decision.
What do you need to let go of? What are your priorities? How are you being stretched?
May I humbly suggest turning off whatever your “GPS” is – whether it’s comparing yourself to others or to the pressures of society. Turn away from that voice saying “you’re not good enough” and tune into the voice of God.
Jesus said, “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 11:28-30)