Preventing Burnout: Changing Seasons
I’m fried. I’m burned out. I need a new life because the one I’ve got is all flamed out.
I slap lunches together for kids and rush them out the door to school so early the teachers are barely awake, just to slog through rush hour toward work with strong coffee and a headache. And in the afternoon I’m sick of reading contracts and yet I must still find the energy to craft solutions and answer questions in order to earn a paycheck. And in the evenings when I rush to pick up the children, it’s so late the babysitter’s already fed them, so my job is to only bathe and put them down, and I fall asleep all worn down and worn out and used up as I lay my head next to the fresh scent of a clean child. And at midnight when I wake, still wearing a crumpled up suit and a rumbling stomach, I stumble into my room and mutter, “You can so do this, girl. You can walk into that bathroom and brush your teeth. I believe in you.” Then I set my alarm and push repeat.
I feel that I should get out into the world, moving forward with my new post-divorce life, but what I really want to do is just water my plants sans make-up on the weekends and read books until Monday rolls around again. That pebble has been run over with so much water it’s plum worn down smooth.
When my life gets this hectic, there’s one thing that resonates. In all things and at all times, there is a season. The question is raised in Ecclesiastes 3 – “what do workers gain from their toil?” I’ve asked this myself. And yet the answer is woven into my heart: “I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. . . That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever.”
And I think of how Joseph sat for two long years in jail for a crime he did not commit, and had to endure this burden, and this grief, and this utter boredom, and when he finally had the chance to interpret a dream, he begged the cupbearer for help. “When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” Genesis 40:14. And yet the cupbearer did not remember, and Joseph was back to being worn down once again.
But we know the end of the story. We know that Joseph was freed, and worked for the highest office in the land, and ended up being one of the most influential characters in the Bible. God had great plans for him after a season of toil, and a period of great darkness.
This end brings me comfort that when life is tough, my boss is angry, my co-workers side-swipe me or my kids are difficult or when a hundred of these things are occurring at one time. It’s just a season, after all, and it shall pass, because darkness is always followed by a great light. And in the end, redemption bathes our current toil in appreciation, and there is satisfaction in knowing we wore our work well. The task was given and we cloaked ourselves in the toil, because we know there’s an undercurrent of eternity beneath the surface.
The end of our story is yet to come, and it will be magnificent. Even when you're stuck in traffic. Even when you leave your wallet on the kitchen table and you yell at your children and your head pounds like a freight train. And yes, even when you forget to turn in a permission slip for your kid's field trip. All of these are transitory things, and when we catch ourselves drowning in them we need only stop and close our eyes for a moment. Joseph spent years in jail, and yet it was all made beautiful in His time. It’s only a short breath of a life we live, so let’s have faith that it’s not the end.
For there is a time for everything under the heavens.
Research shows that those most vulnerable to occupational burnout are individuals who are highly motivated and strongly invested in their work. When work is an important source of finding meaning, frustrations that arise from unmet goals and expectations in the workplace can permeate all of life. This can lead to a general sense of exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of reduced efficacy. In this series at The High Calling, we're talking about Preventing Burnout and how faith can make a difference. We hope you find this conversation helpful and if so will consider inviting others to join in the discussion by sharing these stories via email, Facebook, Twitter, or networks you are part of.