Preventing Burnout: Fashioned for This Work
I began my brief career as a nurse, with no vision, apart from survival—my own and that of my patients. Fear drove me, rather than love for the work. In an attempt to find a job that didn’t suck the life out of me, I bounced from hospitals to long-term care to pharmaceutical work.
In stark contrast to my somewhat dubious work history, I grew up watching my father give all of his time and energy, his very life, to the same small community church where he pastored for over twenty years. He was, and still is, passionate about spiritual care. He extended grace and the good news of the gospel, with a deep desire for growth in both the church and the individual.
Despite giving his all year after year, the church remained relatively unchanged in terms of attendance. Caring for the spiritual health of a church doesn’t lend itself to measurable success. Society measures success in numbers, in tangible change we can see, touch, or count. But how do we measure the impact of church community on a person’s spirit? Or the success of families knit back together and prodigals returning home? If we use the measuring stick of today’s world, we can’t grasp the width of it. We try to label it a success or a failure, but our perspective is temporal and profoundly human.
After twenty years serving one congregation, working towards imperceptible church growth, my dad teetered on burnout. He took a sabbatical to seek God’s direction for his church and his career as a pastor. After a month’s respite, he felt God leading him back to the same pulpit and the same people.
Realign Your Measurement of Success
God sometimes keeps us in seemingly impossible situations, providing just enough daily bread to strengthen us for the task ahead. When the work of our hands feels inadequate, he multiplies it like loaves and fishes. Where we lack, he is enough.
Do you find yourself on a career path bound towards burnout? Are you among those who choose to embrace a hard-scrabble calling, wearing the weight of it across your shoulders as the prophet wears his mantle? Are you weary, cynical, or tired of chasing the impossible and immeasurable ideals of earthly success? Take heart, friends. There is One who fashioned you for the work of your hands, and his idea of success is born in another realm altogether.
The Psalmist wrote, “The Lord looks from Heaven…From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually, He considers all their works…Behold the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him…”
If you find yourself in a difficult place and God has not released you from your current situation, allow these words to breathe new life into your worn-out, weary places. Seek rest if you must. Regroup and realign your measurement of success with that of a God who wrote its true definition.
There is a wellspring of life hidden in the deep. There is a reserve found in Christ, for those who trust that God fashioned their hearts for a specific work.
We may feel frustrated, exhausted, and brought low under the weight of impossible standards. In order to prevent burnout we may require a time of respite and a season of prayer. Other times, we will need to lean further in to the call of God on our lives, nourished by our daily bread, secure in the knowledge that God created us for this place and these people.
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, and Twitter.