How to Avoid Spiritual Burnout
What is spiritual burnout? Have you ever felt like you are disconnected from God? Or you just feel hopeless and withdrawn from certain activities and the community? You just don’t know what is going on but you know that something is not right with you. The answer is that you might be spiritually burned out, drained or exhausted.
What does it mean to have a burnout? A burnout is commonly known as an exhausted state of mind, where a person loses interest and motivation in something or a particular task. It usually affects your mood and can become a trigger point to depression, if not recognised early enough. You become socially withdrawn and you feel isolated. A burnout is usually caused by stress or overwhelming demands and responsibilities. According to Malcolm Smith the term burnout has been coined to describe the condition of the person who has become mentally and emotionally exhausted in his reach for success in his field.
But how can you be spiritually burned out? Our Christian walk involves self-sacrifice, extra commitment and great effort. Whether we serve in church or in the community, it takes a lot of work to keep everything going and unfortunately people run out of energy sometimes. Because we can only do as much! What are the signs of a spiritual burnout and how can I overcome and deal with it? Some of the signs of a spiritual burnout are the following:
1. YOU LOSE INTEREST IN SERVING GOD AND OTHERS
If you lose interest in serving God or your community, then you’re probably exhausted or spiritually burned out. Lacking motivation to do anything is often caused by overwhelming tasks and responsibilities that you can no longer endure. Sometimes you feel as if you’re the only person doing everything. And it looks as if you’re not being recognised for it at all. You work harder than everyone else and you know that you’re doing it for God. But sometimes when you overwork yourself, you suddenly feel like you’re doing it all for nothing and you begin to lose interest.
Is it a sin to lose interest in serving? The answer is no. Being tired or losing interest and motivation is not a sin. It’s rather a sign that a break might be needed. We are made out of flesh and blood, and we do run out of energy sometimes and that’s okay. You might have a spiritual burnout. The first to overcoming a spiritual burnout is simply recognising it.
2. YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE STUDYING THE WORD
Unfortunately if you get to a point where you don’t feel like studying the Word anymore, then you should know that something is wrong. You’re probably exhausted and the enemy will use everything to extend that exhaustion so you don’t go back to reading God’s Word. The bible teaches us ‘to meditate on the Word day and night (Joshua 1:8)’. If you open your bible once a week or once a month nowadays, then you have to wake up and get back on track with reading God’s Word on a regular basis.
Romans 12:2 says to ‘not conform to the pattern of the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasant and perfect will.’ The question is how can you renew your mind if you don’t spend time studying His Word, which is the source of true transformation? Studying the Word is very important to get closer to God and to use His Word when the enemy is trying to attack you. And also when you feel that you might suffer from a spiritual burnout.
3. YOU DON'T PRAY AS MUCH ANYMORE
If your prayers become shorter and shorter each day, and you are just being repetitive in your prayers, then you know that something is wrong in your prayer life. Daily communication with God is essential to strengthen your relationship with Him. It’s the same if you have a spouse or a friend that you talk to everyday. Now if the communication gradually decreases or you just stop talking to each other all of a sudden, you will soon find that the relationship to them decreases as well.
The bible says that we should ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This means daily communication with God. You feel lazy or lose interest in praying to God, which might be as sign of a spiritual burnout or an attack from the enemy. Either way, you should stay cautious. It’s good that you have recognised some of the signs, because it means that you’re now ready to make a change.
Now, the question is how can I overcome a spiritual burnout? How can you get back in track with your relationship with God? How can you start serving joyfully again? And how can you meditate on God’s Word day and night and pray without ceasing again?
The answer is actually quite simple.
Take a break!
When someone is physically or mentally burned out, what do they do? They take a break. And there’s no difference with being spiritually burned out. Take some time off and remind yourself why you became a Christian in the first place. Remind yourself of the reasons why you love God and why you want to be used by Him. Think about everything He has done for you and will do in your life.
Once you keep your focus off from people and move your attention back to God, you will realise or understand again why you’re doing this. God loves you and He wants what is best for you. He sees all the work that you’re doing even it is not recognised by other people, be assured that God sees and records everything. ‘For the LORD sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes.’ (Proverbs 5:21)
WHAT DO I DO WHILE TAKING A BREAK?
If you want go on a fast for a few days or a week, I would advise you to do so, to shift your attention back to God. Really try and spend time with God through prayer and studying His Word. If you still feel disconnected, how about putting on some worship music or listening to a sermon? There are several things you can do to overcome a burnout:
• go on a prayer walk
• talk to a friend / mentor / pastor
• listen to a sermon
• pray and study
• praise and worship
And so on… The key thing here is that whatever you do, do not give up! The enemy would want you to give up on God completely. However, you need to remind yourself that a spiritual burnout is only temporarily and can be fixed. If your burnout is really prolonged and you still feel the same after months, then it might be time to talk to a minister or pastor as you might be under a spiritual attack.