Overworked, overtired, overstressed. They’re words we hear a lot, alarmingly just as much among Christians as those who don’t who know the prince of peace, who brings life and life to the full. So why do so many of us burn-out despite having access to heavenly storehouses of energy, joy and peace?
Activists are a wonderful breed of people, but they’re terrible at stopping. In a world that’s groaning under the weight of injustice, it’s hard not to constantly try to save it. However while our hearts might be in the right place, the inability to slow down will ultimately hinder us. What’s more, it’s not what Jesus asked us to do.
The Lord rests in mysterious ways
We know Jesus was a game changer – confronting the status-quo with a life laid out to serve, to challenge and to radically love those society had forgot or disregarded. However he was also a pro at solitude. Despite the never-ending need around Him, Jesus regularly sought space. He removed himself and connected with his Father, because whilst he was fully God, he was also fully man and therefore had limits.
Jesus knew that to continue to pour himself out, he had to be filled. Jesus couldn’t do it in his strength alone. He hid himself away to talk to God, to connect with his source. Throughout the Gospels you can find Jesus removing himself from the crowds of people clamouring for his attention. He encouraged his disciples, and us, to do the same, like in Mark 6:32. This is not just a helpful hint. This is essential to moving beyond the borderline between the dry land of ‘surviving’ and the marsh lands of burnout.
We were made for so much more than that messy (for me, very teary) land of burnout. We’re not just meant to survive either. We were made for thriving! We are invited to live in the abundance of a life won by Jesus – the abundance of intimacy with the Father, genuine freedom, unceasing love and the Holy Spirit. That means we don’t need to burnout, because we have sustenance in God. When Jesus cast out demons or healed the sick, it was an overflow of the love inside of Him. He could give out so much because the route back to his Father’s company was a well-trodden path.
Adding fuel to your fire
When talking on justice and prayer, Brian Heasley says that in the same way you have to put your own oxygen mask before others’ in an emergency on a plane, we have to learn to breathe in before we breathe out. We must spend time with the Father, receiving what He has for us before we expend ourselves.
We see this when a woman extravagantly pours perfume at Jesus’ feet in Mark 14. The disciples grumble that her extravagance was wasteful and the money could have been given away. Yet Jesus calls it a ‘beautiful thing’ and says the disciples will always have people to minister to, but they won’t always have him. It’s a call for us to learn to worship with our whole hearts, to press pause and adore God.
In your rush to love people, to end injustice and poverty, can I challenge you to carve out some time with the Father? Not only will He have better ideas of how to end poverty and give you the love you need to minister to people well, His presence is the only thing that can sustain us.
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