Looking back now I realize when the flame of burnout ignited in my heart. I began to have thoughts of what it would be like not to be in ministry.
What would it be like to have weekends free, no one counting on us, no one criticizing us? What would it be like to have no responsibility for the spiritual health of a group of needy people? What would it be like not to worry about who was providing childcare for the coming week? Who was leading worship? What responsibilities my kids had at church and when they had to be there on Sunday, plus rehearsals on Friday or Saturday?
I began to subtly resent our church, our people, even our city we were called to! These thoughts felt about as scandalous and adulterous as daydreaming about what it would be like to not be married to my husband anymore. Would that really be freedom, or just a soap opera nightmare?
I was called to ministry from a young age. I had thrived and grown, struggled and conquered, alongside my husband in church planting. But now I was daydreaming about doing anything else, mentally trying on other options to see if any would fit. I might as well have been checking out every guy that passed me on the street! We were so weary and discouraged, but we couldn’t think of anything we could do much differently.
God knew what could be different! He wasn’t letting me burn out. He was letting things in me that needed to go “burn up.” He was changing my mindset. He reminded me of one of my life verses:
In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength. Is 30:15
How could rest be my salvation!? The eternal salvation of my soul was already secure. That word for salvation also means “liberated, delivered, victorious, or saved from moral troubles.” So, what if repentance and rest keep me safe from the enemy? What if rest saves me from burnout? What if it saves me from letting productivity become an idol?
For those of us in ministry, busyness can become a silent, subtle idol in our sacrificial lives. We justify our out-of-balance life because we are doing the “work of God.” Are you going to tell me to do less work for God?
Alan Fadling in, An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest had his own epiphany about busyness when he was barely into ministry.
“I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue to do ministry or to live life in the manner or at the pace I had been maintaining. I knew I wouldn’t be able to last for many more years or even months, let alone for three or four more decades. My lifestyle was unsustainable. Only in my twenties, I was already showing signs of burnout.”
Church planting is the equivalent of starting a business in the natural realm. In the spiritual world, church planting is fighting a cosmic battle, taking back enemy territory. How can we let up for even a minute until the borders are secure? But Sabbath, and rest, is about trust. There will always be more work than you can fit in – in a day or a week, a year, a lifetime. Fadling says:
“Genuine productivity is not about getting as much done as we can manage. It is doing the good work God actually has for us in a given day.”
Can God accomplish what He wants on this earth with only six days a week of your work, or not? Trust Him. Where do you need to practice being unhurried, cease your work, and let Jesus give you rest?
- An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest by Alan Fadling
- Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson
- Living in the Rhythm of Life: The Semi-circle by Mike Breen
- Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity by Keri Wyatt Kent
- A Sabbath Mindset
- Resurrection Joy
Jan Limiero, Life Coach and Spiritual Director
Jan Limiero is a leader in Stadia’s Bloom ministry and faculty with the Leadership Institute. She has served in local church ministry for over 25 years including planting a church with her husband David. She currently serves as a Life Coach and Spiritual Director, coming alongside ministry leaders to help them discover their identity and calling, which leads to greater focus and rest. You can reach Jan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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