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Archive for Burnout


A Word to those Who are Empty

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Have you ever been thirsty? When I was in high school I spent many a summer day working for farmers in the hay fields putting up hay. My fellow workers and I would trudge up and down the pastures with our hay hooks, throwing as many bales of hay as possible onto the wagon. When the wagon was finally loaded we’d climb on top and ride to the barn. After all of the hay was unloaded and stacked in the hay loft, we’d pause for a drink before heading back to the pasture to repeat the process. I remember drinking long and deep from those plastic milk jugs, listening to the farmer’s warning to not over do it. The promise of water somehow made the journey bearable.

At the conclusion of the longest six hours any person has ever endured, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Christ has been on the cross nearly 6 hours. The work has been completed. The end is near. Jesus had, in every possible way, given everything he had to give. He is exhausted and physically depleted. One can only imagine the sense of thirst. As he exclaims that he’s thirsty, a solder takes a hysso, a javelin, and extends a sponge filled with “sour wine.” Sour wine was a Roman forerunner to our modern day Gatorade. It’s not to be confused with the drink offered in Mark 15:23, a wine drugged with myrrh, which was sometimes offered to those crucified. Jesus refused that drink, opting to experience the depths of suffering to its fullest.

Jesus was parched. Famished. Empty.

As I thought about Jesus total and complete gift, I thought of another Bible character that extended himself in ministry to the point of emptiness and depletion: Elijah.

Elijah, who was Israel’s most celebrated prophet, reached a point during his career that left him totally exhausted. You can read his story in the Old Testament beginning in 1 Kings 17:1. After his famous “Mt. Carmel Showdown,” (1 Kings 18:1-46) Elijah experienced the “Mt. Carmel Meltdown” (1 Kings 19:1-4). Racked with fear and paranoia, he runs and hides from the threats of Queen Jezebel.

What does God prescribe when we are empty? What does God provide when we’ve given until there’s no more left to give? What do we do when we teeter on the brink of burnout?

1. God prescribed rest and food (1 Kings 19:5-8)
2. He led Elijah back to his spiritual roots (1 Kings 19:8b)
3. God allowed Elijah to express his feelings. (1 Kings 19:9-10)
4. God revealed himself to Elijah in a new way (1 Kings 19:11-13)
5. God told Elijah to get back to work. (1 Kings 19:15-18)
6. God provided a partner to minister to Elijah. (1 Kings 19:19-21)

Why do we run ourselves to the point of exhaustion? Perhaps we need to refocus on Jesus words in Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (NLT).

Sometimes we’re exhausted because we carry the right things. But more often than not, we’re exhausted because we carry the right things the wrong way. Or we carry too many things. Sometimes we pick up things to carry that are not for us to carry. Or we try to carry them alone. Before you pick up that next burden, pray and ask God if its yours to carry. If it is, ask God to help you, and look for a partner to handle the other end of the load.