Every Day with God

The way out of “burnout”

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter I finished studying full-time, I got a job. No big surprises there. Lots of people do.

What did surprise me was how tired I got. I guess I thought that I’d worked pretty hard before then. I’d studied pretty well and used to do homework in the evening when I was at school. What hit me when I started work though, was how full-on it was. You didn’t have as many breaks as you did at school. You didn’t finish at 3:30. There were expectations to be met, and those were higher than simply whether or not you’d completed an assignment or revised for an exam. They had real ramifications.

On top of that, I was doing more with church. I was helping to run a small group and was involved in the worship team. There was a lot to balance, and I had no idea how to prioritise it or how I was supposed to cope.

Someone gave me some advice soon after I started working. I had asked how I should balance it all: work, church, family, friends – how do you do it? I had just started working, and I was struggling to keep up. How was I to establish patterns that wouldn’t leave me burning out?

They said that I should never take on anything that wasn’t part of my ‘calling’. Just because something needed to be done (like the washing-up rota for teas and coffees at church) didn’t mean that they should be the ones to do it. There were ways that they could (and should) serve, but those might not necessarily be the ones that people always talked about.

How was I supposed to know what God was ‘calling’ me to do? I would already know, they said.

I realised that there were some things that I had just been doing because they were there, because I had been asked to do them, or out of a sense of obligation. I was tiring myself out doing things that weren’t really mine to be done. They were distracting me from the things that were actually important.

I stepped back from playing music in the worship team at church. I knew that leading worship was something that I didn’t feel peace about doing. I was feeling exhausted after worship practice and it wasn’t helping me on my personal walk with the Lord.

That wouldn’t be the right decision for everyone, but it was for me. It freed me up to serve at church by welcoming people at the door – and I enjoyed that a whole lot more! It was fulfilling, it was ‘me’, it lined up with my gifting, and it didn’t tire me out in the same way that the music had done.

It’s of course really important to understand that some things that you need to do are hard work. You will have responsibilities that you need to meet. Of course you do. Everyone does. But the important thing is to make sure that you are carrying your burden, doing the things that God wants you to do, not taking things that He has lined up for someone else.

Practically, I find that prayer is massively helpful in this process. It puts things into perspective and helps me avoid burning out. Often, I pray for peace about choices ahead of me, and God shows me pretty clearly what is the right thing to do. Other times, I speak to the wise people around me that God has provided me with.

Now, I’d like to say I get that decision right every time. But I don’t. I’m still pretty young, and I’ve got a lot of learning to do, but following God every day is an adventure and it’s one that I wouldn’t trade in for the world.

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