Burnout. You hear it so much these days.
Candles burn out when there is no wax left to draw from. Fires burn out when there’s no more oxygen left to fuel the flames. Engines burn out when they overheat. Employees burn out when they get too tired from working too hard. People burn out when the demands placed on them exceed the resources available to them, or in them.
Why I was burnt out? Because I was plugged out. Plugged out from God. I stood at the gates of God’s house and never took a step in.
I lost sight of the Maker. I was so focused on the things I needed to do that abiding in His presence became a lower priority. Instead of renewing the oil in my lamp on a daily basis, it became a weekly affair, then a monthly one, then …
The oil ran out. I burnt out.
In that period of burnout, I mostly felt lost. Things were just meaningless.
Dance and music were my go-tos whenever I needed a little boost or something to lift my spirits. But soon even these passions died off. I still served in the worship team, went for dance practice, practiced on my instrument at home. But it all felt so pointless.
Thoughts of self-condemnation infiltrated my mind. I found myself feeling an overwhelming sense of fatigue. No matter how much people around me tried to extend love, I dismissed it as them merely trying to fulfil their duties as a good Christian. I just felt bitterness and hatred towards everything and everyone.
I know God is everywhere, but I could not find God as I burned.
If I were to use a single word to describe that year, it would be: Abandoned.
I know God is everywhere, but I could not find God as I burned. Church – services, camp – felt empty. As I saw others raise their hands and voices to God, I stood there feeling as if my soul had left my body. I knew I would be just paying lip service if I mimicked them.
Several times in that season I cried out to God; I was angry at Him for not doing anything. I was crushed, feeling He was not there when I needed Him the most.
It felt like I was drowning. I was overwhelmed by the waves crashing over me; it took all I had just to stay afloat. The longer I tried, the more tired I became, and I know I could not keep it up for much longer.
Then I saw an outstretched hand for me to grab hold of. And as I grabbed it, I realised it had always been there. I was so distracted by the waves that I’d just chosen to ignore it.
God’s hand had been there all the time.
He was present on the many nights my tears soaked my pillow through. He sent people to walk alongside me. He made sure I never got more than I could handle. He wouldn’t let me crash and burn.
Burnout can be a big problem. It’s surprisingly common in churches, especially among those who actively serve – people are expected to be on the ball and always doing fine. When you request for a break, leaders may even try to convince you not to.
Yes, it is good to serve the church fervently. It is biblical to minister to and serve His people. But our primary duty as a child of God is to love the Father and abide in Him. God is not pleased when we serve Him solely with our hands – He wants our hearts to be yielded towards Him. God wants us to adopt the posture of Mary, not Martha.
Then I saw an outstretched hand for me to grab hold of. And as I grabbed it, I realised it had always been there.
Beyond just taking a break, more importantly, make sure you journey through this season with God. It’s tough to pull through – I felt like giving up countless times. Persevere, because He is the unchanging one.
In the time of Noah, eventually the rains had to stop, and the floods subside. In the time of Elijah, eventually the dry season had to end, and a cloud would appear, ready to burst forth with healing rains.
And so it will be for you, too.