The past couple of years have been a flood of recovery for me in every area of my life. I guess you could say I was pretty dysfunctional. A quick snippet from my past self is that I was a girls’ student ministries director for a youth group at a church. During my four year stay, I developed what is commonly known among church leaders as burn out.
Did I blame the church for my spiritual death? Yes. Do I blame them now? No. In fact, I’ve come to love them again. Through God’s power and love, He has given me the release from a negative spirit I thought would never go away. I am so thankful for that and grateful for a fresh outlook on my past experiences with ministry.
However, due to my valley of burn out, there have been repercussions that I am slowly receiving healing for each in their own time. The first? Rejection of my faith. There was only a brief moment in my spiritual burn out that I toyed with the idea of leaving God behind and walking away from my faith. As I thought it through, I quickly knew that I could never leave God because He had never and would never leave me.
The second repercussion was, okay, now that I know that I know that I can never reject God, what do I do about Sunday? Singing means nothing to me (I used to love that part of worship and slowly the music and words had been lost). Preaching came through my ears as a fuzzy muffle of indistinguishable words and incomplete thoughts. I found excuses to be elsewhere during “big church.”
Every place I went in the church felt draining. I was exhausted and wanted to go home. What was it all for? Did these people really love God? Why are we doing all of this? For numbers? A cold distaste grew in my heart and mind blinding me to any blessing or genuineness that might have existed. All I saw was programming, marketing, and manipulation.
I left my job at the church and jumped into a ministry at another church, hoping to find the spirit of God alive elsewhere. All I found was that I brought my empty, jaded self to the next ministry.
I sought help, but no one really knew what to do with me. A couple of people had gone through the same type of burn out, but all they could say was that they were in a good place now but it took years. I still don’t understand how there can be such great numbers of burn out and no popular resources or strategies for how to walk alongside someone experiencing such a frightening segment of life.
Now, I know that what I’m about to share may not seem monumental to a seminarian or church leader, but let me tell you that I am both, and this helped me substantially. Maybe it will help you if you are struggling with burn out.
In the first century church, Christians got together on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything they did in the service was to express joy for that miraculous, soul-saving event. In fact, communion was the main part of their service, not a sermon. They sang, read scripture, and ate together as an act of gratitude.
This is the perspective I chose to walk into church with this Sunday and it warmed my heart. You may be wondering if you will every enjoy a Sunday service again and I’m not saying this thought will bring you full recovery, but it has helped me. When I drive to church on Sunday, it’s not with a to-do list in mind, it’s the intent of standing in the midst of a group of Christians and celebrating the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and, in so doing, saved me from a life absent of God’s presence. Thinking this way made everything seem new. Announcements, events, songs, the sermon, all of it meant more when I thought of the greater fact that we were all sitting there celebrating a 2,000 year old practice of meditating on the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
I hope this truth can be even a small light in your valley if you are, indeed, walking through spiritual burn out. He is risen!