The Bad News About Burnout, Part One

’Tis the season to be jolly, right?  Well, that’s what the song says, but that’s certainly not what I see.  I see people who are stressed out of their minds.  I see people who are angry, bitter, tired and whiny.    In short, I see people who are teetering on the edge of burnout.

Burnout is not exclusive to the Christmas season.  It can happen anytime during the year and can be the result of family, work, church, health issues and more.  It is not limited to any country, class, or gender.  You’re as likely to find it in your place of worship as you are at the White House.  Burnout occurs when we burn our candles at both ends, trying to accomplish too many tasks and meet impossible deadlines.  And while it isn’t exclusive to Christmas, it does seem to multiply at that time.  Take people who are already stretched too thin and pile on a list of to-do’s that includes buying gifts, sending cards, caroling, numerous parties, church cantatas, baking, etc.  In a big hurry, the most wonderful time of the year becomes a nightmare.

Moses understood—not about Christmas burnout, mind you, but about burnout in general.  Look at this passage from Exodus 18:13-17.  And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.

Not good?  How could Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) say such a thing?  Moses was ending disputes.  He was teaching the people how to get along.  He was taking time for each need and pouring his heart out to the people.  Sounds like a noble cause to me.  Yes, it definitely sounds like a good thing.  Moses thought so too, but what he didn’t see was that he was dangerously close to running himself into the ground.

Over the next few posts, I want to discuss the bad news about burnout and how it can affect not only us but those around us.  For now, I want to remind you that even “good things” can send us over the edge.  There are probably millions of good things we could do with our time, talents and energies, but we simply cannot do them all.  We weren’t created that way, and God never intended for each of us to do everything.  For that reason, it is imperative that we practice saying this little word, “no.”  When our schedules are already full and our plates are overflowing, it is wrong for us to take on more.  We must learn to say “no” even to the good things.  

I’ll go into more detail about this over the course of the next few posts, but let me end with this—even God didn’t make the world in a single day.  He could have. It would have been no trouble for Him to speak everything into existence at once, but He spread the process out over seven days.  If God didn’t try to get it all done in a single day, why do we think we should?  Pace yourself, and stop taking on more than you can handle.  After all, it may be hurting you far more than you realize.