The Bad News About Burnout, Part Three

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. - Exodus 18:13-17

Yesterday, we discussed the negative impact that burnout can have on our health and how it can wear us down to the point where we have so little energy that we cannot even begin to accomplish the things we need to do.  Today, I want to talk about how burnout can distract us from our true calling in life.

Moses was called to lead the people.  God instructed him to teach the people.  But at the point of time discussed in Exodus 18, Moses wasn’t doing either.  He didn’t have the time or the energy.  He was too busy settling disputes.  The passage makes it clear that this was a daily occurrence that lasted from the rising of the sun until the setting of the same.  Moses had no time for himself.  He had no quiet time with God.  He barely had a chance to eat.  He had taken upon himself the role of judge, and while it was a good thing to want peace among the people, it was pulling him away from his God-given calling.

Oh, how well I can relate.  Would you like to know the last time I worked on my writing for any length of time?  Honestly, I can’t remember.  I’ve been too busy.  First, it was the house repairs that took over a month.  Then, it was catching up on all the other things that I had fallen behind on during that stretch.  Then, we hit the Christmas season, and I’ve been busy shopping, preparing for various church events and other celebrations, setting up my web store so that I could offer Christmas specials to others, taking care of my hubby when he was down with a head cold, nursing myself when I caught the stupid head cold, and on and on.  Good things.  Needful things.  Urgent things in some cases.  But where in that list is my God-given calling?  I’ve been too busy to do the very thing God has called me to do and let me tell you, I’m miserable because of it.

It’s wonderful to do for others.  It’s a blessing when someone sees a need and rises to the occasion to meet it.  However, when we allow so many things to pile up to the point that we are distracted from the thing God has called us to do, we’re outside of His will, and those good things just became very bad.  Busyness and burnout are two of the most deadly enemies to fulfilling God’s will.  They lead us to believe that we’re doing right, that we’re helping others, that we’re pleasing God, but how can God be pleased when we aren’t obeying Him?  

Each of us has a calling from God, and no matter what, we cannot lose sight of that.  We must be on guard so that busyness and burnout do not distract us from what we were made to accomplish.  I have a purpose.  You have a purpose.  It’s good to try to do more, help more and be more, but not at the price of ignoring our main calling.  In fact, we may find that returning to our purpose will solve other issues as well.  That’s what Moses discovered.

Through Jethro’s wise counsel, Moses realized that if he taught the people as God had instructed him to do, there would be fewer disputes to begin with.  First off, the people would know God’s will and would be more likely to obey it.  Second, even when they didn’t obey, a quick reminder was generally all it took to get them back on track.  Thirdly, by teaching the people, Moses was able to set up other men as leaders in the congregation, and these men were able to handle the little matters.  These men wouldn’t have been able to do the job unless Moses had instructed them, but because Moses fulfilled his calling, he was able to actually lighten his load by dividing the responsibilities of the people out over several men.  Moses was no longer wearing himself out.  The people were learning the Word of God.  And Moses was able to go back to his calling.  Everyone benefited.

You may think you’re doing someone a favor by stretching yourself to the limit, but the truth is, you’re only hurting yourself and them (as we’ll discuss in the next post).  The story here of Moses teaches us that if we stay true to our calling, God will work out all the other details.  Sure, He may call you to take on some added responsibility, but keep this in mind—He will never ask you to take on so much that you neglect your primary purpose in life.  Heed God’s call on your life, and make that your priority.  When you do, everything else will fall into place.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some book writing to do.