Crisis of the Spirit

“Burnout is not a crisis of time; it is a crisis of the spirit.” (James Autry, The Servant Leader: 208)

Everywhere we look we see burnout. Once vibrant people—friends, family members, colleagues—mere shadows of their former selves. Even pre-teens and teens face the same crisis. Burdened souls; empty shells.

We attribute it to stress—high demands, high expectations, broken families, insufficient down-time, or lack of resources. We know the symptoms—impatience, irritation, sleeplessness, isolation, distraction, weight-gain, alcohol or drug-dependency, and more.

If we just had more time. If we could just get away for a while. If we just had some help.

Burnout is endemic. Souls that once roared into flame with dreams and hopes, with love and confidence, now look like smoldering embers.

Autry puts his finger on something foundational for us all. It’s not about how much money or how much time or how much distraction we can find. It’s a crisis of the spirit.

And spiritual crises require spiritual solutions.

Calvin Miller once noted that we ought to “talk more to God about the people than to the people about their problems.” It’s easy to descend into navel-gazing rather than star-gazing. We tend to look down much more than we look up. And in the process, our spirit becomes caged rather than liberated.

Yes, there’s a place for time management; for setting priorities; for establishing boundaries. But the illusion of “balance” which well-meaning friends keep advocating will serve only to frustrate many of us. I don’t need the perfect combination of work hours, family time, and personal space. What does the “perfect combination” look like?

I need a resilient spirit to handle whatever comes—the planned and the unplanned; the delightful surprises and the devastating shocks; the thrilling and the mind-numbingly mundane.

This spiritual strength derives only from a spiritual source.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Strange, isn’t it, how quickly we seek medical attention when the Physician stands beside us; how many advisors we consult without attention to the Counselor. My burnout may not reflect too much work or too much stress, but too little of Jesus. Maybe some things need to change?

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21 Responses to Crisis of the Spirit

  1. Tim Ross says:

    Jesus told us that we are going to “flame out” if we do not remain in Him. I have found that in my own life. His words in John 15 ring true to me. “I am the vine you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) This is the key to life in the Spirit. Meditation on God’s word, feeling God’s presence in our lives, and praying the Scriptures…that will prevent burn out. We definitely need more Jesus. We have all the time we need. The problem is our priorities.

    • David Timms says:

      Yes, Tim. And I suspect that the simplicity of “abiding” is what makes us prefer the complexity of our own wisdom. The Christian Journey may not be easy, but it is not complicated.

  2. Mike says:

    Matthew 6:33
    New International Version (NIV)

    33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

  3. Scott says:

    “Spiritual crises require spiritual solutions.” So true, i think Tim Ross is onto the solution, to abide means to linger with expectancy. I’m doing that more and more for longer periods. God’s Spirit truly is “another counselor.” Thanks David for your teaching and example in this!

  4. Melinda Hulse says:

    David, I believe you are one of the most insightful Christians I know. If we, as Christians are not connected to God beyond going to church every Sunday, we are in a crisis and become easily lead astray. I am a believer in daily devotions, prayer and meditation in His word. This is how I start each day with my heavenly Father. I also attend a couple’s bible study group on Wed. with my husband, a woman’s bible study group on Thurs. and a 30’s – 50’s larger bible study group on Sun., right after our church service. This helps/guides me to stay focused on our God and the mere breath of life He wants us to live on earth, preparing us for our eternal life in heaven. I love this verse – “For nothing is impossible with God”, Luke 1:37. God Bless your insight to Him and His word and having the gift of sharing it with others!

    • David Timms says:

      Mindy, your life structure, designed to honor Christ (and shared with your husband) is an inspiration. May the reason for the structure (intimacy with Jesus) always be foremost. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  5. Sally says:

    How does one get more Jesus? Can you be more specific?

    • David Timms says:

      Sally, that’s a good question. I guess for me it’s about time in His Presence. “Come to Me” is His invitation to us. I don’t need brilliant education, astonishing wisdom, or high status. I come as I am, with what litle I have, and wait with Him. Any of us can do so. Prayerfully, quietly, patiently, frequently. And we find rest for our souls. Make sense?

  6. Robert Cogswell says:

    Great feature David. On my first read, I found identification, agreement, and unexpected resistance. Thank you for the hand to my shoulder.

  7. Judi Murdoch says:

    Good answer to a good question David. Reading without entering His presence (ie. a dutiful chapter a day) is like texting someone who’s standing right beside you ;o)
    I’m really enjoying everyone’s contributions!

  8. Dave says:

    Totally concur David and I take deliberate steps to be more present with Jesus, my spiritual center after realising as you mention, the “perfect combination” doesn’t solve burnout. Wearing a simple wrist band helped remind me to share every moment with Jesus. To be present and in his presence. Thank for your encouragement.

    • David Timms says:

      Yes, there is such a helpful place for tangible reminders in our lives — to call us to greater godliness. Blessings to you, Dave, as you continue to press into Him.

  9. Jerry D. Robertson says:

    More. Not of the world and it’s system…. but simply more of Him together with our brothers and sisters as we journey through His world!

  10. Marjan Beer says:

    more of Jesus will lead us to re evaluate everything else. If we are doing too much it is because we are doing thingswe are not meant to be doing. We can’t abide if we never stop long enough. Mary rather than Martha – a hard struggle for me

    • David Timms says:

      Stopping is a hard struggle for many of us, Marjan. Yet surely Christ did not have burnout in mind when He promised “life to the full.” Thanks for your note!

  11. This is solid Dr. Timms, I really appreciate you addressing/diving into this in a course I took with you a year or so ago. Thanks for the very fresh reminder!

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