“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?