Don't Burn Out for Jesus
It’s September, and you’ve hit the ground running. You’re working hard—reaching out to new students and planning ministry events on top of starting a full load of classes—but it’s worth it! And you’re right—there’s nothing like a fresh start and a worthy challenge to kick us into high gear. So go for it. Do your thing.In the midst of your thing-doing, though, take a few minutes to consider whether your September self has set you up well for the long haul. You don’t want to find your April self sitting in a planning meeting with your head down on the table (“Seriously, can we just show a Francis Chan video or something?” ), or worse yet, bailing on the meeting altogether because you’re locked in your room, eating Cheetos and binge-watching Law and Order because you just cannot anymore.Burnout is real. We’ve all seen people taken down by it, stressed beyond measure, slogging their way to the finish line. So be proactive: take some measures to make sure you can end the year as well as you’ve started it.
1. Pace Yourself.
No marathon runner plans on sprinting the whole 26 miles, and neither should you, so don’t schedule yourself to capacity right out of the gate. There will be times this year when all your deadlines seem to align in a circus of busy, but they should be the exception, not the rule. Take a good hard look at your schedule and consider your personality before deciding what you should plan to take on, and leave yourself some breathing room. And if you discover you’ve already overcommitted, talk to someone about making some changes.
2. Don’t Worry.
Things will go wrong. Sometimes ideas won’t pan out, or circumstances will conspire against you, or you’ll simply mess something up. When that happens, God will not be sitting in Heaven saying, “Oh, great. Just great. NOW what am I supposed to do?” Release yourself from the soul-crushing pressure to get it all right. Just do the thing He’s given you to do joyfully and to the best of your ability. The results are God’s responsibility, and there’s abundant grace to cover every shortcoming.
You were not designed to work nonstop. You need sleep. You need to spend restorative time hanging out with God. You need a day off every so often. And once in a while you need a real chunk of time to recuperate from the stress of life. God deliberately and emphatically built the idea of Sabbath rest into the human experience from the very beginning. Does your plan for this year include regular time to be refreshed and restored?
4. Keep an Eternal Perspective.
When you’re buried in details and deadlines, you may find yourself losing sight of the big picture. Don't forget that the dramas unfolding in your life are only tiny (important, but tiny) pieces of the larger story that God is writing across history. When life gets crazy, it’s ok to loosen your hold on things that matter less in the shadow of that great story of redemption. Is it important that you stay connected to Jesus? Yes. Is it important that you love those around you well? Yes. Is it important that the party you’re throwing has Pinterest-worthy snacks? Not so much.
5. Walk in the Spirit.
Not because He is some kind of personal effectiveness guru, but because in the end, walking in the Spirit is at the absolute heart of the Christian life. As you keep in step with Him, He can lead you into the things He would have you do and away from the things that are just clutter. You may also find He gently draws your attention to the issues in your own heart (pride, need for approval, distrust of others) that might pull you toward overdoing it and helps to change some of those things. Because He’s good like that.Despite your best efforts, it’s possible that the battle may wear you down. That’s ok. If you do find yourself burned out and ready to quit, remember that God’s grace is big enough to cover that, too. Rest with Him for a while and see what happens. The Jersey Metro staff, however, will be praying that you don’t find yourself there—that this year would be full of freshness and victory. After all, we serve a God whose mercy is new every morning.