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The Battle Against Burnout

I have an Italian friend named Benny and he loves to play soccer. Even at 70 years old he still plays once a week although he gave up playing goal awhile back because the diving was becoming a bit much. 🙂 He told me a story about when he was a kid back in Italy. The kids in the neighborhood had saved and pooled their money to buy a soccer ball. They were so excited when they brought it home.The Battle Against Burnout

In my mind, I picture the scene from Lion King when Mustafa raised Simba to the sky on Pride Rock. 🙂 They started playing soccer at 2 p.m. and about 10 p.m. one kid lined up to kick the ball and when he did it exploded. 8 hours of continuous play and stress on the ball had taken its toll and the ball broke down. If we are not careful it’s very easy for us to end up just like that soccer ball.

A recent Duke University study found that pastors have significantly higher chances of being diagnosed with certain chronic diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and asthma.

In the paper, the authors wrote: “Unfortunately, clergy face numerous challenges to exercise and healthy eating habits. These challenges include a vocation that is sedentary, with an average of four evenings per week away from home, and frequent work weeks of [more than 50 hours] with little schedule predictability.”1

When it comes to this whole area of work-life balance and taking care of ourselves there are two important Biblical imperatives to remember.

1) Rest Is Not a Luxury, Rest Is a Command

  • Sabbath – “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
  • Land – but during the seventh year the land must have a Sabbath year of complete rest. It is the Lord’s Sabbath. Do not plant your fields or prune your vineyards during that year.” (Leviticus 25:4)
  • Jesus – Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. (Mark 6:31)

2) Taking Care of Your Body Is A Spiritual Issue

Whenever preachers talk about burnout we often go to the story of Elijah. He was at the end of his rope, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. (1 Kings 19:4-6)

Notice when the angel ministered to Elijah he didn’t start with, “Read your Bible more” or “Join a small group” he started with his physical condition. I have a friend who is a Pastoral Counsellor and when he has a new client one of the first things he tells them is to arrange a physical with their doctor.

I think we don’t take seriously enough the fact that taking care of our bodies is a spiritual issue. The context of the following verses is avoiding sexual sin but I think that part of honoring our bodies is making healthy decisions.

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

We all know we should but how do we start? What are some steps we can take to move us from the edge of burnout and into a place of having enough physical, emotional and spiritual reserves for the demands that come our way?

  • Avoid Excess – “If you are a big eater, put a knife to your throat…” (Proverbs 23:2)
  • Don’t Be Mastered By Anything – “ You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

What is one step that you will take this week? I am not a lover of water but I’ve changed. I drink water every day and for the last week, I even drink a glass as soon as I get up in the morning. Also now I eat way more apples than I do apple pie. Small changes over time make a big difference.

Imagine waking up in the morning and feeling rested because you actually went to bed at a good time. Imagine not needing a coffee IV attached every morning in order to face the day. Imagine lowering your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and high blood pressure. Imagine spending more time in your comfy bed. Wow, what a concept!!!!

To get you started, stand up and follow along with this video. 🙂

Written by Peter Walters

Peter is Connections & Pastor Care Pastor at Brooklin Village Church, just outside Toronto, Canada. He has been married to his wonderful wife Sarah for 25 years and they have two children.

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