Today, there is much happening on the world scene, and there is much in which to be involved, both in and out of God’s Church. We know that prayer and Bible study are essential for survival. There is also the Real Truth Newsstand Distribution Program, perhaps a Spokesman’s Club, as well as socials and other meetings, that require our time and attention. Then there is schooling, a music lesson or evening class, a sport or exercise activity, and visiting or helping a member of your extended family. And then there is the fact that most jobs in the twenty-first century also require more time—“nine to five” days are few and far between.
Most of us probably reach the evening of the Sabbath, week after week, near physical and mental exhaustion. But what about your spiritual condition? Could you be in danger of spiritual burnout?
There is a modern condition known as “burnout.” The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it in the following way: “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”
According to the Texas Medical Association, two major causes of burnout are bureaucratic atmosphere and overwork. It identifies three stages: (1) stress arousal (irritability, anxiety, high blood pressure, etc.), (2) energy conservation (excessive tardiness, procrastination, social withdrawal, increased cynicism, etc.), and finally (3) exhaustion.
The condition is most common among professions that involve helping others, such as counselors, policemen and psychiatric nurses—jobs that require a high degree of sacrifice and commitment. Such jobs typically require prolonged sacrifice—possibly involving long hours in poor conditions with inadequate pay. Some people involved in such careers can keep going for quite some time, perhaps even several years, because they work for more than just money—they believe in what they do.
Our Christian walk also involves self-sacrifice, extra commitment and great effort. We too must work long hours. We too believe in what we do—and in how we live.
But even those in the Church are susceptible to burnout. Perhaps you can recognize the symptoms in people you know, or even yourself. It may begin with a lack of interest and zeal in the Work, followed by withdrawal from fellowship and Church activities, with comments becoming critical and negative.
Behind the scenes, such people don’t pray as much as they once did and become lax in Bible study, Sabbath-keeping and tithing. Although they still attend services, their hearts are not in it—and slowly, they begin the fatal process of leaving the Church.
Some experts suggest that the career length of some of these high-stress jobs be limited to a short period of time. This is practical for a nurse or policeman, but not a Christian! Our calling is a LIFETIME commitment, and success depends on our ability to “endure to the end” (Matt. 24:13). Quitting must NEVER be considered an option—not today, tomorrow or any day!
Enduring part of the way is useless, and in fact, may be worse in the end. Prior to baptism, we were instructed to count the cost. Christ never promised that it would be easy. He described our calling as a cross that we must bear: “And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:27-28).
The apostle Peter describes our adversary the devil as a roaring lion who walks about, looking for someone to destroy (I Pet. 5:8). Satan has dedicated his time to trying to thwart God’s Plan. He will do his best to turn your focus away from God and His Way, to yourself. He will try to make you feel overwhelmed by tempting you to change your priorities. Christ warns, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting [gluttony], and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” (Luke 21:34).
Not only must we endure, but as this age draws to a close—as events and the Work accelerate, as the world becomes darker—we must be ready, willing and able to let our lights burn even brighter.
All Part of the One Body
In I Corinthians 12, Paul described the Church as “the body of Christ.” Those truly in God’s Church are integral parts of that Body. “For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ” (vs. 12). A physical body with the smallest part missing, whether it is a single toe or finger, simply does not function as well. Each part has a purpose. In the case of Christ’s Body, if a part is cut off, it will be replaced.
Paul also wrote, “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16).
Every part of that body is important. We each play a vital part in the Great Plan and Work of God. Some are blessed with more time, and are therefore required to give more of it. Others have more energy, better health, or increased financial resources. No matter how big or small a role we play, we should consider it an honor and a joy to be a part of the Body of Christ.
Never Give Up!
The reward for endurance—eternal life and rulership with Christ in God’s kingdom—is indeed handsome. Yet at times, that reward may seem far off, somewhat unreal, and blurred. At times, the present, with all of its trials and challenges, is all we can see. It is only the most unusual human being who can keep going without something tangible to hold on to—and most of us would not claim to have unusual strength or endurance.
As we have been told before, even some of God’s greatest servants faced the temptation to quit. Yet, quitting is simply not an option. Remember God’s promise: “…God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able…” (I Cor. 10:13).
Jesus Christ knows what it is like to be tempted. He knows there is a limit to mere human strength and will. He also knows that our calling requires strenuous action. He instructs us to “strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24), “fight the good fight of faith” (I Tim. 6:12), and to “labor therefore to enter into that rest” (Heb. 4:11).
That is why He sent us the Holy Spirit—the same power of God that He had when He was on the earth. Without it, we are unable to fulfill our calling and do our part in the Work. The Holy Spirit flows out of us, and is only replenished as we remain part of the vine—the Body of Christ, the one true Church. We must stay close to God through Bible study, prayer, meditation and fasting. Armed with the same Spirit, we can complete our calling and the job we have been given to do.
Research has shown that those who are successful in “helping” professions are good at sharing their feelings and frustrations with others who understand. Likewise, we must stay close to others who are fighting the same battle. Christ said in Mark 10:29-30, “There is no man that has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” He also commanded us not to forsake assembling together and to exhort each other, “…so much the more, as you see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).
Finishing Your Race
Indeed, that day is fast approaching. And so our calling is most critical. The Work now requires more of us, as we enter the last stage. We must stay close to God and to each other. We must all bear down, rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and exert extra effort.
All that we are required to do now—all that we bear now—is a part of our training to be kings and priests in the kingdom of God. A crown awaits us at the end of our race, and we are told to run that we may obtain it (I Cor. 9:24).
Burnout is a process that usually occurs sequentially, progressing through stages. Therefore, it gives you an opportunity to identify it early, and take the necessary steps to prevent it.
Remember, quitting is not an option!