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The Grace Project

Burnout

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It is estimated that stress in the workplace is cost billions.  Almost a decade ago it was said that stress-related illness was costing the country £3.75 billion a year.  Statistics say that each year, 150,000 people take at least a month of for ailments causes by job pressure. More than 6.5million working days are lost and, at any time, an estimated 500,000 people are of sick with anxiety and depression; and that was in the boom before the credit crunch and the subsequent bust.   
There is an interesting distinction between burnout and stress:  Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you.  Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring.  People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress is like drowning in responsibilities, burnout is being all dried up. 
 
When I was part of a highly energetic-self-living-for-God Pentecostal community one of the favourite mantras in the church was 'I'd rather burnout than rust out.'  To be burned out for Jesus was a badge of spiritual honour. 
I was horrified that people in our church burned out and as the then head of the bible college I thought that this could and should be prevented.   Then I burned out!
 
In the past ten years since I first taught on the subject of burnout in Autumn 2000, my approach to the subject has undergone a radical paradigm shift.  When I first lectured on it, I did so from the perspective of how burnout could be avoided.  Now, I teach it from the point of view of why it must be embraced.  Having come out on the other side of a burnout, I have come to see that burnout proved to be my friend and no longer my foe.
 
THE BALLAD OF THE BURNOUT
 
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1-2
 
What is the answer to the Psalmist’s question?  It is this – You will see His face when you have died to self and the affections of this life [John 12:24] because all progress in the divine life is predicated upon disillusionment with any other kind of life.
 
Various attempts have been made to define “burnout” and it seems to me that the following two definitions are as good as any.  Dr Herbert Freudenberger defines “burnout” as being –
 
‘‘… in a state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to a cause, a way of life, or relationship, that failed to produce the expected reward.”1
 
Psychologist Bruce Lloyd’s definition is as follows –
 
‘‘Burnout happens when your life has lost meaning within the structures that you have committed yourself to.”
 
Given these working definitions, it is hardly surprising that burnout has reached pandemic proportions.  It is a crisis which is being lived out in every walk of life –
 
•Executives burnout
•Marriages burnout
•Parents burnout
•Students burnout
•Sportsmen and sportswomen burnout
•Christians burnout
•Counsellors burnout.
 
Burnout is what I primarily call “High Achievers' Disease” – it is the curse of the Approval/Acceptance Addict.  Many people are simply suffering from living fatigue.
 
It can be said that burnout is High Achievers or Need-to-Achieve Syndrome.  In Christendom, we call our version of it, “Spiritual Burnout”, but in truth, this name is actually very misleading because burnout does not and cannot occur in the realm of the spirit but only and inevitably occurs in the realm of the soul (in the sensory realm).  In fact, what we will be discussing here is “Soul Strain.”
 
The Christian life can best be explained in terms of “The Great Exchange”.  For many years, the Exchanged Life teaching has focused on the exchanging of our life for the life of Christ and this emphasis is especially welcome at a time when self-effort and self-improvement are rampant in Christian circles.  It is an axiom of the Bible that the self can never be improved.  However, whilst I agree wholeheartedly with the Exchanged Life position, it is worth saying that this exchange is a holistic one.
 
At an experiential level, this means that the exchange is so far reaching that it extends to the sense faculties (mind, will and emotions) which are exchanged for the spirit faculties (faith, hope and love).  After the exchange, it is not that the mind, will and emotions are redundant or that the believer is an automaton.  Rather, the sense faculties are informed by the spirit faculties which become the primary receptor of God and the interpreter of the outside world and events.  
 

 TO BE CONTINUED...

 
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