I have known dear friends and colleagues who have burned out. I have often thought about it myself. I think about it often these days. In a translation of the fourth Psalm, “In tight places, God makes a space for you.” I often find myself in tight places.
There are a number of things for me that help me avoid burnout in my ministry. One –if this isn’t present, it’s difficult to remedy– is a good marriage. One is a very understanding wife, which I have. She has kept me from burnout. She has kept me real. She has helped me prioritize what is first and second and what is, in fact, third. I think having a theology of pleasure and a theology of leisure help to avoid burnout in ministry.Having a theology of pleasure and a theology of leisure help to avoid burnout in ministry.
Jim Packer in his book God’s Plans For You has a chapter on hot tub religion, a theology of pleasure. For me, it has been hobby and music. Having a moment in the day, 15, 20, or 30 minutes where I can just sit down and listen to some music. God made us to enjoy that. It took me a while to understand that I can do that without guilt.
My third thing would be understanding the gospel. Most of us burn out because we are just riddled with guilt. We think that we have not done enough or that there is much more to do. “I have got to perform or demonstrate my success,” and so on.
Most of those are distortions of the gospel, that no matter what I do or how little I achieve, I cannot be more loved and accepted than I am right now in Jesus Christ. You can distort that message for sure. You can abuse that message, but that message is the sweetest message in a time of stress and crisis. God loves me because the Bible tells me so.