Christians are likely suffering from spiritual burn-out if:
- We’re on compassion over-load, meaning our store of empathy has been used up. There isn’t room in our hearts for one more needy person.
- We feel overwhelmed by evil and have no desire to continue to fight against it.
- Scripture no longer speaks to us in a personal way as it once did.
- We feel as if we are going through the motions of being a Christian.
Gordon MacDonald, in Restoring Your Spiritual Passion wrote: We never would have admitted it but we were tired of God, of faith and of faith’s people.
For a Christian, spiritual burn-out is a scary place. But, not an unusual place.
Consider Peter on the evening of Jesus’ crucifixion:
She (the waitress) looked closely at him and said, “This man was with Jesus.” But he denied it, “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not,” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:55-62)
Looking at what caused Peter’s faith to evaporate under pressure can help us to get to the root of what may be causing our own faith to fade.
Feelings of General Exhaustion. Peter was exhausted – physically, spiritually and mentally. Several unexpected and disturbing events had taken place: Judas’ surprise betrayal of the Lord, Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. He was crushed by the weight of too many Satan-inspired challenges. Sometimes evil rushes in like a tsunami and knocks us off our feet.
Disappointment in Ourselves. Peter was profoundly disappointed in himself. He had declared himself a 100% follower of Christ but in a crisis he’d become a coward and a traitor. Our failures can be the key to discovering who God really wants us to be. This was the case for Peter. Through his experience he learned to be humble and teachable.
Life Takes an Unexpected Turn. Peter expected Jesus to set up an earthly kingdom in which he would fill an important role. Within a few hours, all his plans vanished. He didn’t understand what was going on. Perhaps we are expecting a promotion, a marriage, a baby, a gift of money – when our dreams don’t become reality, we might sink into despair. Later, Peter understood what God’s kingdom was all about and accepted his role in it.
The Failure of Others. Peter saw not only Judas betray the Lord, but the other disciples, with the exception of John, also ran away from Jesus. Sometimes we count on others to meet our spiritual needs. Their failures can suck the wind from our sails. When this happens, God is saying, “I want you to have a relationship with me that doesn’t depend on anyone else.”
Carelessness. With so many things to distract us, it’s easy to become careless about Bible reading and prayer, the foundational habits of a Christian’s life. Jesus had asked Peter to join Him in Gethsemane for prayer but Peter fell asleep, along with the other disciples.
Luke 22:45,46 – “When Jesus rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” He asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Other things that can cause burn-out:
Exhaustion from spiritual battles. Seasons of deep intercessory prayer must be balanced with seasons of celebration and joy. If we look at the Jewish festivals – some are for thanksgiving, some for mourning, some for celebration. We need balance in our lives.
Draining people. We can’t avoid all draining people but we can learn to pray for their needs without becoming embroiled in the details of their lives. The Apostle John had a problem with a drainer. He said about Diotrephes – “He always likes to put himself first” (III John 9). This man, who liked to be the center of attention, was a drain on John and on the church. John acknowledged the drainer for what he was but he didn’t let the drainer hinder him from doing God’s will.
Of the causes of spiritual burn-out listed above, which have most affected you? Can you add others causes to this list?
Prayer: Father, you see the state I’m in. It didn’t take a day for me to become burned-out and I acknowledge that it will take more than a day of You and I working together for my healing. Heal my wounded soul, I pray. And lead me into the joy-filled life you have prepared for me.
Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children. Visit her website at: writingfromtheheart.webs.com and her blogs Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow.