How To Avoid Spiritual and Emotional Burnout
The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 makes it clear that God gives us gifts to steward for our personal ministry and outreach. God wants us to be part of his Kingdom work; he gives us a calling alongside the tools we need to fulfill it, and he expects us to steward those tools well. God takes joy in this.
The Parable of the Talents makes another thing clear: that God does not take joy in the misuse of our gifts. This is even more of a reason why we should ensure we are being intentional about stewarding our gifts well. And a wise steward knows that investing is not the same as spending.
In order to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us, we have to invest in both our emotional and spiritual health. These are both their own gifts from the Lord, intended to be used for our personal joy and for his glory. But these gifts start to wear thin when we steward them poorly- giving too much of ourselves and becoming burnt out, overwhelming our own capacities, or simply refusing to take the breaks that we need for the sake of our long-term health.
There are a few reasons why, right now especially, you need to be careful to intentionally steward your emotional and spiritual health well. The past year and a half has undoubtedly been a year of adjustments for you, regardless of your specific vocation. Below are a few of the places that you likely have been investing emotionally and spiritually in the past season:
At the beginning of the pandemic, your business may have had to downsize to stay afloat. Now that we’re coming out of the pandemic, you may have staff members leaving as a result of burnout and exhaustion. Both of these things mean that your team now may look entirely different than your team 18 months ago. Our founder and CEO called this The Great COVID Job Churn, and businesses and organizations of all shapes and sizes are seeing it happen. Whether you’ve been at your job for 2 years or 20, adjusting to a new and different culture than before with new people can be challenging. Each team member, regardless of how well they fit culturally, brings their own priorities, beliefs, and habits. Working alongside others, especially those who are new to your workplace, requires emotional work, and doing life alongside them requires spiritual work.
It goes without saying that how we work now is drastically different from how we worked a year and a half ago. With the shift to remote work, doing things how they’ve always been done was no longer an option. Moving forward, you may be seeing a hybrid of old and new systems. You may be returning entirely to in-person work, or working in a hybrid environment of in-person and remote. You may be returning to old tools and databases while implementing lessons learned on the temporary ones. Or your organization may have changed its systems entirely in the last 18 months, with no going back. Think about all of the systems that have changed in your work over this time. Learning new processes is exhausting. It’s a lot of work, and it requires you to ask questions and make mistakes where you may have gotten used to knowing how to do your job flawlessly before. This is why new systems are emotionally tiring as well as mentally tiring. Implementation of any new policy or process brings with it the unknown, taking you back to square one and, more often than not, humbling you.
New Job Description
As your staff and systems adapted, you likely took on responsibilities that weren’t previously yours. Whether you chose to pick up slack and work overtime to keep your organization afloat, or were simply given different expectations to work with. You may have even started a new job entirely. These changes of responsibilities mean you may be doing work you’ve never done before, with people you’ve never worked with, for end goals you’ve never worked towards. You may have even felt that you had new spiritual responsibilities that you were not equipped to or used to dealing with. As we come out of the pandemic, whether you’re keeping those responsibilities or are finally able to pass them off to someone else, you still must acknowledge the wear they may have taken on your mental health and your capacity to do good work.
All of this newness- new staff, new systems, and new job descriptions- mean that you have likely had to be far more mentally engaged and invested in your work in this season than in years past. There was little room to take breaks, rest, and recuperate. Everything had to be done to adapt to the times, and every member of your team had to put in 120%. It was necessary to keep your ministry going and to keep fulfilling your kingdom purpose.
But now, it’s critical to keep yourself from continuing to invest all of your time and energy into your work. Remember the Parable of the Talents: there is a time for spending, and a time for investing. After the past 18 months of newness, you are probably spent. You have been obedient to your calling and have done what was necessary for your organization. But now it is time to nurture your mental and spiritual health, for the sake of your personal ministry’s longevity and the wellness of your organization as a whole.
The Fall will bring a new wave of activity that will demand your attention. Prepare for that time by using this summer to rest and invest in your spiritual and emotional health.
For tips on how you can rest well, check out this blog.