Have you ever felt like your spiritual gas tank was running on fumes? I’ve had a heaviness on my heart over the past week. The heaviness I felt wasn’t because of any life situation, fear, or doubt. I just felt disconnected. So I waited for God to speak. Yesterday as I read the gospel of Matthew, I was surprised by the number of times it mentioned Jesus having compassion for the people.
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.Matthew 9:36
When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.Matthew 14:4
And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.”Matthew 15:32
Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.Matthew 20:34
Many of these moments occurred after Jesus had already been giving of himself by teaching or healing. At these moments he must have been tired or hungry, but his compassion compelled him to fill the needs of others. That’s when I realized what was bothering me… burn-out.
Burn-out comes from a steady demand for our attention. Although it can effect anyone, service vocations are at greater risk. You may be a pastor, a health-care worker, a teacher, a first responder, a caregiver, or even a parent. The common factor is that service vocations require us to give our presence and our hearts to others. Feeling their vocation is a calling rather than an occupation, these people willingly give of themselves beyond their limits. If we are unable to restore our spirits and heal our hearts we eventually feel like we have nothing left to give. This emptiness blunts our compassion and begins to harden our hearts. We become less eager to offer help to others because of spiritual fatigue. As I felt the weight of burn-out weakening me I remembered this verse.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Galations 6:9
I was reminded that everyone who offers themselves in service risks burn-out, and this even extends to our vocation as Christians. We are called us to serve others to show them Jesus working through us, but we’re not doing it alone. Jesus is walking with us every step of the way to offer us spiritual restoration. He also reminds us that when we are at the end of ourselves he gives us the strength to keep going.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30
This is why the Sabbath was meant to be a day of rest. God knows that continuously giving of ourselves will cause spiritual exhaustion. As we pour out our cup to others we need to set aside time to be refilled. Solitude with our Creator allows us to be refreshed in order to keep giving. Jesus knew this well and modeled it in his own life.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.Luke 5:16
There is a difference between taking time off and taking time off to be with God. When we separate ourselves from others we may obtain physical rest, but once we return we are easily fatigued. When we separate ourselves from others to spend time with God we are spiritually restored which gives new vigor and purpose to our bodies. We are able to let go of all of the burdens that weigh us down. We are able to reflect on our thoughts and our behavior so we can confess areas of weakness. We are able to ask for strength, wisdom, and guidance. We are able to listen as he speaks to our hearts. Quiet time with God removes life’s distractions, allowing us to focus solely on strengthening our relationship. If you are feeling spiritually dry, spend some quiet time with Jesus and he fill you with living water (John 4). When we are spiritually refreshed we are able to follow Jesus’ example. It fills us with compassion for others and a desire to continue filling their needs.