Avoid Burnout and Overextending Yourself

Have you experienced the symptoms of burnout from overextending yourself? In a culture that applauds achievement, you aren’t alone. The more accomplished and successful one becomes, the greater the risk of overextending oneself and entering the devastating realm of burnout.

I’m dancing on such a verge right now. A little commitment here added to another, then another, and you guessed it … overextension. As my head begins to ache and stomach muscles tighten, I stare at the ceiling when I should be sleeping. Yep! It’s time to heed the warning signs and make adjustments.

At the end of August, I felt God invite me to write something I have avoided for months and even years. He also welcomed me to paint a picture a day. He knew the first would be difficult, while the later would be therapy. I agreed to a one month commitment to accomplish the tasks. If I didn’t finish by then, I would feel released from my commitment. (Pathetic, I know! But it honestly reflects the way God and I talk!)

Only October is teaching month when I have umpteen assignments to correct. It is also the month when the layout and design must be completed for FellowScript, InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship quarterly magazine.

And just like that I’m looking for a life raft in the ocean of overextension!

The Greats

Don’t worry if you can relate. We are in the school of learning that some of biblical history greats have passed through. Moses also found himself in a place of serious threat of burnout, at a level I cannot comprehend.

Based on the count of fighting men listed in Numbers 11:21, scholars estimate about 2.2 million people made the Exodus from Egypt. I have trouble leading myself let alone such a massive crowd. Moses assumed the position of judge for every dispute and problem among them.

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.
Exodus 18:13

Moses adopted this “normal” pattern of function. It took someone from the outside to see what devastating results this way of operating would lead to. Someone who cared enough and was bold enough to confront him! Though burnout appears to sneak up slowly, it will suddenly stomp us out of commission.

Accountability

Just in time, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro came to visit. He took one look at what Moses was doing and basically said, “You’re crazy! Stop, before it’s too late!”

Oh, that God would send Jethros into each of our lives. Someone who lives outside our crazy swirls of activity, who says, “Whoa! Wait a second! Why are doing this?”

Moses was convinced he was doing God’s work in God’s way. After all, he was God’s man of the hour — the leader! Right?

Sometimes pride can lead us to overextend. We begin to think we are the best, or only, one suited for a task. Perhaps, we just don’t know any other way.

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?‘”
Exodus 18:14

An accountability partner provides a safe zone to challenge our present conduct and point us to a better future. Jethro did both.

Warning

Jethro saw the warning signs of burnout and overextension. Do you hear the innocence in Moses’ response?

Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.'” Exodus 18:15-16

Moses spoke to God face-to-face. God instructed Moses. So, who else was equipped to instruct the people?

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.'”
Exodus 18:17-19

Wait! There is a better way?

Delegate

When stretched to maximum capacity, the art of delegation allows us to achieve exponentially more together than all of us could accomplish individually.

Jethro wisely instructed Moses to choose a better way — a way avoiding burnout.

Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
Exodus 18:20-23

Jethro presented Moses with a win-win. It would ensure the responsibility was fulfilled through the help of many. Those who could help more, would be given greater authority. But even those who were only able to maintain a light load could assist.

Lessons

We may glean practical application from Jethro’s advice.

  • Seek out a mentor for a place to be vulnerable and accountable. Give them permission to ask us the tough questions and point out places we might stumble. Live transparently and honestly before them.
  • Seek counsel from others. Counselors help us overcome internal hurdles of pride, selfish ambition, perfectionism, or any of the other vises that often lead to burnout.
  • Delegate authority. Allow other the liberty and the growth opportunity to assume responsibility.
  • Train others and assume a team mentality! Harness the power of synergy — working within teams of like-spirited and like-minded people.
  • Focus on areas only we can do. Acknowledge personal points of excellence where we bring the greatest benefit for the good of all. Then, humbly carry that area of responsibility.

God promises us,

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
Jeremiah 31:25

Hope

No matter what the source, whether we are in the thick of burnout, or heading toward the precipice, Paul writes this sound advice:

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times, pray all the harder...”
Romans 12:11-12 MSG

God won’t put anything too heavy on us. But He draws close as we cry out to Him for help, giving us a new perspective and creative solutions going forward.

As we seek Him, He will keep us fueled and on fire, so that we can live alert and cheerful as we faithfully to the work.

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Weeds in My Garden: Living a Fruitful Life

Like a gnarly invasion of weeds in a garden, certain things persist to prevent each of us from living a spiritually fruitful life.

Despite our best efforts, an inevitable battle arises year after years. Prolific and persistent weeds resist every attempt to subdue them. No matter how vigilant our efforts are, their ornery tendrils refuse to surrender.

Though I no longer farm or garden, weeds push their seedy heads even among my container plants. Infamous for their vigorous growth, they choke out more desirable plants. They thrust their boisterous crowns through cracks in the sidewalk and pavement.

Weedy attitudes often press their destructive force in our spiritual lives as well. Just when we gain the victory in one area, another area proves in desperate need of attention. Hopefully, our spiritual gardens may not be nearly as weedy as they were initially. Still, God graciously and gently points out areas where untended thoughts, attitudes, or life-patterns continue. He desires that we display true beauty as our lives produce abundantly.

Fruitfulness and beauty mark any well-maintained garden or life. Anything that threatens requires immediate attention.

Thorns and Thistles

If we could turn back the pages of time and look into the ancient Garden of Eden, God’s perfect garden, thorns and thistles would be noticeably absent. They pushed their prickly force upward and outward only after Adam and Eve sinned.

” … Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food
from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles
for you … “
Genesis 3:17-18

Weeds in my garden

Once humanity shared perfect unity and fellowship with God. How difficult for us to envision a time without struggling to keep life on track! Thankfully, God promises to again partner with us. Successfully, tending the spiritual gardens of life requires this partnership — God with us!

“Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”
Isaiah 55:13

With His help, we act against anything that chokes out the more desirable and beneficial traits that result in a flourishing life. In Him, we transform from thornbushes to long-living junipers and beautifully scented myrtles.

Vigilance

Here in Canada, we wait through cold, dark winter months for summer to arrive. We welcome the warmth of long, sunny days and fresh spring rains.

For many people, summer also welcomes camping and hiking, beaches and relaxation, vacations and ease. We all need times of rest and refreshing.

But beware! Let’s not allow a habit of ignoring the serious work of dealing with destructive internal issues. Apathy may give those weedy attitudes and life-patterns opportunity to take root and multiply. Solomon warns how quickly “thorns, weeds, and ruins” can take over.

“I went past the field of a sluggard,
past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.”
Proverbs 24:30-31

Hoe and wheelbarrow

How does the enemy so quickly get such a firm hold on us? Like a tangled vine of deception choking out life, the taproots of unforgiveness suck away hope, or the seeds of perversion multiply unrequested. Pride dashes humility beneath its arrogant growth.

To keep the vineyard of our lives producing healthy fruit requires vigilance. The walls around God’s good work within us require continual maintenance to protect from theft or damage.

Little Problems

“Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom.”
Song of Songs 2:15

Little foxes

Solomon warned that even the cutest little foxes will inevitably do significant damage to any vineyard. Let’s not wait until we see the evidence of destruction or until “little” problems become giants. May we each lead a fruitful life, eliminating anything which threatens.

Whether in relationships or ministry, minor problems may quickly escalate. Without proper attention hopelessness overcomes vision, despair replaces purpose, and fear uproots courage, and even the most fruitful life becomes sidetracked.

Good Seed

Jesus told a parable about a man who carefully chooses good seed for his field.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
But while everyone was sleeping,
his enemy came and sowed weeds
among the wheat, and went away.”
Matthew 13:24,25

Damaged fruit

This is not the time to be caught sleeping! Satan’s emissaries come when we are off-guard or have lost our focus. Though we may not initially notice, the result becomes visible soon enough. He comes to destroy the good fruit intended to produce Kingdom purposes.

There was nothing wrong with the “seed,” or the kingdom investment the man was making. He made wise choices and worked faithfully. But while he slept, the field was ruined.

Take Action

We each have negative influences working in our hearts and minds. Some we easily uproot on our own; others need the support of counsellors, pastors, or mentors. Some disintegrate through repentance or renouncing; others take consistent accountability to keep us on track.

However, we should never ignore the destructive efforts of enemy tactics! Sin, like weeds, appears lovely until we try to free yourself from its effects. The more complex and enduring the invasion, the more strategic we become at their eradication. Few people overcome long term destructive behaviors on their own. Fortunately, compassionate, skilled workers are ready to come beside us, helping us to regain lost fruitfulness.

Let’s not allow complacency to delay action. To win this spiritual battle, let’s be vigilant through:

  • prayer and Bible reading
  • seeking godly mentorship and accountability
  • confessing to pastors or counsellors where we need help
  • humbly receiving the help offered
  • refusing any “quick fix”
  • live in faithful obedience to Jesus

Take comfort, my friend. We all have weeds in our gardens. Together we will overcome!

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