Due to the unique circumstances of the past two years, many pastors have faced or are facing burnout. If that’s you today, there is hope.
Just like your car, we each have an “energy tank.” We constantly go from draining that tank to filling it up. And no one likes to run out of gas. It can be dangerous, particularly when we run out of gas on a major highway. The same is true in our ministries. Burnout can be dangerous. To fight against it, we need to keep our energy tanks full.
Jesus says it like this in Matthew 11:28-30: “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” (NIV).
Jesus’ words give us four steps we can take to keep our emotional tank filled up.
1. Get fed up (with the current state of your life).
If you want to have a full tank, you must first admit that you are dissatisfied with an area of your life. We don’t change when we see the light. We change when we feel the heat.
Psalm 23:2 says of God, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (NIV). Sometimes, just as shepherds make sheep lie down, God uses painful seasons to make us rest.
If you’re willing to live stressed out and tired lives, nothing will change. It’s no coincidence that Jesus begins by saying, “You who are weary and burdened.” That’s where you must start.
You can intellectually agree with everything in this article and still end up unchanged—and be just as tired and burned out in six months. Nothing will happen until you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.
2. Come to Jesus.
Notice that in Matthew 11:28, Jesus doesn’t say to come to church. He doesn’t say come to rituals or rules. Jesus says, “Come to me.” The antidote to the pain you’re feeling is Jesus—and nothing else.
Jesus doesn’t care why you come to him, he just cares that you come. You can come to him and say, “I’m tired, worn out, stressed, and depressed.” None of this surprises Jesus. He won’t say, “Hey, you’re a pastor. You shouldn’t feel like that.”
Jesus knows everything about you, including your past, present, and future. Nothing changes this fact: He will never reject you.
Jesus’ teachings is the opposite advice that you’ll get from the surrounding culture. Our culture tells us to go and do more. Climb every ladder. But Jesus says: “Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace” (Matthew 6:6 The Message).
When you come to Jesus, he will give you the rest you’re longing for. Jesus said, “I will give you rest for your soul.” That’s the deepest kind of rest you can have. Your problem isn’t tired muscles or even a tired mind. Your problem is a tired soul. Jesus will give your soul rest.
3. Give up control.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you.” Pastor, you may already know that the purpose of the yoke Jesus is describing in this agricultural illustration is two-fold. It symbolizes partnership and control. When we’re yoked with Jesus, we move together in the same direction and at the same pace. But we must give up control for that to happen.
The Message paraphrase of Romans 3:28 says, “We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.” Too many times we try to run the parade, and we get out of step with God’s pace. That’s why we’re tired. We need God to be our pacesetter, telling us when to speed up and slow down in life.
The problem is that most of us, particularly those of us in ministry, have too many yokes around us. We’re trying to please too many people. Jesus tells us to take his yoke. It’s the easy one. If we go at his pace, he’ll give us the energy to fulfill what he’s called us to do.
4. Learn to trust.
Jesus modeled how to live with purpose and peace. That’s why, as he’s describing how to have more peace in Matthew 11:28-29, he tells us to watch him and learn. For us, that means we need to be reading his Word.
Learning from Jesus takes time, though. You didn’t get overbooked overnight. You won’t learn from the rhythms of Jesus overnight, either. But the good news is that Jesus is a gentle teacher. His gentle approach is one of the best antidotes to overload.
Sometimes our overload is caused by aggression and arrogance. We overcommit because we don’t wait, pause, or consider. That’s aggression. We arrogantly want to control everything and everyone. We think we know what’s best for ourselves and others.
Jesus says the answer is humility. He wants us to remember that we’re not the savior of our world. He is.
It’ll take a lifetime to learn from Jesus’ example, but as we do, he will fill up our tank.