Some of my favorite verses are found in Matthew. It’s Jesus talking:
Do you know what I like about these verses? Jesus recognizes that we get weary and burdened. I just realized in looking at the context of these words, it’s at the end of an episode when an imprisoned John the Baptist sent a message to his cousin, Jesus, asking: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Yes, this is the same guy who has known Jesus all his life, knew his aged mother’s view of the son of Mary, knew the prophecies and saw how they lined up with his cousin’s life, spent his whole ministry preparing the way for the Messiah, and even baptized him and saw the Spirit come down on him like a dove and heard the voice from heaven.
How could John doubt Jesus as the Christ?
John was weary and burdened.
I don’t know if I would go all the way to say John was burned out, but being isolated in prison, worried about his own followers, and tired from years of preaching and living on locust and honey had obviously left him at such a low point that questions made him reach out. That’s the thing to note here:
John sent his question straight to Jesus for confirmation, and Jesus responded.
I also love in this passage that Jesus didn’t condemn John for his doubts. He even said that there was no man greater than John the Baptist. He called him the modern-day Elijah. That’s powerful and loving, but I think his words also show us that when we’re in a state like John, wearied and burdened, we need to come to Jesus to find rest.
You may not be in prison today like John was, but you’re feeling the weariness of body and soul. Today’s word for this state is burnout, and it basically means that there’s been a loss of energy or fuel. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that a human who’s lost energy is not going to be shooting on all cylinders.
We need rest and rejuvenation in order to serve or doors can close to ministry, temporarily or permanently, depending on the depth of the problem.
Jesus’s words remind us that one of the main causes of burnout is a refusal to stop and take a break. We wouldn’t have to go to him and find rest if we’d been seeking him out in regular intervals for rest all along the way. One of the recent ways I’ve started to gain margin in my own life is to take Sunday afternoons off and just read a book. This act of stopping everything else in the world (human and digital) allows me to decompress. It also usually leads to about an hour of sleep while the sun is still up—that’s called a nap for you workaholics. I cannot tell you how much more restful I feel and recharged for the week ahead because of this one simple pause in my schedule.
Thinking we are the ultimate problem solver also leads to burnout in ministry.
Again, Jesus’s words here speak to the solution: Come to me. We don’t have all the answers, but we act like we do. We can’t do it all, but we try to. There’s a great word I had to learn to use in life with my family, in ministry, and even now in my secular work—empowerment. It was so hard for me to let my boys help when they were young because I knew they might be messy. It was easier in my mind for me to just do it myself than allow them to do something I saw as imperfect. That’s a really tiring attitude, and it carries over into every avenue of life if we’re not careful.
Are you weary and burdened? Run to Jesus before burnout closes a door that could have easily stayed open if we’d shared the yoke with him.
Grace and Peace
For more on doors that close due to burnout, read When Doors Close: Changing Course in Missions Without Losing Your Way.