Physical exhaustion is fairly simple to remedy: go to sleep. Or drink copious amounts of coffee. Whatever – we’re not going to judge you if coffee is your sleep-alternative. That’s part of being an adult, right?
Mental exhaustion isn’t as simple to alleviate. When we’re stressed and overwhelmed, a good night’s sleep won’t fix that. Mainly because the source of our anguish will still be there when we wake. It seems that we can only tolerate a certain amount of intense stress before something has to give. Sometimes, we may make necessary changes to reduce our stress. However, there are times where we just burnout. We throw in the towel and just give up. When we reach a burnout, it’s likely because we didn’t know what else to do.
It’s been my experience that Christians tend to connect mental exhaustion with weak faith. Paul tells us, in Philippians 4, that Christ is the source of our contentment. If we’re in Christ, why would we reach this point of burnout? If we truly trusted in God, why would we stress so much? I would make an argument that Jesus Himself experienced stress prior to His crucifixion. (I mean, He was sweating blood, so…) Finding our peace in Christ and trusting in God does not mean we will never experience stress.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NIV)
Perhaps the peace we have in Christ means we can handle the troubles of this world in a God-glorifying way. To believe that life will forever be sunshine and flowers from the moment we become saved is a misunderstanding of Scripture. We still live in a sinful and fallen world. We will experience the effects of the fall on a daily basis. We would be unwise to expect anything else. But, again, we can find peace and find rest in Christ.
Recently, I’ve experienced a bit of a burnout myself. The past several months, I’ve found it extremely difficult to go to church. To be perfectly honest, forcing myself to go to church on Sunday is the most difficult thing I do on any given week. I’ve been hesitant to talk about this, mainly out of fear of backlash. However, when I finally decided to reach out and confided in a few Christian friends, I realized that I am not alone in experiencing this burnout.
Lots of Christians, especially American Christians, have simply reached the end of their rope when it comes to church. We know that church isn’t about us. We know that no church is going to be perfect. We know the local church is important. That doesn’t change the fact that we’re tired; emotionally, we are drained.
Much of my burnout is due to experiences with churches in the past. I’ve walked away from churches feeling extremely hurt. I’ve mourned the loss of churches, if you will, and this makes it very difficult to want to return. It is a bit of a comfort to know that I am not alone in this. I know that I have brothers and sisters that get it.
All that being said, I know how important the local church is. I am fully aware and, honestly, I don’t need anyone to point that out. It’s already in my head. I’m already aware that my emotions do not justify disobedience. I know that I’m, really, not doing myself any favors by disconnecting from the church.
The only encouragement I have to offer, at this point, is to over-ride your own emotions. Be wise and do not allow what your feeling to dictate your decisions. Our human emotions, including stress, are very wishy-washy and are rarely based in reality. To be blunt, just because we don’t feel like going to church doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. Sometimes, we just have to trust that God knows what’s best for us and be obedient.
I recently read a book called Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. The author spoke a great deal about the church. He pointed out that in Heaven, we will worship with fellow believers. That’s precisely what church is and should be one of the greatest joys we have on earth. This was tremendously encouraging and insightful for me. While some of my experiences have made it difficult to plug into a church, I know that it’s good for me to go.
To conclude, if you have also experienced this church-goer’s burnout; know that you are not alone. Lots of Christians feel it, too. However, the local church is so incredibly important. Please do what is wise instead of what feels good in the moment. Please, do not forsake the fellowship, even when it’s difficult.
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