How many of us have walked through seasons when we’re burned out? I have loved ones in that place as I write this. Okay, and I may be there as well.
So much life has happened this year. The death of a loved one. Work pressure and obstacles to getting the job done. Kids who rebel as they try to figure out what it means to become an adult. Caring for aging parents.
When life pulls us—our hearts, spirits, souls, bodies—in many directions, we can burn out. We’re human, not God.
Recently, I read through Elijah’s story in 1 Kings 18. What resonated is how, though he followed hard after God, Elijah still became worn down.
When God called Elijah to tell Ahab about the drought, as soon as he delivered the message, Elijah ran from the wicked king. Remaining in Israel would have meant death. Instead, Elijah spent three-and-a-half years wandering. He lived in the desert and was fed by ravens. Later, he dwelt with the widow of Zarephath.
Three-and-a-half years is a long time to be on the run, disconnected from loved ones. It’s a long time to not have a roof over your head and a bed to lie in each night. A long time to live without the security of food and water and safety.
And yet, Elijah trusted God to provide for him. And God did just that. When God instructed Elijah to tell Ahab rain was coming, Elijah wasn’t “home” for long. He challenged Jezebel’s priests to a sacrifice contest. Their “gods” didn’t answer, but Elijah’s God—Israel’s God—answered decisively (link to 1 Kings 18).
Then Jezebel made a death threat on Elijah’s life, and fear put speed to Elijah’s feet and heart.
By the time he stopped to rest under a broom tree in the middle of NOWHERE, he asked God to let him die. I used to be upset by this prayer. Now, I better understand his complete depletion. He had nothing left.
Though God understood the why’s of Elijah’s prayer, He didn’t acquiesce. He refreshed His servant and called Elijah back to the business of living.Refresh: 4 How To's for Recovering When We're Burned Out—Though God understood the why’s of Elijah’s prayer, He didn’t acquiesce. He refreshed His servant and called Elijah back to the business of living. #tellhisstory #burnedout… Click To Tweet
We all come to these places in our lives where we’re done in. Life has stolen everything we have to offer.
We’re tired. Drained. Shredded.
Four Strategies for When We’re Burned Out
Perhaps the first step to refreshment is finding a place to rest. Elijah found a broom tree. He sat down and prayed. Life doesn’t always stop, but sometimes, we must.
Find a Place to Rest.
Whether that means getting away for a little while, or opening up our schedules, even for a couple of hours, our souls need space to breathe.
Being still before the Lord can be the hardest thing, but it’s also necessary. When we’re to the place of being completely burned out, we must step back from all that’s draining us and breathe.
When we invite God into our weariness, He can begin the refreshing process. We need to get real with God. Elijah asked God to let him die. God is big enough to handle our honesty.
Though our emotions shouldn’t guide our decisions and the ways we respond to life, they do need to be acknowledged. God heard Elijah’s words. He allowed Elijah to sit in that dark place. I can almost picture God sitting right there with him, waiting for Elijah’s heart to be ready for God’s next words.
Refreshing begins when we offer ourselves an opportunity to rest. Chances are good if we’re worn down, we need to spend some time remembering truths in God’s word. We need a change in our mindsets, and God’s word will give that to us.
God’s Response When We’re Burned Out
When we’re burned out, our perspectives will be skewed. We need time away to recalibrate our hearts and our thoughts.
God’s next words were a question. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
What an invitation He offered Elijah! Sometimes, we need to ask this same question,
. . . to evaluate what has led us to this point,
. . . what our motivations have been,
. . . what our thoughts and perceptions are.
God invited Elijah to bare his heart and be vulnerable with the One who loved him. And though Elijah’s words don’t seem to be an exact answer to the question, “What are you doing here?” It reveals what was on his heart.
When we’re worn down and our emotions become ragged, we need to run . . . to the One who knows us best and loves us anyway. We need to remember we aren’t meant to perpetually push forward.Refresh: 4 How To's for Recovering When We're Burned Out—When we’re worn down and our emotions become ragged, we need to run . . . to the One who knows us best and loves us anyway #tellhisstory #burnedout #refresh Click To Tweet
Is life sometimes hard? Yes. Do circumstances sometimes overwhelm? Definitely. But God never intends us to press on in our own strength indefinitely. Let’s acknowledge when we are worn and bring our tired selves to the Lord for refreshment.
What about you? What has helped you when you are worn down in every way? Do you have a Bible verse that refreshes you when you’re burned out?
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I’ve had a busy but good week with the birth of a new grandson! But today I found myself totally worn down, so I’ve spent it at home, not doing much of anything. Grateful for the rhythm that God established for us to rest. Love your advice here, Jeanne.
Aww, Lisa. What a beautiful reason tone busy! Congratulations on the birth of your newest grandson. I hope, in the middle of the joy, that you also find time to refresh. Thank you so much for stopping by!
Exodus 14:14 is my verse of the year. “The Lord will fight for you and you only have to be still.” Your words speak deep into the places that need to be still today.
Peace and grace to you,
Tammy, that is a great verse to meditate on! You’re right. When we take this verse (and God’s word) to heart, it’s easier to be still. I’m so glad the Lord is the One who fights for me. I appreciate your encouragement.
So needed. Someone’s (I can’t remember whose) blog introduced me to the term spiritual fatigue. I definitely think I’ve got some of that going on.
Lauren . . . spiritual fatigue. Yes. I’m right there with you. I’m saying a prayer for you right now.
Such a thoughtful and helpful post with good ways to be refreshed by rest, being still, praying, and acknowledging our emotions! Thank God He is with us through it all!
Kathy, I’m glad you found some refreshment in this post. 🙂 Thank goodness God is with us through all of what we face!
Thank you, Jeanne. I haven’t visited this story of Elijah in quite a while. Like you, his prayer always bothered me. Still, I love your insight here on how being burned out taints our perspective. In ministry for years, my husband and I had to guard against burn out, especially him when he was lead pastor for 18 years of a church plant. Relish in the idea of getting real with God because He is big enough to handle our honest feelings and emotions.
Karen, I imagine there have been times when you and your husband have had to be very intentional so as not to burn out. You have both poured so much of yourselves into your ministry. I’m so glad our Father is big enough to handle our honest feelings and to walk with us as we sort them. Thanks for sharing a bit of your story!
Jeanne, I love how you wove Elijah’s story into the problem of modern-day burnout. We can learn a lot form Elijah. I have never been so burnt out that I wanted to die but I have had a friend in exactly that situation. I like this verse from 2 Corinthians when I am burnt out. I remind myself that the important stuff is the unseen eternal. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Laurie, I think the reason Elijah’s story spoke to me so deeply this time around is watching someone close to me struggling with burnout. God has ways of speaking to our needs, doesn’t He? And that verse from 2 Corinthians is such a good one. thank you for adding it to this conversation!
I came across this post accidentally (I know – no accidents or coincidences GOD DOES NOT ORDAIN) !
Thank you for writing it – for sharing it. I’m now a subscriber of your posts.
I’m at a time in my life when I’m not so much burnt out – but – medically strung out – I say that, because there are suddenly SO MANY THINGS wrong the doctors have uncovered – I’ve had medical problems in the past… one at a time… but when I found out there are multiple things and they include my brain and some organs – well – it’s hard to function. I’m at peace with whatever God has in mind… but… there is another book to be edited/revised and yet another to be written – both are books readers have been waiting for and God told me to write them… I KNOW His timing is perfect.
I love your 4 strategies and God’s response – BE STILL and KNOW I AM GOD (QUIT STRIVING and KNOW I AM GOD ) NASB is the latter – Ps 46:10 is my life verse – has been since another medical fiasco in my life…
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE REMINDERS HERE – FOR THE PORTION OF SCRIPTURE ABOUT ELIJAH –
I thank God for having come across this post – “For such a time as this…”
Joy, first of all, I am sorry for all the health things you’re going through. It’s scary and unsettling when one medical issue crops up, much less when there are a number of them simultaneously. Being at peace with what God allows into our lives is a good place to be. At the same time, I’ll be praying for your heart and mind to stay fixed on Him, for strength to work on those books, and for you to truly live into Psalm 46:10. That’s one of my life verses too. I’m glad God brought you here today, friend.
Ah, Jeanne … I’ve been there, for sure. Your strategies are so helpful, especially prayer and acknowledging the hard emotions. What also helped me was reminding myself that this was not how it always would be and focusing on doing the next right thing. I didn’t have enough energy to solve all the world’s problems, or even my own immediate issues, but I could make my grocery list. Or pick up my girls from school. Or whatever. I’m praying for you, my friend, and trusting that God will give you just what you need to work your way through this very busy month.
Thanks for your encouragement, Lois. I like your additions to the list. The idea of doing the next right thing in those places of burnout is a great way to handle it. Thanks for your prayers. Goodness knows we need them right now. 🙂
If you’re tired…REST. Don’t quit. xo
I love that God dealt so tenderly with Elijah and gently encouraged him. Isaiah 40:28-31 are verses that always encourage me in times like that.
I’m with you, Lesley. God knows exactly what we need when we hit burnout, doesn’t He? That passage in Isaiah has lifted my spirits more times than I can count. Thanks for adding it to the conversation!
Rest, Be Still, Pray and Acknowledge Feelings – Oh Yes! I remember a year of standing. I’d asked. I needed to be still in Him, Rest in Him, – and acknowledge how my soul soul felt like it had shorted out – and He stood beside me in the so very, very hard. You say, “He refreshed His servant and called Elijah back to the business of living.” – and you are so right – He refreshes us, calls us back to the business of living after He has healed the frayed soul! I understand, Jeanne and rejoice that He is a God who spiritually, physically and emotionally refreshes us when we do all you talk about here! Shalom! ~ Maryleigh
Maryleigh, sometimes coming to terms with our emotions can be the biggest challenge because it requires us to be honest with ourselves as well as with our Father. I rejoice that our God does refresh us in every aspect of who we are. Thank you so much for sharing here!
Jeanne, great words of encouragement! We all suffer seasons of burnout, and the reminder that God knows exactly what we need is so comforting, and often NOT what I thought I needed!
Donna, thank you for YOUR encouragement. We do all deal with burnout at some point in our lives. I’m so thankful our Father knows exactly what we need in those seasons!
This is so good, Jeanne! I’ve learned the hard way to be aware when I’m getting a bit crispy around the edges … and then to be pro-active to turn the ship around before I begin to sink.
Less media. Saying no thanks. More outside, sleep, drinking water, quiet music, relaxing books, time with people who ‘get it.’
And reaching out to others … just a bit, not under compulsion.
Ahhh, Linda. Learning the hard way is something I’m far too good at. I really, really like the things you do when you need to turn your ship around. Thank you for sharing them!
No, He does not and I wish I could/would remember that when life is hard, harder, seemingly hardest! God is so merciful to us and when I depend upon Him to be the strength I need, those hard times are not easier yet they are more peaceful. Thanks for the 4 ways to sit with the One Who wants us to come. Thanks. This is a today’s read, for sure!
Linda, I am beyond thankful for God’s mercy toward me! Your words resonate with me. When we choose to depend on God to be our strength, we do know His peace in those hard, burnout seasons. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!
I have never been burned out
since I heard Jesus Saves,
and so, with a cheery shout
I dance upon the waves
that would try to drag me down
to Leviathan’s fell lair,
but I just play the happy clown
and Satan tears his hair
and snaps rude at his demon-imps
(Ol’ Scratch is not polite),
but all the devils are just wimps
when forced out of the night
and into the bright light of day
of me and God at happy play.
I really like the word picture you paint here, Andrew! You’re right. When our hearts are focused on the Lord, the enemy knows he’s lost hold on our hearts. I’m so thankful we are loved by the Father of Lights!
I love it when you said, “Refreshing begins when we offer ourselves an opportunity to rest” I am parched! I need rest. I was just telling a friend today, “I got nothing to offer today. I’m tired.” And then I read your post!
Jerralea, I’m parched too, which is probably why Elijah’s story struck such a chord with me. 🙂 I hope you have a chance to rest and be refreshed by Jesus. I love how God brings things across our paths just when we need them. I’m saying a prayer for you today.
This is a hard season, indeed. Laid-up with an injury, recovering from surgery, and now battling an infection. And then I found out yesterday one of my former students took her life on Saturday night. And another student’s mom passed away. I’ll be spending a lot of time this week lamenting in my journal and praying for guidance.
Awww, friend. I said a prayer for you when I read your words here. I’m so sorry you have so many hard things on your plate right now. It’s so hard when friends and loved ones are suffering on top of dealing with your own health situation. My heart is hurting for you right now. You’re going to the right place to deal with all the emotions. I’ll continue to pray for you.
Jeanne, Thank you for this great lesson. So wonderfully spoken. Blessings.
Thanks for your encouraging words, Paula!
Jeanne, I love this story of Elijah. You bring out excellent strategies. The picture of the small flower hidden in the cleft of the rock is precious!
I love Elijah’s story too, Deb. I love that photo too. I captured it a few years ago on vacation, and I still keep looking at it. It’s such a picture of perseverance, of growing in rocky places (no pun intended) and remembering Who provides for all our needs.
I learn something and gain more insight each time I read about Elijah’s story. Lately it feels like I have ‘cobwebs’ in my head from not enough refreshment time. I like to go to His creation in nature in refresh. It’s been awhile now though (as my Instagram feed even tells me since I haven’t had a picture to post for awhile!) since I’ve let Him refresh me. And so important to ask what our motivations have been around our workings that led to burn out. Thank you for that reminder!
Elijah’s story is one of those that seem to have a never-ending well of lessons and life truths to glean. I know what you mean about going to God’s creation and breathing in His nature spaces. I went out Saturday with my sister and loved being among His red rocks in my region. I’m discovering that understanding my motivations behind actions or a current state of being is enlightening. When God shows me and I ask Him to help me make changes, I end up doing a lot better and making healthier choices in the future.
Jeanne, I have been reading about Elijah lately as well 🙂 “We need to remember we aren’t meant to perpetually push forward.” Thank you for giving me, and maybe all of us, permission to hit pause today.
I love when friends find themselves in the same places in the Bible as I am. We all need to hit Pause, don’t we, Joanne?
Elijah always renews my hope that God is not at all limited in whom he will.use to put his glory on display. Prone to fear? Chronically depressed? This is nothing to a God who sends fire from heaven!
I love, love your words, Michele! What a God of hope He is!
Amen. Run to Him and find rest and renewal. 🙂
Yes and Amen, Melissa!
I’m thankful God doesn’t always give us what we want, as Elijah found when he wanted to die. God knows just what we need to be refreshed and ready to pick up again.
I agree, Barb. I’m so glad God doesn’t always say yes to our prayers. He knows EXACTLY what we need, doesn’t He?