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#46 Signs of Burnout

Burnout is far too common in missionaries and those who have given their lives to serving others.

In this episode of “Now Is the Time” I talk with Dr. Stan Haegert who is both a missionary and a burnout survivor. You’ll appreciate hearing his story as a mission Doctor in The Gambia. He talks about how to recognize burnout and how to avoid it.

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(We celebrated Christmas this week. Find out why and watch some video from our Christmas Eve service here.)

Burnout probably happens on the mission field far more often than you’d guess. Two factors make it easy for burnout to catch us by surprise.

A Never-Ending Need

The first factor is a never-ending need. One common theme in burnout victims is the knowledge that your work is never, done. You can always do more and thus, you never take time to rest. This was true for Dr. Haegert as he ministered in a needy country where he was the only doctor for about 30,000 people.

No Boundaries

The second factor is lack of boundaries. When you combine a never-ending need with no clear boundaries you have a recipe for burnout. It’s tempting to say “yes” to ever new ministry need that comes your way, you can probably keep up with it for a while. However, eventually you will run out of emotional and physical resources and certain negative signs will start to appear in your life.

Signs of Burnout

There are three major signs of burnout, together they create the acronym R.E.D.

Reduced Sense of Personal Accomplishment

Although you’re doing the same work you did before and on paper you may be accomplishing your goals, deep inside you feel like you are spinning your wheels, you feel like you’re not successful, like you’re not doing enough.

This feeling can lead to something called the “Impostor Syndrome.” This is when you begin to feel like you’re not really who everyone thinks you are. You feel like you’re somehow unqualified for your job, that you don’t really know what you’re doing and if anyone found out they would be shocked.

Exhaustion

The exhaustion of burnout is primarily emotional but can also be mental, physical and spiritual. This happens when you have given and given without any attention to replenishing your resources.

Depersonalization

In an effort to protect yourself you begin to withdraw emotionally from people and build-up walls of defense. You start to see people as the enemy, you may even separate yourself from relationships that could be helpful.

Rather than trying to correct your own mistakes you blame others for your condition.

How to Overcome Burnout

Recharge

This is really about bringing the principle of Sabbath back into your life.

Dr. Haegert told me:

“The most important thing I’ve learned how to do is to practice a Sabbath…To recognize that He is in charge of the universe and to recognize that the universe will go on functioning if I stop to take a breath like He has granted me the gift of doing.”

Reflect

Analyze the triggers that caused your burnout. Was it bad theology? Were you afraid to stop working because you didn’t trust God’s care for the situation? Had you develop bad habits of ignoring your need for rest? Had you committed to more than you could reasonably accomplish?

Restructure

Recharging and reflection are important but if you don’t restructure you will eventually fall into burnout again. What structures do you need to put into your life so that you can have regular, Biblical rhythms of work and rest? Do you need to cut some things out of your life? Do you need to limit your work hours? Do you need to establish a weekly day of rest?

Prayer Requests

  • Pray for peace and safety in Odessa, we’ve had 6 terrorist attacks in the past 30 days.
  • Pray for our special Christmas outreach on January 10-11.
  • Pray for online classes starting this month.

Links

Question: What have you found helps you avoid burnout?

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • Sabbath. Many miss out on the fact that Sabbath was built for us. We need to practice regular Sabbaths in our life – one minute and hour, one hour a day, one day a week….

    • Wow, I’ve never heard that -one minute and hour and one hour a day. I guess you could take it further to one week a quarter and one month a year, but that might not be possible for everyone.

  • I can really identify with your symptom of reduced personal accomplishment. I know when I’m approaching a burnout capacity, I never really feel at ease or as if my day went well. It’s like constantly trying not to drown.

    • What a good way to put it, “constantly trying not to drown” that’s very exhausting! My mom always told me, get a good rest and you’ll feel better about things in the morning.

  • I was there one time and never want to go back. Mine was from legalism crushing my spirit., i will be praying for you this weekend.

    • Legalism and burnout seem to go well together. Like Jesus told the Pharisees, they pile heave loads on the backs of people, loads they are not willing to carry themselves.

      Thanks for your prayers, the first day went well, beautiful weather, and lots of people.

  • I look forward to listening to your pod cast later.
    Skimming through the notes it looks like a message I need to hear as I’ve been dealing with burn out. Taking a break, resting in God and asking Him to prioritize my day is really helping.

    • I’m coming to believe that it is a more common problem then I thought before. Get your rest TC, trust in God and give your cares to him. The mind, body and soul need regular rest.