OF ALL THE DANGERS OF MINISTRY, one I have infrequently dealt with is burnout. I admire those who for whatever reason drive themselves so relentlessly that eventually they turn into a pile of warm ashes—if nothing else, for their dedication and work capacity. As much as I love to work, though, and as much as my romantic soul yearns for the heroic deed, I have never reached the point of near emotional extinction for the cause.
Instead, my downfall has been simply to become worn out to the point where I no longer care, somewhat like a tennis player who after several sets becomes so tired he loses the desire to win. Compared to the tragic drama of burnout, that is decidedly nonheroic.
Someone has said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." Let me rephrase that in more general terms: Physical exhaustion alters my emotional state. What I could handle when fresh I no longer feel up to. Difficulties that I first faced like a problem-solver full of faith now cause me to buckle at the knees. The challenges that once energized me now terrify me. While the presenting symptom on such occasions is emotional—depression or weakness—the real problem is physical: low energy.
When I am worn out, the words "I am so tired of …" fall easily from my lips. Tired of problems, tired of pressure, tired of sermon deadlines, tired of criticism, tired of working six or seven days a week, tired of difficult people, tired of having everything depend on me, tired of the same place and the same thing, tired of others letting me down. While I feel the problem is what comes at the end of the phrase, in reality the word "tired" is the true explanation for my urge to give in.
I have noticed several other characteristics of physical and emotional exhaustion and the ...