Recovering from Burnout

ExhaustedI think every leader experiences it at some point.  It feels like there is nothing left to give.  We get tired.  Sometimes it seems the effort we put into something is all in vain.  Where do we go?  What should we do?  Is it unspiritual?  Most importantly, how do we recover?

I got my inspiration for this in a place I wouldn’t have expected, the book of 1 Kings.  Most of the book is a disappointing account of the Israelites failure to follow God’s commands.  It reaches the climax with Ahab, who builds an alter to baal in the temple.  Then came Elijah who announced a 3 year drought.  At the end of the drought Elijah comes back and takes on the prophets of baal in a duel to see which God can bring fire on their alter.  Elijah lets the prophets of Baal go first.  They work themselves into a frenzy, while Elijah taunts them.

As dawn nears, Elijah prepares his alter. He digs a ditch and gets the people to dump water on it until the trench is filled.  After a simple prayer, God engulfs the entire alter and all the water in flame.  It’s pretty clear who the real God is. Elijah orders the death of the prophets of Baal.  He is seemingly on top of the world. What happens next is surprising.  Ahab’s wife Jezebel sent word to Elijah that she would not rest until the same thing done to the prophets of Baal is done to him.  1 Kings 19 explains:

3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

He is totally depressed.  He just finished doing one of the most amazing miracles in scripture and now he finds himself at the bottom, desiring death.  So what happens next?  An angel touches him, feeds him and attends to his needs.  Later yet, God instructs Elijah with these words:

15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

God has provided and now instructs him to go back and anoint new leaders.

What are the lessons for us? I think that when we feel burned out, look to God to sustain you.  He has the food we need to continue.  Second, look for the next set of instructions.  God will provide what we need to do his work.  In the case of Elijah he provided new leaders to carry on the mission.

What has been your experience?

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