Spiritual Burn Out:
When We Have Nothing Left to Offer God
One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
Sometimes that’s all I have to offer God: nothing but fish and chips — a couple little crusty pieces of fish and bread.
I’m sure you see the point immediately: “Yes,” you say, “Jesus takes what little we have when we’re weak, and He multiplies our small efforts into something that glorifies Him — I get it.”
But it goes deeper than that.
This incident with the boy and his loaves of bread is not a picture of us on our bad days. It’s a picture of our true state at all times, even when we’re doing so awesome that the glory of God blazes like the sun from our faces and people shield their eyes when they see us. Although getting burned out can be complicated — as far as what causes it — one of the primary ingredients is lack of a true deep-in-the-marrow-of-your-bones dependance on God — the kind of reliance on Him that gives you lasting peace. You know without a doubt that He’s got the whole world in His hands — including the little snow globe of your life — and things don’t get to you.
When we rely on ourselves, the waters get choppy. We paddle harder, faster, but get nowhere. And we’re exhausted emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Self-insulation, self-containment, and self-reliance all but guarantee that burn out is right around the corner.
But then the fish and the loaves incident comes along and says this: keep the truth constantly before your eyes, never let it stray too far from your awareness: you need God. Spend as much time with Him as you can, especially when things go great, when you feel like the most awesomely awesome Christian in the history of awesomeness.
Good days are much more dangerous than bad ones, in other words.
In truth, we’re always bringing to God something wholly inadequate. That’s the whole point of the Cross. We’ve never been able to bring enough loaves of bread or fish to the party. He has always been required to multiply what we bring, and He always will. That is His glory and joy, and it’s our privilege. Just being able to bring something, anything — no matter how small or great — to Jesus is itself a miracle of the ages that was won by the tortuous agony of the Crucifixion.
So, next time you feel bankrupt and broken in your Christian life, I have some good news: you’re not the Good Shepherd. Someone else is. You don’t have to rely on yourself. Don’t allow your pain, your weariness, your cynicism, to cheat you out of going to Jesus. When we’re down and out, we tend to hide from Him and run away: we skip prayer, we skip worship, we skip devotions, we skip church, we skip giving to others even if it hurts our pocket book, we skip fasting as a spiritual discipline, we skip hanging out with Christians who will challenge us in some way.
Instead, just to run to Him — do all of those things above and more, even if you don’t do any of those things particularly well or effectively. Bring your stale fish and chips. Believe that He can multiply everything into a feast that will satisfy the weariness of your heart — even use you to bless others after He has filled you up with His goodness!
Here’s a little prayer to help you get started:
Abba, thank you that in my weakness I am strong because of the perfect work in Christ that moves in my life at all times, even when I’m not “feeling it.” You help me see the truth: that I am radically dependent on You at all times whether I realize it or not. I can’t even breathe without You. There is never a moment when You are not sustaining and causing every moment of “success” in my life to happen. Help me to cling to You at all times, not just when things are bad. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
This article was adapted and modified from a chapter from the e-book devotional How to Overcome Worship Fatigue, written to encourage worship teams. You can buy this e-book on Amazon here for $2.99.