Christian burn out cycle

Hands up anyone who recognizes this cycle in their Christian walk?

The performance approach

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This is how it used to go for me… and maybe for you too?

  1. At the start someone suggests we “desire more” of God and to “get a vision for our lives” or some variation of this “more” theme.
  2. We delve into the “knock and keep on knocking” logic and we pray and pray for this thing that we don’t yet have (but perhaps others do have). Then when we get what we want from God, we run with it with greater and greater intensity.
  3. We focus on “hot-cold spit you out of my mouth” type of verses to push ourselves to run faster and faster.
  4. So we burn out.
  5. We rediscover the “acceptance” pathway. We “accept God’s will” and highly value following our “peace“. We “lean into His strength”. The book of ecclesiastes (“just do what your hands find to do”) seems very relevant.
  6. We remain in this state until we feel somehow bored, or until we feel emotionally in need of a high, or until we wonder why God is so quiet, or until we see someone else going on with God. They seem hot, by comparison we feel cold.
  7. We think… maybe the peace thing is not a good approach. We feel rejected, or left behind. Uncool. The cool kids are all so “on fire” and “hot” for God. And what are we? Oooo… I bet God’s not happy with me.
  8. Then someone teaches about desiring more of God… see item 1 above.
  9. We lose out peace and begin striving again… until burn out.

    I’ve been around this cycle so much and for so long that I eventually just HAD to find another way. I prayed for a way out of this and found… the relationshp with God is what matters, not what we manage to do for Him.

    The relationship approach

    So I decided to spend my time worshipping Him. I decided to ask Him to make me a…

    branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified – Isaiah 60:21

    that puts the pressure right back in his hands – where it should be. He gives and you use. Simple. So the focus on you is to live your life with what He has given you.

    If other people rushed on ahead of me… that’s ok. If they had “power” and “anointing”… well, I’ll just use what I have and keep on asking God to shape me. If He wants me to have “power” then He’ll give it to me.

    You simply use what you have got at your disposal

    Like in the parable of the talents, you use what you have been given. If you use it, you get more. It’s right there in the bible. It also says not to strive! The only thing the bible says to strive for (ironically) is to be at peace. Ok then. So…

    • You love the people around you with the emotional ability you have got.
    • You share your provision with the people around you, when you have something to share.
    • And above all, you walk in relationship with Him to the extent that you do have revelation of Him.
    • When someone asks you for help, you help them, you offer to pray for them.

      dadshand.jpgAnd the rest of your day? You live it to the utmost. He came to give you an abundant life!

      The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). – John 10:10

      The wisdom in this is that it is our joy, our peace that comes from being happy, feeling satisfied in Him, in His provision for us… THAT is what the world CAN’T and DOESN’T have. All their greed and searching will not bless them and give them peace.

      It’s this contentment and security of His love and our willingness to love others… that is what sets us apart.

      Wanting more is a tricky thing. It can be useful, but it can be addictive. Stay away from the addicitive behaviour.

      Return to the relationship. Want HIM not STUFF.

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      22 responses to “Christian burn out cycle

      1. I am a Christian, 40 years trying to be good, to walk by faith, to attend church, to do good. 40 years of frustration, of trying, trying, trying. I am totally burned out. I believe in God, I believe Jesus died for my sins and is the only way of salvation. But, I just cannot bring myself to listen to anymore preaching. I haven’t even read my Bible for several months and very little prayer. My only prayer is “God help me to come back to you”. I know am I am totally forgiven and accepted by God. I know it is not performance and I am comfortable with that. I have not lost my faith I just cannot be involved in it. I am waiting for God to call me back, but I think when He does it will be to a different walk and not one of trying so hard to be what I cannot be. It will probably be to a walk of just trust and rest. Not one of guilt, condemnation and trying to be good. Just listening to a sermon these days turns my stomach and causes high anxiety. I was afraid I wasn’t even a Christian. I am, but the pressure got to me and I have totally given up on performance. I believe the Lord will come and comfort me in His time.
        I actually volunteer in a Christian ministry doing what I love, designing and painting wood art of all kinds for Christian Camps, childrens homes and other places. I’m told I should not even take pride in my work. I should just do it for the glory of God. I am an artist who “should not sign my work, because that it pride”. I am so sick of not enjoying who I am and trying to live for the expectations of others. I am 63 and done.
        But, I cannot get involved in the “forms” of Christianity right now. You have explained pretty much the way i feel. So many expectation from others and myself i just can no longer handle. I am burned out and learning to live with it.

      2. Thank you for the website its helped me out a little. I often do go through what this website talks about most of the time. I often go through a very small hate phase toward the Bible after being turnout because I go after the knowledge of the Bible. How should I pace myself in terms of how much knowledge I want? Sometimes I want tons of knowledge and sometimes none. What is a recommended amount and can you guide me to scripture for support? Thanks


      3. This is how I’ve been feeling lately. Burned Out. I have just moved into an apartment with my brothers and we don’t have a sofa or a living room set yet. They say that they are waiting on me to get more money but i can’t seem to get more money b/c its slow at my. I’m only getting 20 hours or less. A week before they told me this I was happy. I wasn’t worried about any of this. I know we need stuff for the apartment but I feel like we need to be patient and wait for the Lord to work but my brothers keep on insisting that its me, I need to hurry up and get a better job. I have been praying about getting a better job and a way to get more money coming in but my prayers haven’t been answered on this subject yet. I have prayed for others and my prayers have been answered but when I pray about having a living room set or i pray about something for myself, my prayers don’t get answered so it kinda got me worried is God unhappy with me?Have i done something wrong or what is it? Now i don’t feel hungry for his word anymore. I don’t even feel like going to church anymore and i use to feel like going every Sunday morning. I don’t know what to do anymore.

        • Hi Sherrell

          It sounds like you are having a hard time living with that pressure. Maybe look into different ways of dealing with the pressure that other people can bring on you. Is there a Christian counsellor available through your church that you can talk this through with?

          Don’t let this situation isolate you from others. If you enjoyed church, try going again. Don’t lose touch with people who can support you. We all need support.

          I know you are facing a situation. Don’t go passive and allow others to dictate how you feel. Decide for yourself what you want for your life. Do you want to live there if the cost is this high? Decide these things and put some boundaries in place. Explain to people what they can and can’t do or say to you. But first you have to decide what is ok, and then explain that to others.

          Remember, if the cost is too high, then change, go live somewhere else.

          God bless you, Mark.

      4. This is where I am. I feel very burnt out. Not with God. I have soooo much going on right now in my life, (nothing that I can put down right now, new home, kids, college, work, etc.), that I just want to scream at the top of my lungs, NO MORE!!! I want to watch preaching on TV so that I don’t have to deal with ppl at church. That being said, I love my church, they are like family, I have nothing bad to say about them! It’s not them, it is EVERYTHING! Even in the car I want to turn OFF the radio and just hear the silence, like if there is anymore input in my head it will literally explode! Just too busy I guess, but I would really like to joy in the midst of this temporary business.

        • Hi Crystal

          May I gently recommend you read my posts on boundaries? And check out my post called “personal bill of rights”.

          Search for them.

          God bless you. Mark.

      5. Hi Mark, loved reading your post, I myself suffered severe burnout after being in full time ministry. Nowadays I find it nearly impossible to socialize with any Christian since it just brings up the feeling of hurt and burnout, the fact is, I thought it would get better over time but after almost 3 years it doesn’t seem to get any better. Any advice on getting over this and flourishing again in relationship with God?

        Thanks for a great article,


      6. Thank you for this site, I thought I eas the only one facing burn out. I don’t go to church that often anymore and have stopped reading the word. But God never leaves my mine ever. I feel I have no desire for some things anymore.

        • Hi Leora. Thanks for leaving your comment. I hope this post helped you. If you’d like to keep reading about what to do when you feel no deisre, may I suggest you read about how to love yourself. I have many posts on that on my blog.

          Also, please search my blog for the post “what to do when you are feeling empty” and read that. At the bottom of that post are many links to more of my articles. Read those and put them into action. You will see an improvement in your life, I am sure 🙂 And most important, keep praying to Jesus Christ.

          God bless you,

      7. Wow, I have totally noticed this cycle in the kingdom of God. Wow. Thank you, I think I really needed to see this. As a single parent, person who is trying to please God, a full-time assistant at a law firm, and a 3/4 time student in the evenings at school, I find myself feeling impossibly burned out at times. This post really brought me back to where I am supposed to be..”in Christ.” Thank you..

        • Yes it’s something that many Christian people often go through, if they base their lives on “hope” alone. We need more than hope, we need to experience real changes and eat real food from real jobs. 🙂

      8. First time here…
        Love the post, bro. I’m over the performance based version of walking with the Lord. I’d rather just walk with him.

      9. Pingback: A balance « Living Truth:·

      10. Please pray for me I feel like I’m slipping away from God I feel so empty sometimes

      11. Mark,
        Awesome post! Exactly what I needed to read today! Thank You So Much!
        I Praise God for the Word He has put in your heart!

        No worries Tim. Have a wonderful week. – Mark.

      12. Mark,

        I think that as we go through this cycle we develop the habit of compressing the ups and downs. By that I mean the following:
        1) instead of feeling down about things we train ourselves not to feel as intensely (or try to)
        2) Instead of going a million miles an hour when we’re all filled with vision, we try to pace ourselves (and lose out on the some of the fullness of life).

        Great post, thanks for always being so thoughtful about living your life.

      13. Hi Gail

        Yeah, bingo! We should use what we have been given – that’s the message of the parable of the talents. If you use what He has given, more will be given.

        Bless you!

      14. Colossians 2 :9-10 seems to say we have been given fullness in Christ. How much if that fullness do we activate I wonder? Why would we seek for more when it appears that we already have it all ? How about we all start using what is available to us already?

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