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Take time out before you burn out

Burn out.

I’ve heard those words so many times. Friends, coworkers, supervisors, spouses, parents, students, these and many more groups are all susceptible to burn out.

One of a few definitions found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary reads as follows, “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”

Maybe it’s one too many workdays in a row. Maybe it’s one too many working hours in a day. Maybe it’s just the combined stress of working, managing kids, maintaining a relationship and trying to balance life.

I oftentimes wonder though about three features of burnout that seem to occur in each case.

First, most people see it coming. They feel themselves wearing thin. They know they need to take a break before they “crash,” yet they don’t do anything about it.

Second, even when they do “crash,” they seem to keep going. It’s almost like being worn down and worn out is not enough. Almost like they need to hit rock bottom before they take a break.

Third, when they do finally take that break, that vacation, that day to themselves, it seems to be just enough to refuel them long enough to get back to what they were doing. And then repeat the cycle.

In 1 Kings 19 verses 1-9 we find the prophet Elijah completely worn out after going “toe to toe” with Ahab in the previous chapter challenging the prophets of Baal to prove their god to be real. To show his power. In return Elijah called on the God of Israel who showed his power and lead to many of the witnesses acknowledging God as the true God (read 1st Kings 18 and 19 for the whole story). When word reached Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, she ordered a death threat against Elijah. Upon hearing this, worn out, afraid and tired, Elijah fled the land. And here is how broken he was as found in 1 Kings 19:4-5, 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.

That is burnout at its worst. But God had a solution for him. In verses 5-9 Elijah does two things. First, he slept, and then ate and drank. Second, he slept again, and he ate and drank again.

Eat, sleep, get up and repeat. Sounds too simple, sounds too easy, but it is a simple remedy. Take the time to rest up. Stop before you find yourself curled up asking God to just take you away as Elijah did.

Sleep when you need to sleep. Take a day off when you need it. The work will still be there and that day’s pay won’t replenish your health.

Take time out before you burnout.

REV. BARRY VASSAR is pastor at Fitzgerald Memorial Baptist. He can be reached at fitzgeraldmemorial@gmail.com.