When is the last time you experienced burnout?

I almost started by asking the question “Have you ever experienced burnout?” but I’ve seen enough statistics to know that most of you will answer “yes” to that question. If you’re one of the few who could honestly answer “No,” then you’re…well…one of the few.

While there is (thankfully) a growing movement to slow down, and to work smarter rather than longer, there are still plenty of people who are always doing, and that seems especially true of people who work for the church. I’ve seen lots of pastors who were truly burned out, and as far as volunteers go, churches are more than happy to keep piling work onto volunteers who are already very busy. As the saying goes, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.”

Of course, there is a lot to be done, a lot of really good things to be done. There are lots of people in need, lots of ways that we can help make life better for those around us, lots of ways that we can take action to demonstrate God’s presence, love, and grace – and it’s good for us to do those things. However, if we’re always doing, never taking time to refuel, we will eventually be confronted by our limitations.

Jesus recognized the importance of action, but He also knew that there was a time for actions to stop, a time to leave good things undone in order to do something better, to refuel and connect with His Father.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him, and they found Him and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” And He said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” -Mark 1:35-38

Again we see that the crowds are looking for Him. Other things to do are actively seeking to claim some more of His time, and they were things that would be good to do, but He removed Himself from those things on purpose. After looking everywhere for Him, His disciples finally find Him and seem to be a little annoyed that He’s clearly neglecting His obligation to help as many people as He can. His response may have surprised them. “I know everyone’s looking for me, but I got away from them on purpose. My work here is done. We’re going somewhere else now.” (My paraphrase)

Jesus didn’t feel a need to solve everyone’s immediate problems at the cost of time alone in prayer.

Jesus knew about the needs of the people. He hadn’t forgotten about them. He hadn’t stopped caring about them. He wasn’t being a slacker.

He knew that there were times when prayer trumped action, and so He stopped doing.

He left lonely people alone.

He left hungry people unfed.

He left sick people unhealed.

Some of them may have even died while He was away, and He could have prevented those deaths. You can bet that the families of those people were asking “Where was this Jesus when I needed Him?”

You aren’t called to solve every problem and meet every need of every person around you, even though many of those needs may be very real. The fact is that you can’t. Give yourself permission to leave good things undone in order to do the better thing of being filled by God through prayer. Without that, you can’t do anything truly Good anyway.