The season of Advent is supposed to be a wonderful, carefree time when we focus on loved ones and the things in life that give it meaning for us. But it is also a time of stress, especially for those who have extra jobs at church during the Christmas season. Between the pageant, the meals, the concerts, and all the other special things we do during Advent, it’s easy to get burned out. Not all burnout is the same. Spiritual burnout is different, but it is related to emotional and physical burnout.
How do you know if you’re experiencing spiritual burnout during Advent? Some signs:
- Your prayer life lacks meaning. You don’t get the same sense of connection with God. One way to revitalize your prayer life is to vary the way you pray for a week. Instead of spending your prayer life asking for your needs, take some time in silence to listen to what God is saying to you through your thoughts. You’ll be amazed by what you hear as you quietly listen in the midst of a busy season. I often find that inspiring music helps my prayer life.
- Bible reading becomes mechanical. Simply reading passages, even those that have to do with the Christmas event, doesn’t bring the inspiration that it used to. You’ve heard these passages a million times before. What else could you possibly learn that you haven’t learned already? One way to revitalize yourself is to use a good devotional that focuses on Advent or Christmas. Another good resource is an Advent Bible study, such as the one we’re using in the Adult Sunday School right now.
- Withdrawal from others: people experiencing spiritual burnout withdraw, intentionally or unintentionally from others as a subconscious way of protecting themselves. This withdrawal is connected to emotional burnout, and it is rooted in the feeling that the service God calls you to no longer gives you the sense of meaning that it used to. Doing more of something that doesn’t give you meaning anymore is a quick road to spiritual burnout. One way to deal with spiritual withdrawal is to purposely ask God to show you a new venue of service to God. It may be a different ministry of the church, or it may be a new ministry that the church needs to embrace. Whatever it is, embracing a new way of service and inviting others to join you can be a great way to weather a tendency to withdraw during one of the most stressful times of the year.
There are plenty of other sources of burnout, but these are three that ensnare some of the most deeply faithful people who seek to live out God’s calling on their lives. My prayer for this congregation during Advent is that God uses this time to revitalize us, heal us, and prepare us for the life God is calling us to in 2016.