The King's Gardeners Ministries
Reverend S. L. Gardner
Spokane Valley, Washington US
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Burnout is a phenomenon that happens more often than we think. It's a hidden enemy of those who are givers. It plagues those who are performance oriented. Performance orientation is promoted as a good thing in most societies and won't be addressed in this teaching. To put it extremely simply it is "performing" for people or in ministry or business for the wrong reasons. The person prone to burnout has an underdeveloped consciousness of what is needed to replenish themselves, they are usually intense givers and don't take care of their personal needs. Many times a person in burnout has been taught self-sacrifice to an unhealthy degree without knowing it. People who are enablers can fall into this category. They are expected to perform to their detriment and are punished in various ways if they don't. Because the combination of punishment and reward and possibly a teaching of "holy" self sacrifice burnout is a great possibility.
Dealing with a constant physical or emotional onslaught can create burnout. Standards higher than humanly possible to obtain can create burnout. Depression can be part of Burnout but is not considered burnout.
There is a lot of overlapping symptoms in Burnout, Depression, Wounding and the Dark Night of the Soul. I will attempt to only deal with Burnout in this teaching.
Burnout depletes a person of their personal resources. The person in burnout has gotten to the point in giving and/or performing that there is no energy left to meet personal needs. There is no energy left to even replenish what is gone. People in beginning burnout will complain about chronic fatigue, there can be increased recovery time following severe exertion. Sleep is not refreshing. Tension reactions such as finger tapping, toe tapping, and tics may be noticed. There may be headaches and the beginning of colitis. A person starting into burnout may have vague fear and anxiety and may question their relationship with God. The person in beginning burnout will usually stop self-renewing activities. Adrenaline rush may be confused with anointing. In other words the person will keep on by shutting down self-helps.
NOTE - Please understand that many of these symptoms can also be indicators of serious medical problems and must not be taken lightly.
Frustration can set in that will continue the deterioration. Being tired increases the possibility of making mistakes. Thought processes slow down and perceptions of reality can become distorted. Reactions can become what are commonly known as "knee-jerk" with little thought involved leading to even more mistakes. Vital support systems and relationships can be damaged by these mistakes. The downward spiral is in full swing. Because normally the prayer life is still exists in stage one I suggest that daily devotions be read from good devotionals that require no effort and prayer for God's mercy be said. Performance Oriented people will meet the challenge with trying to do more, earn God's favor and the favor of those around them but will normally fail in time as strength and resources disappear. This failure will speed up the downward spiral.
FOR THOSE IN MINISTRY - Years ago I was told about one of satans most insidious lies. It amazed me as a seasoned Pastors wife revealed this to me. She said that she had seen more lives and ministries destroyed by this lie over time than she cared to number. What is the lie? Picture this. Satan sneaks up and whispers into your ear, "you're not doing enough for the Lord". Now who in the world will immediately catch that one? Who would think that satan would use the good works of the Lord to destroy! Some time prior to that I'd heard the Lord speak to warn others (and myself) to examine the good works to make sure they were from the Lord. I thought I was nuts and so did everyone else! I watched someone very close to me destroy a ministry by working it, growing it far beyond where the Lord would have had it. The ministry had been spirit birthed but the strengths and will of the individual heading it combined with the need to succeed and control made him a prime candidate for this lie. Nothing could convince him that He wasn't right in the center of God's will as he successfully built this ministry. It became a work of the flesh and was destroyed. It never became what the Lord wanted because the flesh took over and in good works the leader took the ministry into places God never intended. Please, examine your good works - not all good works are from the Lord. 1 Corinthians 3:12 warns us about building on foundations of wood, hay and stubble. Only the works inspired by the Lord will last. Matthew 7:22-23 tells us about those doing good works but their hearts were not given to the Lord.
Stage two is similar to the stages of wounding and grief. Some physical symptoms can be ulcers, allergies, and other kinds of digestive upsets. Sleep becomes a labor, adrenal burnout begins. A person in stage two burnout can manifest a growing susceptibility to illness. Tension reactions to ministry or job or personal relationships intensify.
Stage two can affect the emotional and spiritual life of a person in many ways. One thing that can be observed is fear is a constant companion. Self-confidence wanes to the point of not having any. Ministry, or work is a painful prospect involving much concentrated effort to keep up the previous standards. Guilt may bring on depression because the person knows they are not working up to standards but can't understand why. Sudden episodes of joy and sanity are sprinkled in this mess and bring more confusion as the person tries to figure out why the joy and sanity happened and then went away. As in the stages of grief one symptom often expressed is raging at God. The person's prayer life erodes and their relationship with God becomes more work than ever. There may be periods of absolute despair including sudden impulses to weep over small things as happens in depression. There is an eventual decline in creativity and the person's sex life suffers.
Stage three continues the decline as all stage two symptoms intensify. Adrenal burnout brings on stress addiction aches, pain in joints and ligaments are common. There is nearly a constant illness or feeling of just not being right on. There may be daily headaches and nausea. Digestive disturbances may increase. The person in stage three burnout may be susceptible to food addictions or allergies. There may be cravings for sugar but they may be sickened by it. Heart problems may crop up as the adrenal burnout increases. Some tension may decrease, as there is no more energy to support them. This may be seen as a good thing instead of the warning sign that it is. It may be difficult to fall asleep and the person may sicken upon waking.
Let me briefly explain stress addiction. Sometimes it is called crisis mentality. It is the time when a person can only perform by an "injection" of adrenaline. That "rush" brings on the energy to perform. As the adrenal glad is overused to enhance performance it works like a drug. We need more and more but there isn't more to give. The adrenal gland can't keep up with the demand and physical, mental, emotional performance diminishes expediently. The addiction creates a subconscious need for stress and fear to pump up their flagging energy. Those who "work best under pressure" should beware of this malady. Becoming addicted to stimulants is a serious consideration at this point and must be avoided at all costs. Don't forget caffeine is a stimulant and you should ingest coffee, chocolate and tea (and other caffeine products) with extreme moderation.
The emotional and spiritual condition of stage three burnout naturally becomes more severe. The person can feel as God has betrayed them. Feeling that God is a liar and will never keep His promises is common. Even questioning the existence of God is not an uncommon thing. The feeling of having to crawl up a long long ladder to reach the bottom of the barrel would be a good example of the helplessness felt.
Anger and hatred can become explosive, nerves are raw, small irritations are major problems. The person may act out hatred and rage when backed into a corner. The person in stage three burnout is defenseless against blows and pressures of daily life. There may be uncontrollable paranoia. The reaction to constantly withdraw sets in. Ministry or work becomes exceedingly difficult and there is precious little fulfillment from either. The person has impaired resistance to addictive behaviors. Moral strengths needed to sustain their godly character erode and can lead to compulsive violation of biblical moral imperatives. The person's self-confidence and anointing is shattered. If you've ever seen a boxer "out on their feet" this is the way stage three-burnout manifest. The person may be standing up but they have absolutely no defenses against what life is throwing at them.
It is important to know that persons in stage three burnout CANNOT sustain or initiate their own recovery. They can only be lovingly carried. Not instructed into quick fixes for the various symptoms. There is NO quick fix!!!
Here is a comparison of Burnout, Depression, Wounding and the dark night of the soul.
Burnout. As stated before the personal resources needed to care for personal needs and replenishment will diminish. Symptoms are despair, irrational anger, physical pain, and despondency. Despondency is NOT depression but there may be feelings of hopelessness. However, even though a person in burnout may feel hopeless, they still have hope to some degree. The problem is they have no energy to pursue or hold on to that hope.
Depression. This happens to people who are not adequately equipped to deal with ongoing stress. It involves depletion of physical and emotional resources for dealing with stress. It can lead to a total loss of ability to function. The person in Depression lives in an environment of not merely negative attitudes, but utter hopelessness as a reality.
Wounding. This is an emotional condition resulting from the hurtful acts of others. It is especially severe for those who are givers by nature or profession. It occurs when life's hurts come too quickly to allow for recovery between hurtful episodes. Some of the symptoms can be physical illness, depression, withdrawal, paranoia, and fear of risking. Rapid fire wounding is a major cause of burnout, but by itself does not induce a state of complete fatigue, as does burnout.
Dark night of the Soul. The dark night of the soul is a time of suffering and loss. Having experienced all of the conditions described here and after hearing reports from others I can truthfully say this is the most painful of all the conditions. It is the breaking on the potter's wheel. It is where we are ground into the finest dust so God can remold us into the finest works of HIS hands and not our own. Joy is gone because contrary to some theology God removes some or all of His graces and lets us embrace the cross in new ways. On top of that persecution usually comes in like a flood! Difficulties with religious authority, family, finances, health and other difficulties to numerous to mention seem to prevail. This condition is sent by God to ferret out the depth of our character. This may conflict with some people's theology but our Lord went through it. In this time we too will cry out My God My God! Why have you forsaken me! It is a time of testing where nothing remains hidden and like Christ every part of our character and beliefs are tested. It is a time of abject pain and desolation. It brings out our true character and causes us to question just about everything. It is a time of deep soul searching, finding our own personal flaws, sins and letting God adjust or eliminate them. It is a time we can identify with all of David's "down Psalms". (Try Psalm 88 for starters) This time is like when we are asked to embrace the cross of Christ with all it's splinters and spikes. (Philippians 3:10, 1 Peter 4:13, 1 Peter 4:1-2) All the physical symptoms described for stress can manifest. Job went through the dark night of the soul. It does end - Hallelujah!
If you have recognized yourself in any of this and have no outside help here are a few low energy tips that may aid you.
1. Don't assume the cause of your pain is a character flaw or sin.
2. Know your innocence - take stock of your integrity and DON'T QUIT!
3. Get mad once in awhile. You have an enemy and it's ok to get mad at satan, injustice and those who don't treat us well. Face to face confrontation isn't necessary. You can have a "mad" time all by yourself. If it ends in torrents of tears or if you don't have the energy left for tears it's all ok.
4. Pray Psalms like Ps 35:1-8, 58:6-7, 69:22:28, 109:1, 6-20. Don't even try to make up your own prayers. If you have a prayer language use it. If not just read some of these scriptures and let your soul cry out to God.
5. If you watch movies or television watch only programs where the good guy wins.
6. Only listen to uplifting songs.
Things to avoid -
1. Don't go to a deliverance ministry. You have no energy to sustain a deliverance. Satan may try to take advantage of this situation but the root cause is our own flesh.
2. Don't listen to "Job's comforters" who tell you that you deserve what's going on and send you into a quest to find out what's wrong with you.
3. Don't try to learn time management. That's something for after you have the energy to accomplish something.
4. Don't listen to advise to praise God in all things. You haven't got the energy and God knows your heart anyway.
5. Don't let people exhort you or prophesy in your face. Ask them to write them down so you don't have to expend the energy to remember them. This is a good rule anyway as it holds the one who prophesies personally accountable for their words.
6. Let people help you accomplish daily tasks until you have the energy to do them yourself.
7. Don't share with those who will hurt you or those who will feed self-pity.
8. Feed your spirit in ways that don't require much energy. Music may be of help. Put on a long play tape or buy or borrow a player that plays the tape over and over again automatically.
9. Hold on to your integrity. Do what is right because it is right. Remember obedience is greater than sacrifice. Satan would love to take advantage of you now and cause you to betray yourself in sin. Resist the devil and he will flee. You don't have the energy to fight but you can find the strength to say no to what you know is wrong.
10. Will you recover? Yes you will. In God's grace you will heal to the extent that you can perform the way God wants you to. Hopefully you will never "recover" to the point where you can be so strong you can burnout again. That wouldn't be recovery. You will learn to self-limit without guilt. You may actually be more efficient because you will work smarter not harder. You will be more emotionally stable and your perspectives will be sharp as a tack.
11. How long? That is not a question that is easily answered. Your own health in all areas before burnout is a factor. Another factor is your "strength factor" or the ability you had to be strong before falling apart. Those with more "strength" take longer to recover. It may take months and in some cases years. Don't worry about it. God is with you even if you don't know it right now. Give yourself the time to rebuild your spent resources. God WILL provide.
12. Will I have relapses? Yep. Each one will teach you your limits and you can look at them as a positive. You may have severe ups and downs but eventually you will level out.
13. SPECIAL FOR WOMEN FROM A WISE MALE PASTOR Loren Sandford concerning what to do if your husband doesn't understand. "Wives in burnout, forget all those misapplied Scriptures about wifely submission. This has little to do with the issue of submission but rather with recovering enough strength so that you are once again able to actively submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21 and following), in effective partnership."
Things to help in the future.
1. Become able to withdraw from perceived obligations long enough and often enough to build your physical emotional and spiritual health. Even unnecessary financial burdens like commitments made to organizations should be reconsidered and pride dealt with if you need to reduce your stress by backing out of an unwise decision.
2. Stop being self-sacrificing. Jesus was our sacrifice we don't need to do it again. The thoughts like if I'm not working to exhaustion, I'm not working hard enough must go! Read the material on Performance Orientation and let the Lord heal you of having to earn your self-respect.
3. Take time for fun.
4. Regular exercise is a must.
5. Avoid professional isolation. Talk out problems with friends. Your business or ministry is not that unique. Someone somewhere will be able to identify to some degree.
6. Fellowship and that doesn't mean just attending church! MAKE THE TIME. YOU'RE WORTH IT!
7. Stop hiding the death wish with pious rationalizations like "I'm laboring in the service of the Lord." "I'm doing all I can with all I have." "If I don't do it, who will?"
8. Stop violating the Sabbath rest.
9. Consider consulting a nutritionist and re-work your diet.
10. Dump legalism. Legalism is doing anything because you feel you have to. Even the good things of God become legalism if your heart isn't in doing them. The motive of the heart is what God judges, not just our performance.
11. Look and prepare for a new way. If the old way was adequate you wouldn't be in burnout!
12. Don't feel guilty if private prayer time is reduced for a while. God WILL come for you.
A prayer for you -
Lord I thank You for Your servant that is reading this right now. I ask for your mercy and that Your grace be poured out over this precious one. Lord soften this heart to hear You call them into Shalom rest. Touch these precious ears to hear and eyes to see the end results of the course he/she has set.
Lord I don't pray for You to strengthen this spirit because it's that very strength that allowed him/her to avoid the issues that have brought on this trouble. Show them the Performance Orientation, Workaholism or dark night of the soul that may be present. Heal this precious one from the woundings of others and protect this child from the onslaught they may not be able to avoid.
Father in Jesus Name I ask that any strength that may be used to drive this precious one farther into the pit be destroyed and remade in a more godly way. I ask that You overload the structures that are the driving force behind negative behaviors. Lord bring this precious one to the end of their fleshly strength. Cause this one to lie down by still waters and pick up this precious child in Your restoring ways. Bring this child to complete renewal.
I ask that You raise up those who can be strong support of this precious child of Yours Father. Cause them to be strong hedges around this child. I ask that You minister to the fear, insecurity and driving needs to please. Bring this precious one to a place of deep rest in You. Even as Your word says in Job 33 I ask that You speak to this child again and again in dreams, visions of the night when deep sleep falls. Open this Childs ears in times like that and give him/her wisdom and instruction. Cause him/her to change their minds and keep him/her from falling into pride. Keep them from falling into traps dear Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen.
IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE IN BURNOUT HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Here is a suggested list of do's and don'ts.
1. Don't do deliverance ministry. The person cannot sustain a deliverance. Intercede from a distance. Oppressive spirits are NOT the source of this problem. It's a problem of the flesh. Until the flesh is dealt with and substantially renewed help the person by intercession. If you perceive satans workers coming to take advantage of the situation stand in that gap! But don't do it in the persons face.
2. Don't be a Job's comforter trying to ferret out the personal reasons this person is suffering.
3. Listen with a sympathetic ear but only listen.
4. Don't discuss the person's condition with others. That would destroy any faith the person had.
5. Stop others from gossip.
6. Fight for him/her when necessary.
7. "Kidnap" the person for fun and don't talk about problems, work, ministry or their "condition".
8. Don't talk about time management.
9. Don't talk about delegation of responsibility, just pitch in and help!
10. Don't counsel to praise God in all things. They neither have the energy nor desire to do so. You will only cause greater drain on personal resources and personal guilt that they can't comply with your instructions.
11. Don't deliver prophetic words face to face. Write them out, and only the positive and uplifting; in his or her condition they can't take reproofs from God. If you get something negative pray into that knowledge. Intercede in behalf of the persons need.
12. DON'T QUIT ON THEM reinforce your belief in them even though they may not have any in themselves.
13. Do respect boundaries.
14. Do pray at a distance
15. Love in ways that demand absolutely no response. Even eye contact may be more than the person can handle. You may have to even give gentle sideways hugs one armed around the shoulder because a frontal hug demands a response. Let gentle appropriate touches replace hugs if necessary.
16. Believe in him or her. That belief will come through.
17. Help the person with their personal appearance. You might even consider treating them to a hairstyle or get them a new tee shirt. Anything to help maintain their person. Just make it clear that you don't want any expressions of gratitude. That the hair appointment is to let them have a moment of pure pampering and you want no expenditure of energy in gratitude from them.
18. Help them preserve the outward appearance of strength in front of those they are responsible for or to lead.
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