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  • Writer's pictureMark Alan Williams

How To Know If You’re Headed For Burnout And What To Do

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One very hot Saturday in August 1997 I went running. I ran hard and when I got to my street, a neighbor lady looked at me and quipped, “You look like you’re having a heart attack.” I thought she was just joking, but she wasn’t too far from the truth.

CC Image courtesy of Bark on Flickr

Although I wasn’t having a heart attack, I soon realized that my heart was not working properly. It turned out that I was having my first major episode of atrial fibrillation—a condition which means that my heart was beating far too fast and in spasms. Not fun!

Another memory from that day is a nurse in the hospital who commented, “You’re kind of young for this kind of heart problem, aren’t you?” She was right, I was headed for burnout—it was a dangerous situation, not only for my heart, but also in my whole lifestyle.

I had been working two jobs, and not giving justice to either. I was planting a new church. At the same time I was attempting to lead the church planting efforts of our denominational region, a job that could easily be full-time. In addition, I was the father of 3 young children and trying to be a good dad.

Yep, I was definitely headed for burnout.

But I am not the only one who has made this kind of mistake. In fact, back in the days of Moses, he was definitely trying to do too much—working too many jobs and headed for burnout.

I encourage you to read the entire story of Moses in Exodus 18 and how he was headed for burnout. You’ll see that thankfully, Moses’ father-in-law saw the folly of his ways and gave him some sage advice that turned things around.

Based on Moses’ experience, here are some ways to alleviate the pressure when you are headed for burnout:

01. Listen to Those Who Care

If you read between the lines in Exodus 18, it seems like Moses’ wife, Zipporah, probably complained to her daddy, Jethro, that Moses was too busy caring for the children of Israel to care for his own two sons.

After watching Moses for a day we read that, When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, ‘What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?’” (Exodus 18:14 NLT)

Great things were happening in Moses’ career (see Exodus 18:9), but it was coming at the expense of a happy family and proper balance in Moses’ life.

Thankfully, Moses listened to someone who cared for him and his family.

In my case, I listened to my heart, literally, and it was way out of sync.

02. Sacrifice Your Superhero Complex

Jethro concluded, “‘This is not good!’ Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. ‘You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.’” (Exodus 18:17-18 NLT)

I chuckle whenever I read this verse. Here’s Moses thinking he is the answer to everyone’s problems, working from sunup to sundown (18:13) and headed for burnout.

The problem of course is that it feels good to be “the answer” to people’s problems. It feels great to be the kingpin, the be-all end-all, and the knight in shining armor on a white horse. We feel needed, powerful, on top of the heap. While in fact we are putting ourselves on the bottom of the pile.

The answer: Give up the Superhero Complex before you land in the hospital like me, OR embarrassed before your father-in-law, wife, and others.

03. Enlist Others to Help

Jethro’s wise words to Moses were: “Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you.” (Exodus 18:19-22 NLT)

Moses needed help. Jethro showed him how to organize the help he needed.

Moses followed his advice. The result was a long life, a happy wife and people he led who were cared for without having to wait in a long line all day to see the superhero.

After my heart scare, I began to take my “headed for burnout” situation seriously. Hopefully it won’t take something that drastic to turn you around.

I resigned both jobs within a short time and moved to a role that was not only less stressful, but also afforded me work that was far more productive. Instead of planting a church, I began to train others to plant tens of thousands of churches.

If you see yourself headed for burnout, may I suggest you get away on a vision retreat to seriously consider your situation and what is most important to focus on.

For more help with taking a Vision Retreat or Prayer Retreat, see my articles on:

For more help with achieving focus, see my articles on:

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