How to turn your exhausting religion into an enjoyable relationship
"If my activism, however well-motivated, drives out love, I am stuck with law, not the gospel of grace. then I have misunderstood Jesus' gospel."
Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?
Depleted Yet Applauded
Have you ever met someone who is more interested in complaining about being exhausted than they are in receiving help? Burnout is the red badge of courage for some Christians. They would rather live depleted yet applauded than refreshed and balanced. A balanced life is not as attractive to them because it often goes unnoticed.
What is the draw of exhaustion? It is where you find your justification to complain, compare, and criticize when you are stuck in a religious performance trap. It causes you to feel protected from criticism when you fall short. "How could I have done anything wrong? Look at how hard I work!"
It also re-enforces your offense when you do not get what you think you deserve. "Why are they being promoted instead of me? I have cooked and cleaned while they have wasted time instead of working!"
Martha, Did You Know?
What did Mary know in Luke 10:38-42 that Martha did not?
A "Martha" measures her prayers, Bible reading, and serving. Her spiritual speedometer makes it easier to determine what she deserves and what others do not. The problem with this practice is you never really know what is going on with others behind closed doors. That is God's business and not yours.
A "Mary" may seem to neglect some things, but she does not lose sight of the most important thing. Her reward is not in getting recognized, but rather in experiencing the pleasure of God's presence. She usually ends up getting both.
It can be hard to see someone receive more for doing less, but that is not what this is all about. If things really were fair none of us would like what we got.
I used to be a Martha myself. I took pride in having a hard time resting. I always felt I needed to be doing something. "I must be more committed than others," I thought, "because I do not even enjoy taking a break."
This line of thinking should be a red alert on the dashboard of your spiritual life. It is not a medal of accomplishment you hang proudly around your neck. It reveals a restless soul that is not at peace.
The Performance Trap
As I have said before, you should value your position in Christ over your performance for Christ. When you over-emphasize performance, you end up getting less of it. Eventually, this leads to religious burnout.
The Christian performance trap wants you to believe it is unspiritual to ever say no to spiritual things. The reality is, it is not spiritual to always say yes to more. It is more spiritual to say, "yes" to your priorities, the things God has asked you to do, and "no" to good things that take you away from those things.
Your good works should be motivated by your love relationship with Jesus and not a spiritual reward system. You make God your debtor when you work hard because you think He will bless you with what you want at the end of your labors (position, recognition, etc.).
Religious formulas like this can also influence how you pray and navigate problems. For example, “If I pray or do this, and have enough faith, then God will do that.” This mindset boxes God in to only what you can understand. It offers a easy fix to your problems that resembles a “get rich quick” scheme. The problem is, you inevitably become discouraged in your relationship with God when things do not work out the way you thought they would.
All of this adds an unnecessary weight to your spiritual journey.
It can be hard to follow the Holy Spirit day-to-day instead of trusting in things that bring immediate comfort. Checking off a box seems easier than checking-in with God. The box does not challenge us or require waiting. Even so, we should always choose a relationship with a living God over dead religious formulas.
A Labor of Love
Exhaustion often begins with passion, zeal, and good intentions. You may be able to lift something you were never meant to carry, but you will drop it before you reach your destination. Lay down your heavy burden of burnout Christianity and take up the yoke of Christ. It is easy and light. It is a labor of love.