Stay in the Fight: Dealing with Fatigue and Burnout

stay in the fight
Now more than ever, we need to stay in the fight. But how do we do that when we feel so burned out?

“But it can also be overwhelming at times like this, when our brains are being bombarded by an absolute onslaught of crises: the Covid-19 pandemic, economic distress, and nationwide civil unrest as people across the country protest police brutality. You might at this point feel lost or numb, and that’s perfectly natural. Psychologists call it crisis fatigue: Your body is well adapted to handle temporary stresses, but it can get overwhelmed by the constant, unrelenting pressures of this horrible year.

-Matt Simon, All This Chaos Might Be Giving You ‘Crisis Fatigue

Have you been experiencing crisis fatigue? Whether it’s the prolonged quarantine and uncertainty of the coronavirus, or the fear and righteous anger over injustice in America, many of us have a reason to feel worn out. When we feel fatigued, it is easy to want to stop caring and give up on our faith. 

Now more than ever, we need to stay in the fight. But how do we do that when we feel so burned out? 

The Bible is full of stories of men and women who fought through crises in the world around them with faith. The book of Nehemiah, for example, tells us a story of people who were trying to rebuild the broken down walls of Jerusalem and faced one crisis after another. At times, they were overwhelmed by fatigue and fear. Their circumstances weren’t exactly the same as ours today, but we can certainly relate to their feelings.

Here is how Nehemiah responded to some of these difficulties:

Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” [12] The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!” [13] So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows. [14] Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”

Nehemiah 4:10,12-14 NLT

The people were tired, and were terrified of the threat of possible danger or violence. Nehemiah’s response to this was to:

  • Strengthen the weak areas – Nehemiah found, acknowledged, and strengthened the weakest and most vulnerable areas of the wall. These were the areas that would leave him and his people open to attack, so he gave them extra reinforcement.
  • “Remember the Lord” – Nehemiah called his people to reflect on and remember who God is. He cares about and fights for us, so we don’t need to be afraid.
  • “Fight for your brothers” – Nehemiah called the people to remember their purpose. We aren’t the only ones being affected by hard times, so we need to fight for our friends, families, neighbors, and communities.

We need to fight fatigue and fear the way Nehemiah did. This study will break down each of these points, and give us other examples of people in the Bible who fought the same way against fatigue and burnout.

Strengthen the Weak Points

Nehemiah protected himself and his people from attacks by reinforcing the lowest parts of the wall of Jerusalem. While we may not be building a literal wall, we can defend ourselves from attacks by identifying and strengthening weak areas in our faith.

If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!

Proverbs 24:10 NIV

The troubling times we go through both expose and strengthen what we are able to handle. We need to identify and strengthen the areas in our heart where we might be weak. Here are some internal areas of weakness that can lead us to feel worn out, and how to make them stronger: 

Weak Point #1: Dishonesty to honesty

Before I confessed my sins, I kept it all inside; my dishonesty devastated my inner life, causing my life to be filled with frustration, irrepressible anguish, and misery. [4] The pain never let up, for your hand of conviction was heavy on my heart. My strength was sapped, my inner life dried up like a spiritual drought within my soul. [5] Then I finally admitted to you all my sins, refusing to hide them any longer. I said, “My life-giving God, I will openly acknowledge my evil actions.” And you forgave me! All at once the guilt of my sin washed away and all my pain disappeared! [6] This is what I’ve learned through it all: All believers should confess their sins to God; do it every time God has uncovered you in the time of exposing. For if you do this, when sudden storms of life overwhelm, you’ll be kept safe.

Psalm 32:3-6 TPT

In order to stay in the fight and overcome burnout, we need to see the importance of our inner life. The condition of our inner life will determine how we handle what happens around us. When we keep everything  inside, our strength will feel sapped. Not being honest about guilt in our hearts will lead to frustration, anguish, and misery. 

The psalmist acknowledges that storms in our lives will definitely come and might exhaust us, but dishonesty and unaddressed guilt will amplify that exhaustion. 

  • What guilt and unaddressed sin could be sapping your strength?

When I speak, the words burst out. “Violence and destruction!” I shout. So these messages from the LORD have made me a household joke. [9] But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!

Jeremiah 20:8-9 NLT

When Jeremiah saw truth from hearing God’s word, he didn’t want to acknowledge it or point it out to others. But holding it in was more painful and exhausting than the truth itself. When God shows us truth, it wears us out. Maybe it’s something you notice your friend is doing that needs to change, or maybe you see injustice take place. 

When we hold back what God has put on our hearts, it wears us out. It may feel tiring or scary to speak up, but it will wear us out even more when we don’t do what we know is right. 

  • What are you holding back right now? What good do you know you need to do, or truth you know you need to speak, that you’ve refused or been too afraid to do?

Weak point #2: Worry to calm

Listen to me and answer me; I am worn out by my worries.

Psalm 55:2 GNT

Fear, anxiety, and worry wear us out more than many of us realize. The psalmist in this scripture wasn’t just honest about the effect worry had on him, but took it to God, asking him to both listen to and answer his prayer. 

  • Are you aware of the level of fear and anxiety in your heart? How has it worn you out?
  • The Bible has many solutions to fear and worry, and leaving it unresolved in your heart will wear you out. Take it to God to help you not be overcome by it.

Weak Point #3: Flying solo to together

Moses’ father-in-law said, “This is no way to go about it. You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you-you can’t do this alone. Now listen to me. Let me tell you how to do this so that God will be in this with you. Be there for the people before God, but let the matters of concern be presented to God. Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men-men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible-and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”

Exodus 18:17 MSG

“I can’t do this alone.” These five words are so easy to say, but so hard to admit. When we try to handle everything ourselves, it may temporarily make us feel in control, but this can only last so long. None of us have enough strength to endure everything life throws at us. But just because we are burnt out, God’s purpose and plan doesn’t stop. If we are going to stay in the fight, we need to strengthen our relationships, and rely on our friends.

As Moses’ father-in-law says at the end of the scripture, sharing the load with others makes it not just easier for Moses, but helps the people he leads flourish as well. Sharing our load isn’t just about us, it also helps the people we influence, because then we actually have enough strength to love them effectively.

  • Are you sharing your load with the people around you?
  • Have you expressed your need for your friends, or are you still trying to go at it alone?

Weak point #4: Emotions without prayer to with prayer

44] Jesus was in great pain and prayed so sincerely that his sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood. [45] Jesus got up from praying and went over to his disciples. They were asleep and worn out from being so sad. [46] He said to them, “Why are you asleep? Wake up and pray that you won’t be tested.” 

Luke 22:44-46 CEV

Sometimes when our friends are going through pain and suffering, we get worn out from being sad for them. Being sad for our friends is okay, but we can’t let it overwhelm us to the point of selfishness, and not give them the help and support they need. Jesus’ solution to staying strong in the midst of our sadness for others is to pray for ourselves and them.

  • How do you deal with emotional pain? Does it turn you to God and drive you from prayer? Or do you ignore, avoid, and harden to the pain?
  • Are you too worn out by emotion to help your friends? How often do you pray for them?

Remember the Lord

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28 MSG

When we’re tired and worn out, we need God to get rest. It is not sustainable to keep going and going and running ourselves into the ground. But we also can’t just ignore responsibilities in order to feel rested. 

God shows us how to take a real rest. Walking with God is not supposed to add more pressure, but take it off. If we are not feeling relieved, then we’re doing it wrong.

Living freely and lightly is the key to being able to handle the hard times that are not only currently happening, but inevitably come and go through life. God wants to take the load off, but we have to go to him to let him. Going to God means having our quiet times: spending time each day reading our Bibles to know him, and praying for him to know us. This is where we find rest.

We also don’t do ourselves any favors when we think we do or should already know everything. Having a learner’s heart that is willing to be humble and learn from God and others in the midst of burnout is key to staying in the fight, because we are changing and adapting along the way.

  • If and when you spend time with God, how do you walk away from them? Do you feel pressured and more stressed? Or do you feel rested and more at peace?
  • Do you have a learner’s heart? What is God trying to help you learn during this time?

Remember God’s care

[26] Lift up your eyes to the sky and see for yourself. Who do you think created the cosmos? He lit every shining star and formed every glowing galaxy, and stationed them all where they belong. He has numbered, counted, and given everyone a name. They shine because of God’s incredible power and awesome might; not one fails to appear! [27] Why, then, O Jacob’s tribes, would you ever complain? And my chosen Israel, why would you say, “Yahweh isn’t paying attention to my situation. He has lost all interest in what happens to me.” 

[28] Don’t you know? Haven’t you been listening? Yahweh is the one and only everlasting God, the Creator of all you can see and imagine! He never gets weary or worn out. His intelligence is unlimited; he is never puzzled over what to do! [29] He empowers the feeble and infuses the powerless with increasing strength. [30] Even young people faint and get exhausted; athletic ones may stumble and fall. [31] But those who wait for Yahweh’s grace will experience divine strength. They will rise up on soaring wings and fly like eagles, run their race without growing weary, and walk through life without giving up.

Isaiah 40:26-31 TPT

When I’m tired, or if everything seems to be going wrong,  it can be easy to think God isn’t paying attention and has lost interest in what happens to me. But God never loses interest – no matter where we’re at or what we go through, he never gets worn out. God is constantly fighting to empower us and give us the strength we need.

  • What areas of your life do you believe God has lost interest?
  • Look up more scriptures about who God is and how he strengthens us, and pray through them until you believe them.

Remember God’s purpose for you

He made my words of judgment as sharp as a sword. He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand. I am like a sharp arrow in his quiver. [3] He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.” [4] I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” [5] And now the LORD speaks— the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him. The LORD has honored me, and my God has given me strength. [6] He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

 Isaiah 49:2-6 NLT

When we go through hard times that don’t seem to have an end, it can be easy to feel like the work we do is useless. Are we really exhausting ourselves for nothing? Isaiah felt this way. But even though he doubted and felt afraid that all his work was pointless, he still chose to trust God.

 The cool thing is God’s response to Isaiah’s doubt was showing him a purpose that was beyond anything Isaiah had ever imagined. When Isaiah started preaching to the Israelites, he wasn’t thinking that his words would reach the entire world for thousands of years. But that was God’s plan for him. God has a specific purpose and plan for each of us that involves changing and saving others’ lives.

We may feel like what we are doing is pointless. We can complain to God, express our frustration and fear that we’re wearing ourselves out for nothing. But none of this changes the purpose God has for us. 

  • What doubt is blocking you from seeing God’s great purpose for you?
  • Remembering your purpose helps you endure and stay in the fight.

Fight for Your Brothers

[9] So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek [and his people]. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” [10] So Joshua did as Moses said, and fought with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the hilltop. [11] Now when Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and when he lowered his hand [due to fatigue], Amalek prevailed. [12] But Moses’ hands were heavy and he grew tired. So they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side and one on the other side; so it was that his hands were steady until the sun set.

Exodus 17:9-12 AMP

On our own, we will get fatigued and grow tired. We need to fight for and with each other in order to stay in and win the battle. Aaron and Hur knew their roles in the battle, and they were okay with it. They weren’t jealous that Moses was the one who was lifting his hands and helping Israel win the battle. They didn’t wish it was them that got the attention or that God chose for that job. They were willing and ready to fill the role where they were needed. 

Sometimes you’ll be Moses who needs your friends to support you when you’re tired. Sometimes you’ll be Aaron and Hur who needs to be the friend who stands up to help your friend keep fighting. The point is to fight together.

  • Are you willing to rely on your friends when you get burnt out, or is your self-reliance sabotaging your victory?
  • Are you willing to help your friends fight, or is your pride and jealousy getting in the way of working together to succeed?

Love makes us fight harder

[4] I am completely confident and incredibly proud of you. Even in all this turbulence I am at peace-I am overflowing with joy. [5] When we came into Macedonia, we were completely worn out-under attack from every angle-nagging opposition on the outside, our own nagging fears from the inside. [6] But God, who comforts the downcast, brought us comfort when Titus arrived from Corinth. [7] We were relieved, not just to see him, but because he told us how he was encouraged to learn about your longing, your grieving, and your continued enthusiasm for me. So these were all more reasons for me to rejoice!

2 Corinthians 7:4-7 VOICE

Even in all the turbulence of the world, we can have joy and peace when our goal is to love others. We can be worn out by the world, worn out by our own problems, but the comfort and the strength God gives us to keep fighting come when we focus on helping others grow into who they’re meant to be. 

If your goal is to make yourself feel better, you will easily get overwhelmed and give up. But when your goal is to make others better and help them grow, then the hard times you go through don’t feel so hard, because you’re living for something greater than yourself.

  • Do you get refreshment from loving others?
  • Who needs you to keep fighting to help them grow?

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Romans 12:11 MSG

When in the midst of a battle, it can be easy to feel burnt out. But we have to stay fueled and aflame if real change will come. The solution to hard times is not to quit, but pray. How do your prayers look during hard times? Are they weaker, less motivated, and more distracted? Or are they more fervent, more determined, more insistent on fighting in prayer until God answers (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭62:6-7‬ ‭ERV‬‬)?

When there is so much going on in the world, the way we love and fight for others isn’t always going to look the same. We need to be inventive in how we help people in need. This doesn’t mean giving up, but finding new ways to keep loving.

  • What would it look like for you to pray harder?
  • How can you be inventive in loving somebody today?

Fight hard to do good 

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

Galatians 6:9 MSG

We are in a time where there is constant need and despair. No matter how much good we do, it can feel like the darkness is always greater. But we can’t get fatigued in doing good. The point isn’t to be perfect or not make any mistakes, but to not give up. God is constantly fighting for us, so the least we can do is take every chance that comes to work to love others. We can do this by calling a friend who may be alone, doing something helpful or thoughtful for our family, or looking for ways to build and give to our communities.

  • In what ways do you feel like giving up?
  • What chances are already present in your life to do good? Take that chance and choose to love somebody today

Sometimes music helps us keep going when we feel like giving up. Listen to our Spotify playlist: “fatigued to fighting” to find songs that can express and relate to what you’re feeling, along with songs that help you see God’s perspective and inspire you to keep fighting.

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