How to Avoid Burnout: A Shift in Perspective

  • by Sheri Onishi

How Can You Avoid Burnout?

  • What is your vision for your relationship with the Lord?
  • Can you come to Him as you really are? Do you see yourself as He sees you?
  • What would it look like to do life and ministry with Him, resting in His love?
  • Ask Him to open your heart to trust His love.
  • Read more articles on work and rest.

I can always remember the moments when I resented my work in ministry.

The constant activities and events, the flow of people through your house, the lack of time with your spouse, children or friends.

Most of your foggy thoughts are about when you will get some down time for yourself. When I first found myself feeling this way, I didn’t know the reason was that I didn’t have God’s view of work and rest.   

Growing up in the U.S., I was groomed to value busyness,  productivity and even hurry. Rest was for weak people who needed it, which I thought didn’t include me.

What I heard in church and the Christian culture was “die to yourself,” “consider others as more important than yourself,” “sacrifice yourself for the cause of Christ.” All of these good biblical principles were applied through the cultural grid of “success” I  mentioned above, with no mention of biblical rest. No wonder burnout is a common reality for so many who serve in ministry, as volunteers or full-time.   

So when my own burnout experience happened, after we had been on staff with Cru for 20 years and serving as national campus directors in Venezuela, I didn’t understand how or why I had arrived at this very dark place.

Thankfully the Lord reconnected me with an old friend, former Cru staff, now spiritual director. She asked me what I was experiencing with the Lord.

My reply: He seems distant and silent. Then my friend asked me what my vision for my relationship with Him was.

No one had ever asked me that before. However, many had asked me about my vision for my ministry. When I responded that I wanted to experience His love daily and grow in intimacy in my relationship with Him, she asked if I thought that could happen currently in the way I was living. And I immediately said, not a chance. That is when I finally realized that this was not going to be a small adjustment in my schedule but a radical shift in how I thought about myself, my life, ministry and God.

What has changed since then:

  1. My view of myself – Learning to pay attention to who I am and what tends to drive me – my desire for new experiences, my tendency to be a people pleaser and receiving value from successful ministry results – helped me come to the Lord more honestly. I could then see who I am in His eyes, that I am His beloved child. Who I am precedes,and is of greater value than, what I produce.
  2. My view of the focus of my life – In light of my desire for the “real” me to connect with the “real” God, I need lots of space. So, in my weekly, monthly and yearly schedule, I am intentional to carve out time to be with the Lord and grow in intimacy with Him. I am learning to say “no” to hurry and doing things just because I “should,” and I am learning to rest in His love.
  3. My view of ministry – As I abide and rest in His love, I can work, do life and ministry WITH Him, not just FOR Him, and He produces the fruit.
  4. My view of God – He is my loving Abba, and I want to grow in my desire for Him more then anything else. He invites me to be with Him and build His kingdom WITH Him everyday.

About the Author: Sheri is a native Arizonian who has followed the Lord and her sense of adventure to live and minister in many places: Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, Venezuela and currently in Costa Rica. She has been married to Keith for 29 years and they have 3 children. She is currently the coordinator for prayer and women's leadership development in Latin America and the Caribbean.