4 Tips for Avoiding Burnout (and Glorifying God!) at Work
There are moments for all of us (maybe even months of moments!) when our work becomes drudgery.
Maybe for you, climbing the career ladder means you’re just waiting for your ladder to somehow get an extension. Or maybe your daily tasks grind against your personality. Or your boss doesn’t see how you’re leading your team and working your booty off to make a project successful.
Name your workplace toxin, there’s inevitably something about your job that just makes you writhe in discontentment. Something that, if it continues, might drive you down the road to burnout.
Work According to the Bible
God was the original worker. God worked to create our entire universe. He made the sun and the moon and the land and the sea. He designed people: brains and body systems and intricate emotions.
And he designed those people to be just like him in certain ways, particularly when it comes to their work.
God made humans to be caretakers of his creation, developers of the potential and beauty that God himself placed there.
Work was integral to our very design as human beings, and it was good. Not a punishment for sin. Not a countdown to retirement. Work reflected the God of the universe, and it brought fulfilment, satisfaction, and immense pleasure.
What happened? Why does work feel so hard today?
Remember that fruit that Adam and Eve ate back in Genesis 3? When they did, sin entered into the world like the opening of Pandora’s box. Now, sin is alive and well in every aspect of God’s creation, infecting it like a cancer.
Work broke. It no longer functions the way God intended it to.
“Painful toil,” “cursed” ground, working “by the sweat of your brow” – all phrases that we see in Genesis 3 to describe our experience with work post-fall.
God sees this about our work (and our world in general) and grieves.
He never once wanted your work to feel so tough that you count down the days until you reach that glorious retirement age!
And so, God answers that brokenness with grace.
Not content to leave you in your wallowing, he sends Jesus to rescue his creation from the cancer of sin and to begin the restoration of the entire world. And our work is one way God allows us to enter into his story and partner with him in the renewal of his creation.
So what can we do when work feels so, well, un-glorious?
1. Re-orient your work.
Is the story of your work all about you? Are you working for your own happiness and passions, ala the American Dream? Are you most concerned with your own comfort and status?
The true story of your work (and life!) is all about God. Spend time in Genesis 1 and 2 and restore your vision for what he intended it to be: a glimpse of God and his kingdom.
2. Work with excellence.
I love this quote from Dorothy Sayers on how faith should shape a Christian carpenter's work:
“The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays.
What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables... No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. …
[The Church] has forgotten that the secular vocation is sacred. … Work must be good work before it can call itself God’s work.”
We should all think: “Wherever God has placed me, I preside over a corner of God’s world for him. However small that corner is, I want to make it a better place.”
Whether you are a chef, architect, builder, designer, loan officer, engineer, artist, teacher, or gardener, strive to grow in your craft. After all, work is inherently good.
3. Find your vocation's purpose in light of God's story.
In what ways do you reflect parts of who God is in what you do? How does your work bring healing to a broken aspect of creation? How does your work enable you to love your neighbor as Jesus commands?
Finding direction at work is simple. Just ask yourself, “How can I use my time at work to love and obey God?” Boom. Instant purpose.
4. Work hard, rest hard.
When we rest, we acknowledge that God is God and we are not. We give our bodies and mind much-needed breaks, recharging us for the work God has for us to do.
And without rest? We’ll tank and burnout. Only God is infinite.
Tough work situations are no joke! The discontentment and hardship can breed bitterness that spills into other parts of life too.
But what if your tough situation is actually an opportunity to lean into the place God has placed you? To rely on his Spirit for guidance and wisdom? To enter the story of his kingdom? God wants to use you today. Let him!
Are you longing to slow down, set work stress aside, and reconnect with God? Sign up to receive this ten-day, email devotional, which challenges the "whys" behind your busy life and invites you to reset, rest, and restore your soul.