Have you ever found church tiring? I know I have.
We have internal church politics, fanatical offshoots, people leaving the church in droves. We have hypocrisy and apathy and disillusionment. We have COVID-19-weariness, the effort of trying to keep the living body of Christ alive in lockdown. We live in a world where Zoom fatigue is a thing.
And when a Christian celebrity gets plastered all over the media about covering up abuse in the church, it’s the proverbial icing on the cake gone sour.
For all our work and weariness, I’m wondering where we lost sight of the simplicity of the gospel. The central tenet of Christianity is that Christ died for us, not just to save us from the obvious sins but from the more subtle ones as well: perfectionism, workaholism, pride. These are sins of trying to save ourselves.
I’m wondering where we lost sight of the simplicity of the gospel.
At times like these, it can be tempting to push even harder against the vibe, to battle our own exhaustion, to urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to do more, to reassure ourselves through striving and hustle.
But I’m going to say something controversial: hustle is not Christian. Overwork is not Christian. Burnout is not Christian. Unless we are called to genuine martyrdom, we are not called to endlessly flog ourselves for Jesus’ sake.
We are not called to endlessly flog ourselves.
Yes, we take up our cross. But there’s a difference between losing our lives for Jesus’ sake, and losing ourselves so much in our overwork that we lose sight of who Jesus is. In burnout, we lose perspective. We lose sleep. We lose our love for God and his people.
How do we stand against this relentless invitation into stress and panic and misery? We look after ourselves. We recognise our limits. We reflect on our signs of burnout. We sometimes say no. We choose health and wholeness and respite over yet another Zoom meeting. We choose radical rest. Even Jesus took the occasional break.
When I get swept away in the tide of toiling, I endeavour to remind myself who Jesus is. Jesus is the one who once said these countercultural words:
‘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.’ (Matthew 11:28 MSG)
’Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me.’
This Jesus knew our tendency to try to succeed through effort and striving. This Jesus knows my own leanings toward perfectionism, how I am constantly seeking to prove myself through works. This Jesus sees my internal struggle, the inner wrestling between reaching and resting, between effort and ease, between work and wonder. This Jesus knows I feel guilty for not doing more.
And this same Jesus extends the old invitation to me: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me…’
If I am striving to the point of exhaustion, something is wrong. Something is missing. Somewhere along the line, I have forgotten the simple beauty of resting on the One who makes all things new. This Jesus longs to remove the weights we have chosen to carry and replace them with a mantle of rest. That mantle is easy and light.
This Jesus longs to remove the weights and replace them with a mantle of rest.
So let’s turn our eyes upon Jesus, knowing he holds us in the palm of his hand. Nothing we do can make him love us more; nothing we neglect to do can make him love us less.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Jesus.