Burned Out on the Disciplines

“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: 28-30, The Message)

I burned out on the spiritual disciplines. At one point in my spiritual development I had sought to live out about multiple spiritual disciplines simultaneously. My list of spiritual “to do’s” was all consuming, guilt-producing, and definitely life-destroying. And all along I kept asking myself: Am I doing enough? Is there more to consider?

How can this be, you might be thinking.

Well, try reading the Bible through in a year, and add to that memorizing verses along the way, praying over the daily newspaper one major article at a time, memorizing the countries and capitals of the world to better inform your prayers, listening to radio and TV preachers (and of course purchasing their follow up materials), facilitating small groups, attending conferences, praying for and supporting missionaries, journaling, retreating, fasting or feasting (depending on the season of the Christian year), reading every possible recommended Christian book… just to name a few! If you seek such a lofty endeavor, your soul will be unnecessarily and undoubtedly become burdened and consumed with anxiety.

As a result, I hit my wall spiritually. I had to step off the treadmill of spiritual disciplines that felt more like bondage, and instead I embraced practices that brought freedom, life and joy. What ended up as priorities were simply the regularity of time in God’s Word (with the view of less is more), prayer (with a desire to listen more than talk), and reflection (with a longing to remember and give thanks). I realized that trying to consume too much of a good thing can actually cause spiritual indigestion. I’ve discovered that these three rhythms (Scripture, prayer and reflection) are really good for the soul and lead me back into other disciplines as I’m led by the Lord.

This is your brother speaking: don’t burn out on the spiritual practices that are designed to lead you into the abundant life. Instead, learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

This entry also appears on the Conversations Journal Blog.