Beating Burnout, Jesus Style

Sometimes the end of a shift, a day, a clinical rotation, a course of study, really does feel like the end. Physical and emotional energies are drained. Empathy is exhausted. People's voices and technology's babble are harsh, strident. In doing the work of nursing, we often leave our jobs feeling emotionally battered, maybe even physically bruised.

How well does Jesus understand this state of being worn out and walked over? His time on earth put him in frequent contentious situations with individuals and groups who disagreed with him, showed disrespect, argued, and harassed him. He persisted in reaching out to heal, touch people whom others avoided, cover neglected persons with mercy, and speak truthful, encouraging words.

There was cost for Jesus in his work. He needed to recoup from the demanding time and exertion, too. How did he do it? If he had lived in our time, would Jesus have gone on a run or a walk with soothing music via earbuds? Might he have journaled about the tough situations and nasty people that crowded his day? Would he brew a cup of tea and read blogs?

Jesus' antidote was time alone, talking to his Father (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35). He pushed away from the shore in a boat to find quietness (Matthew 14:13) and took a nap when opportunity came (Luke 8:22). 

Those are choices we can make—means to enable us to release the hard things and regain rest and balance. Aside from what we try to do to cope with the hard and costly work of caring that nursing exacts from us, we need to seek and receive good gifts from God.

Can you hear the Good Shepherd calling you by name? He asks us to follow him to quiet, green spaces where there is food for our spirits. Rest beside still waters—soothing and calming. He intends to restore our souls.

The cost is high for sharing in people's healing and in offering mercy and grace. Our motivation regularly needs renewing and reorienting. Christian nurses give and care as a means of serving God, acting on behalf of Jesus in this time and place. We rightly keep our focus on God, fixing our eyes on Jesus. We are refreshed by him in return. Our souls can resonate with David’s: “But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress” (Psalm 59:16, ESV).

This article is excerpted from “Burnout” in the October/December 2019 issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing.

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