Jump Start # 1968
Numbers 11:14-15 “I alone am not able to carry all this people; because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”
Moses was fed up. He had enough. Israel was complaining. God was angry and consumed some with fire. But the complaining continued. Crying in the doorway of their tents, the people wanted meat. They were tired of manna. And people do what they normally do, they take their complaints to the person in charge. Here it was Moses. And now Moses was burned out. It was too much for him. Today, a person would just walk away and not come back. He’d quit. That happens. It happens at work. It happens in the home and it happens in the church. Preachers quit. Shepherds quit. I’m through. No more.
Moses, instead of quitting, had a prayer for God. He said, “please kill me at once.” Just kill me! That’s one prayer in the Bible I haven’t prayed. It comes from a heart that is overwhelmed and doesn’t see any solution.
The young mother at home with a bunch of little kids and she is fed up of all the fussing, messes and chasing them down. The house looks like a war zone, even though she is trying her best to keep things picked up. Her husband comes home from work and wonders what all she had done. Her look could kill him. Mamma needs a break.
The preacher that is buried with work. So many people need his attention. So many things need to be done. He has so many irons in the fire and feels stretched in so many ways, that he feels the quality of his work suffers. There is too much to do. He begins feeling like Elijah, who thought he was the only one still walking with the Lord. He didn’t know about the other thousands. Frustrated, overwhelmed, buried with things to do, and someone dares to say, “What do you do with all your time, since you only work on Sundays.” His look could kill the guy.
Shepherds can feel overwhelmed. There are so many fires to be put out among the flock. There are people that need personal attention. Then there are serious planning meetings and mentoring future leaders. All of this takes time. All of this is consuming.
And the words of Moses echo through the air, “Lord, just kill me.”
The problem of burnout is very real. The Bible might use the words, “lose heart,” or, “weary,” to describe what we think of as burnout. It’s a mental, emotional and spiritual weariness. It’s carrying the load when you feel like you can’t take another step. It’s worry what would happen if you didn’t do this, who would? What then can be done? How do we prevent burnout?
- The Lord didn’t kill Moses. The following verses, God sets up a leadership structure for Moses. Appoint 70 men, and let them hear the complaints. Moses would deal with the big stuff. What the Lord was doing was teaching Moses and us the valuable lesson of delegating. Get others involved. Get others trained. Pass some things on to others, so you can focus upon what you are really good at. Develop a dependable team. Work together.
- It is good to get away and rest the mind. The Lord took the apostles to a secluded place on the sea. They were reflecting, recharging and connecting. They traveled in such a way, that the people on the shore saw where they were headed and ran ahead of them to await them. That tells us that they weren’t isolated. The Lord could have taken the boat out into the middle and no one would have seen them. Seclusion is not isolation. Get away to rest the mind, refocus upon what your job and role is, and think of better ways to do what you are doing.
- Sharpen the axe! That’s a thought from both Ecclesiastes and the world of lumberjacks. A woodsman is chopping and chopping wood. The axe becomes dull and he must exert more energy. He is getting tired. If he stops to sharpen the axe, he won’t be cutting any lumber, but he can come back and cut more, easier. We need to keep sharp. We need to read to keep fresh. We need to be around those who bring out the best in us. We need to be encouraged. Chop, chop, chop, or take some moments and sharpen that axe!
- When Mary anointed the Lord with the costly perfume before His crucifixion, Judas and others scorned her. They claimed the perfume could have been sold and the money used to help the poor. The Lord defended her and said, “she has done what she could.” What a great statement for us. She didn’t do it all. She couldn’t. She couldn’t go to the cross for us. She couldn’t walk on water. But she did what she could. No one can do it all. But we can find out what we are good at, and then, do what we can.
- Finally, it helps to pray. That’s what Moses did. His prayer, “Kill me,” reveals how low he had sunk. But talking to God, seeking Heaven’s help is valuable. God can open doors. God can help.
These thoughts come from a class I used this week to share with young preachers. Burnout leads to many preachers quitting. It’s real. It’s a problem. And for most of us preachers, we don’t tell anyone for fear that we appear to be whining or complaining. The load is heavy for those in leadership roles. They care so much. They want to do all that they can. They are never satisfied. They want the best from everyone. It steals their sleep at night. It ruins their appetite. It follows them throughout the day. What needs to be done. What isn’t right. What could be so much better.
How is your preacher doing? Do you know? What do you think he’d tell you? How about the elders? How are they doing? Could it be that you help them some? Could you encourage them some? Could you sit down with them and let them know how you feel about them? Could it be all that they need is someone who notices and appreciates?
Poor Moses. Just kill me, is how he felt. Let’s do what we can to keep our workers from getting to that point. Let’s work like a team. Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me.” That’s what we need more of.