Moving from burnout to joyful freedom
Written by William Dmytrow
I sat on a staircase thinking, Is this really who I’m meant to be? I had two jobs and was volunteering, on top of being a full-time college student. I worked approximately 80-90 hours a week, seven days a week. I felt restless, anxious, and lost.
That’s when I crashed. Unable to keep going, I put on a podcast. These guys were talking about fighting hustle and ending hurry, rooted in this thing called the practices of Jesus (also known as the spiritual disciplines).
After ten minutes of listening, I broke down in tears. I was a mess. Somewhere along the line, I had stopped pursuing Jesus and started pursuing some other version of success. I needed to get back on track.
Introducing the practices of Jesus
I believe I lacked a lot of contentment. I always tried to pursue something to satisfy me, which only tended to make me more discontent. I’ve come to believe that restful, deep, and true satisfaction can only be found by pursuing the way of Jesus.
Now, becoming Christ-like doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long process. Richard Foster, who wrote a brilliant book called Celebration of Discipline, defines the spiritual disciplines as, “Actions of body and heart and mind and soul that we actually do. Not just admire. Not just study. Not just debate. But practice.” Foster later states that, “The purpose of spiritual disciplines is the total transformation of the person.”
These disciplines are a call back to Jesus. They prompt us to release control of our lives, centring our focus on Him.
Here are four spiritual practices that have helped me learn greater contentment.
“When you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private” (Matthew 6:17-18, NLT).
Throughout the Bible, fasting refers to giving up food for a while. But some people have sensitivities when it comes to not eating because it can be linked with a harmful physical image. It’s important to be considerate of this.
The heart behind fasting is to give up something important so that missing it becomes a reminder of your dependence on God. Fasting from your phone or social media can be excellent substitutes for fasting from food. How often you fast and for how long can look different for everyone.
Once I began to practise this discipline regularly, I started seeing God at work and becoming more aware of how He provides for me.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NLT).
Our society is over-busy and burnt out. This restlessness can cause us to lose focus on what it means to follow Jesus.
Jesus calls us to rest. He rested in places of solitude, which is recorded at least nine times in the Gospel of Luke alone.
The word Sabbath literally means “to stop.” Setting aside a day to rest every week is rooted in the creation story where God completes part of His work and then stops to enjoy it.
Committing to taking one day off may not seem like much, but in our culture, it can require a firm commitment. Often, we fall into the trap of working so hard we feel like we can’t afford a day off.
But God rested. We have permission to rest as well.
“Then he said, ‘Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own’” (Luke 12:15, NLT).
What would happen if you gave away half of your clothes? According to “A Closet Filled With Regrets” by Ray A. Smith in The Wall Street Journal, most people only wear 20 per cent of their clothes.
This is just one example of our society’s clutter—filling our spaces and consuming our finances with purchases that are excessive and wasteful.
Despite some movements towards minimalism, the discipline of simplicity is a lost art in today’s world. We’re told we need one more Amazon package, that higher salary, that new piece of clothing—then we’ll be content.
But really, that line of thinking triggers a cycle of wanting more.
The discipline of simplicity rearranges our lives around God, not stuff or status. The simple life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions, fine dining, or early retirement, but rather radical generosity and a deep love for God.
“And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet” (John 13:14, NLT)
Jesus was the ultimate example of a servant. He shattered cultural norms when He washed His disciples’ feet. This task was for the lowest of the low.
The discipline of service rejects the ideology of promotions and power and takes a servant’s posture, intentionally taking the lower place.
How do we put something so radical into practice? Consider tasks that are out of the spotlight—ones that are humble, undesirable, and unlikely to get much attention. For example, when you volunteer at an event, what if you put your name beside setup or takedown, collecting garbage, or washing dishes?
The same goes for helping in your household or offering to run errands for a friend. These quiet, often thankless acts of service cultivate a lifetime of serving Jesus.
When we try to instill these practices in our lives, it can feel overwhelming. But remember, this isn’t another race. These practices are part of lives spent in a relationship with Jesus. They are our loving response to the God who first loved us.
Since the day I crashed, I’ve cut down my working hours to about 50 a week. I finally have room to breathe and organize my life around what is most important: Jesus.
I still slip up and often catch myself getting too busy and neglecting the spiritual disciplines. Sometimes I feel stuck in the mess I’m in, but Jesus keeps calling me back to Him. He’s shown me contentment is ultimately found in Him, and it’s something we can pursue every day.