This reflection has been prompted by Luke 5:1-11.

I suspect very few people knew it then, but in the last two years that I was running a school, I was also running on empty. For several reasons, I found myself precariously on the brink of a burnout. I had worked too hard and cared too little for my well-being–a dangerous but all too common formula for self-endangerment.

One thing I recall most about those days was this sense of an all-pervasive darkness. You wake up each day joyless and wish each day away, hoping you could just stay there in bed and hide away from the world. But of course you eventually force yourself to get up because that’s what you need to do and you go about your day, but you have to do all you can to fend off the growing cynicism inside and to protect others from being damaged by it. You keep thinking–and you keep wanting to say–things like: “Really? Been there, done that. What’s the point?”

More than anything else, it was this helplessness and hopelessness that terrified me the most. It was completely irrational, but there were many times I simply wanted to give up.

So today, when I read about Simon Peter’s half-hearted protest when our Lord asks him to go out fishing again after an entire night of hard work out at sea, I totally get what the fisherman means and feels.

“Master,” he said wearily to Jesus, “we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing.”

It doesn’t take much to hear what he might have really meant: “Really? Been there done that! What’s the point?”

Simon Peter standing there with his empty net is the perfect poster boy for burnout and all the hopelessness and resignation it brings.

But it doesn’t end there, thankfully. We don’t know how quickly–or how long–it took him, but the professional fisherman finally decided to take the advice of the carpenter: “At your command I will lower the net.”

He and his fellow fishermen were, of course, rewarded with a miraculous catch of fish. But I’d like to think Peter’s response to the Lord is the response asked of us whenever we find ourselves on life’s stranded shores, with empty nets and empty boats, empty-handed and heart-emptied: Just keep showing up for the day, resisting that urge to give up and choosing instead to trust in the Lord. Choose hope.

My favorite spiritual author, Anne Lamott, has this to say about hope: “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”

17 replies on “BURNOUT”

What a great message, Fr.Johnny! So encouraging and inspiring, that the Lord reminds us to trust in Him and not lose hope. May we be blessed with steadfast faith in His goodness always!

Hi Fr. Johnny!

Your homily reminded of the few occasions I was in a similar situation. I was reminded of a song that played on the radio as I was praying to the Lord to get me out of the dumps. The song; “Footprints in the sand” . I prayed like a little boy for the Lord to carry me. And in the years that followed, He took me for a ride on a magic carpet. Friends always remind me; when the Lord gives, He makes your cup overflows.

What a good God we have! Glad that He is our God!

Thanks for sharing, Fr. Johnny. And for choosing to show up and hope. Because you are a blessing to many. Thanks for the inspiration. Will continue to show up. And hope. “At your command I will lower the net.”

I couldn’t help but she’d tears reading your sharing as it’s exactly how I’ve been feeling the last couple of months. It is by prayer for God’s strength that I do drag myself out of bed go to work and do my job. Daily I pray for the grace to trust in Him and His plan especially in moments when I question why I’m where I am, doing what I do —rid of passion that I once had and counting down the time to when I can leave or ‘escape’ from work.
As my friend once told me, at least show up (for the Lord), be patient and always trust in Him.

Inspiring message, Father. This is really a struggle when faced with this kind of feeling – We really need God to continue to ignite and strengthen our passion for service and mission.

What an imagery! DARK is the unknown. When we are in the dark, what else can pull us out of there if not FAITH. That things will turn around. Then we HOPE that if we keep moving on in the dark tunnel, there will be light at the end. Thank God for the grace of endurance and steadfastness.

Thank you very much Fr. Johnny for this message of hope and encouragement. It comes in such an opportune time when I needed it the most esp. now that things in both my personal life and work seem to be not so favorable. I trust that the Lord has better plans for me and I will keep on holding on to this hope, praying while plodding along, and sincerely believing that in His time, I will get to see the dawn of a better tomorrow.

Thank you for reminding me to choose hope. God is the only one we can turn to amidst the darkness and hopelessness.

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