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4. Extreme Stress
While the designation ‘burnout’ is a modern one, the condition it describes is as old as events depicted in the Bible. For example,, in the Psalms, David describes himself as being totally worn out:
“O Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger,nor chasten me in the wrath.Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am Languishing;O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.My soul also is sorely troubled.My soul also is sorely troubled.But, O Lord, how long?”(Psalm 6:1-3. See also 25:19-21, 31:9, 10; 32:3, 4; 38:3, 4; 39:1-3, 7-11).
Jeremiah also appears to have experienced the dark depths of despair and feelings of helplessness and exhaustion implicit in ‘burnout’ (Jeremiah 4:19-21, 8:18; 9:1; 11:18, 19).
Jesus, especially in the spiritual and emotional battle at the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:42-44) and on Golgotha, is similarly tortured and pressured. The intensity of that struggle, represented physically by Luke in his reference to Jesus’ sweat being ‘like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground’ (verse 44), must be noted.
The cry of Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), echoing the opening words of Psalm 22, underscores the extent of Jesus’ experience of bitter isolation as he approached death. Already feeling alienated from almost all human companionship, Jesus embraces the darkest desertion of all: alienation from the Father.
These biblical examples suggest that ‘burnout’ is an acute development of the individual’s reaction to other dimensions of pressure. Certainly, there are echoes of this condition in the forgoing discussion of biblical material.