Dealing with Spiritual Burnout — Keeping the Flame Alive

In our neck of the woods this winter we have had some unusually cold weather. Thanks to the generosity of some friends, we have had an ample supply of firewood for our fireplace. Everyone in our household of eight has looked to me to build a fire on those cold days and then keep it burning into the night. Since I work from home, I can tend to it several times throughout the day. I have been reminded of two important things about getting a fire started and keeping it going and I believe they can help us to prevent spiritual burnout.

First, a fire needs oxygen to burn and keep burning. The first thing I do before starting a new fire in the fireplace is to remove all the leftover ashes and make sure there is plenty of room for the air to circulate. When I assemble the kindling and logs for the fire, I make sure there is ample space for oxygen to be present. If there is no room for oxygen, then there is no flame. Even if I manage to get a flame started, it won’t keep burning if there is no room for air, or if the ashes get too deep.

If we are to be spiritually healthy people who maintain our fire for God, then we must have space in our lives. Practicing simplicity in our calendars and with our possessions can help us create and maintain the space needed for the fire to ignite and keep burning. If we don’t practice solitude with God on a regular basis, keep from overcommitting ourselves to unimportant things, and curtail our attachment to worldly possessions, then we will surely experience burnout. Jesus modeled this behavior by both working and resting, engaging and withdrawing, and going about his time on earth free of attachment to possessions (Mark 6:30-32, Luke 9:58)

Second, a fire needs more fuel to keep burning. In the case of a gas grill, there needs to be gas in the tank. In the case of a wood burning fireplace or campfire, there needs to be more wood to keep feeding the fire. When we clean up our schedules and clean out our closets, we need to fill them back up with disciplines and practices that refuel us spiritually.

If we are to be spiritually healthy people, we need to add the proper fuel to our fire to keep the flame of our spirit burning. Spiritual practices like solitude, fellowship, and worship with other believers, meditating on Scripture and spending time in prayer all help add fuel to our spiritual fires (Hebrews 10:25, Psalm 1:2-3, Philippians 4:4-7).

So, does your life need more oxygen or more fuel to keep your relationship with the Lord healthy? Do you need to create more space in your life to have healthier relationships with family, friends, and neighbors? Do you need to initiate or engage in healthy spiritual practices to reignite your life in the Lord?

I would encourage you to prayerfully consider these things, and begin by asking God to help you see what you need to do to stay close to Him and be the light He has called you to be in this dark world. I will be praying for you this week!

Timothy (Tim) Gunnells started his blog "Desert Spiritual" while living and ministering in the desert in Arizona. He knows the world in which we live is a "dry and weary land where is no water" and souls are thirsting for God (Psalm 63:1).Tim currently lives with his family in East Tennessee. He is available for retreats, leadership development seminars, and church consulting. He enjoys hiking, singing, spending time with his family and friends, and blogging about Christian spirituality, culture, and life in general. He may be reached at