PERHAPS our hardy ancestors would laugh at our making such a big deal out of plain old hard work. But what's now called ``burnout,'' or stress and overwork, is something many people are facing, and it's no laughing matter. Sometimes it seems as though burnout is inevitable in today's world. But it's not, and a deeper understanding of God shows us that we do have a choice. For starters, it can help greatly to gain a more spiritual concept of what our work and its proper reward are. We can learn much from the Bible that provides us with an improved perspective on our work.
In a vivid metaphor, Christ Jesus assures us of God's tender care in meeting every need: ``Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?''1
What Jesus says here in no way removes the necessity of work from us. But understanding God's abundant care for us does remove the ``grind'' aspect from our work. Once we really learn to trust God's provision for us, we are free to think of work less as something disagreeable, but necessary for the income it provides, and more as a way to express the spiritual qualities God gives. In so doing, we remove one of the starting points for burnout.
It is because man really is spiritual, really is cared for by God, that we do have a choice in this matter of burnout. God's offspring is not a mechanism of nerves, brain, and muscle that can be overstressed and break down, like some machine. Man is the very likeness of God, divine Spirit, and is not subject to material limitations or decay. ``God is the creator of man,'' writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, ``and, the divine Principle of man remaining perfect, the divine idea or reflection, man, remains perfect.''2
Make no mistake, it often requires deep and sincere effort to understand ourselves as God's reflection. But as we do, we see more clearly that overwork, tension, anxiety -- none of these really touch our real, spiritual nature as ``the divine idea or reflection.''
It remains true that often our responsibilities at work are ours alone to fill. We all have individual qualities that we -- and not someone else -- bring to the job. But the intelligence, ability, energy, and strength to do what we do have their source in God. By acknowledging God as the source of all worthwhile activity we are living up to our true spiritual identity. Doing so persistently, at work and elsewhere, will enable us to progress smoothly according to God's plan, which doesn't include burnout!
The rewards of such work aren't in the materially perceived acquisition of money, power, or status. Seeking these never satisfies, but leaves one pursuing and pursuing something that really isn't there until they ``burn out.''
Seeking spiritual rewards in our work, however, ensures that we are satisfied and have everything we need. As Christ Jesus promised, ``Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.''3
This spiritual seeking brings us plenty of satisfaction -- but no burnout!
1Matthew 6:28-30. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,p. 470. 3Matthew 6:33.