Burnout

Today’s guest post is written by my long-time friend, Terry Looper. Over a decade ago, I traveled to the Dominican Republic with Terry and a small group of entrepreneurs from Texas. We were on a trip to observe Christ-centered microfinance through HOPE’s partnership with Esperanza International. At the time, I had no idea of the life-changing significance of the relationships that were forming. Terry’s wisdom, kindness, generosity, and attentiveness to the Holy Spirit have had a profound impact on my life, both professionally and personally. This guest post is an excerpt from Terry’s book, Sacred Pace, which releases today. He shares his story of burnout at age 36 and how this experience became the turning point in his life. Enjoy!


After ignoring month upon month of warning signs, I suddenly could not get out of bed. It felt like the oxygen had been turned off in my brain, making it impossible for me to even lift my head from the pillow. This was more than just a physical sensation. It was emotional, spiritual, and mental. A shutdown on every level. My predominant feeling was that my brain had quit—just like that—and I was having a nervous breakdown.

Fear and dread taunted me: What if this was permanent? What if I hadn’t simply run out of gas but had pushed myself to the point that my internal machinery had worn out, with no hope of repair? I was terrified what that might mean for me and my family.

And yet, I had no one to blame but myself.

I had insisted on speeding ahead on my own power, completely ignoring the brake pedal. I was intent on doing things my way, listening only to me, living like I knew best, exceeding every limit. And I had. Now I couldn’t do anything for myself.

I thought I had lost my mind at age 36. Worst of all, I wasn’t sure that I would ever get it back. If the last rule of competition is that “you cannot quit until you cannot walk at all,” I had held to it.

But at what cost?

On that day, I reached out to the God I knew, though I—a guy who was less than twenty-four hours from being installed in a leadership position in my church—barely knew Him at all.

Having grown up in church, I’d never doubted that He was the Creator and Ruler of the universe. I just hadn’t wanted Him to be my God because I had a god already: money. I was much like the rich young ruler in Mark 10 who said, “Jesus, I’ve followed your commandments my whole life—never murdered anybody, or stolen from anyone, or defrauded anybody” (Mark 10:19-20, my paraphrase) but who was unwilling to become a real disciple because, as author and pastor John Piper described it, his “fist [was] clenched around his wealth.”[1]

There was no denying, though, that my way of doing things had failed. Now that I’d caught my money-god and courted my mistresses—acceptance, people-pleasing, and achievement—I found myself face down on the floor of my blacked-out bedroom, taunted by the harsh reality that I’d stood my ladder of success against the wrong wall, and that wall had collapsed.


In those post-burnout years, my life underwent a rebuild from the wheels up. While I was “in the shop,” God was retooling me with a different operating system—a different way of thinking and working. He reset my priorities altogether and helped me settle into a new pace that He promised would cause much less wear and tear than my fast-track pursuits.

I made it my habit to sit quietly at the beginning of each day, prayerfully asking the Lord, “What’s next? What is your plan for me?” I’d then read from my Bible and a devotional before proceeding with my day.

Two beautiful things happened as I waited on the Lord:

  1. Trusting His direction: God kept drawing me to a verse in Proverbs that spoke very practically to my fear: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6, NKJV). It was right there in black and white! If I submitted myself to the Lord’s wisdom, He would simultaneously direct my steps and ensure that my heart’s desires echoed my Heavenly Father’s desires for me.
  2. Getting Neutral: I not only downshifted into a slower gear but shifted into neutral. That’s how I thought of it. For the first time ever, I quit insisting on having things my way and moving ahead with my plans. Rather, I became ambitious for God’s will, and His alone, whatever that might mean for my future. I wanted God’s will over my preferences and was ready to do whatever He decided. This further shift changed the content of my prayers from “Here’s what I want, God, please help me,” to “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

God wants us to come to Him with our specific needs and desires. We see this in the example of the psalmist in Psalm 5:2-3: “Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” And in the biblical exhortation of verses such as Ephesians 6:18: “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

But in order to receive God’s answers, we must bring ourselves to Him as well. (This includes everything from our emotions and thoughts to our motives and dreams and plans.) We must keep bringing our hearts and minds to Him until we are assured that He not only knows better than we do, but He knows best. From this place of trust and willing obedience, we are lovingly beckoned forward, toward the blessings the Lord has planned for us.


[1] John Piper, Future Grace: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God, rev. ed (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2012), 313.

Taken from Sacred Pace: Four Steps to Hearing God and Aligning Yourself With His Will by Terry Looper © 2019. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

Terry is the CEO and Founder of Texon LP, a Houston-based energy company founded in 1989. Voted #1 in Houston revenue for private companies, Texon has been named one of the region’s “Top Work Places” by the Houston Chronicle. Texon views its core values and employees as the keys to its mission of being the best service provider in its industry. Terry and his wife, Doris, have two married daughters and five grandchildren. With the success of Texon, they have donated 50 percent of their income to mainly Christian organizations since 1998. Terry’s passion is to serve as a mentor to fellow business and nonprofit leaders.

Sacred Pace describes Terry’s journey from living for himself to living in God’s will, and offers a biblical framework for making large and small decisions in all phases of life. To learn more, please visit www.sacredpacebook.com.

 

 

 

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