“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)
Do these words describe you?
Burned out on religion.
It just comes natural to most of us to worry, strive & stress. These words in Matthew have been shared with the tired & worn multitudes of times.
But what about those ‘burned out on religion’. Religion in & of itself (rituals, routines, rules within an organized religious setting) can be a heavy burden to bear when they are without the living knowledge of the great grace of God.
There are some fantastic religious settings (churches) where the three R’s (rituals, routines, rules) are beautifully lived out not in spite of but because of the grace of God. However, I would venture to guess many of us have found ourselves burned out on religion when…
…going to church starts feeling like a duty instead of a privilege.
…Bible studies feel like science class, instead of the inspired Word of God.
…we hide our pain because the last time we opened up we were told, ‘You just need to have faith.’
…we feel shamed and/or rejected by religious leaders whom we had once trusted to lead us toward God.
Your story may be different. But this is mine.
Call me a non-conformist. Call me deceived. Call me brainwashed by the world.
But I know what I experience on a daily basis with the Lord…
Before I could recover from my religious burn out, I had to step back from organized religion for a while. I got so involved in the culture of church, I lost perspective on what it meant to be a child of God.
More than a decade ago I had been in a church bubble for so long that I didn’t even know how to have real conversations with real people outside of the church.
When I backed off from church, I began to take my relationship with God BACK into my own hands. I started journaling again, which for me involves spilling my guts… asking stupid questions, expressing my confusion & crying out to God to help me understand what it means to be a Christ-follower.
I’m certainly not saying leave your church if you wanna get closer to Jesus. Unless of course it is an abusive, controlling, toxic environment. 🙂 I am saying to remove whatever is hindering you from communing with God. For me it was religion. Church became my God. I had become a Sunday Christian. And I nearly killed my relationship with Him. But then grace stepped in & allowed me to step back to see Jesus in my every day life.
I decided to start fresh, to read the Bible through fresh eyes, to pray like God was big enough to handle my burn out, my doubt, and even my anger. God’s cool like that. I really don’t know why we think God is fancy & only fancy, memorized words capture His attention. Certainly God is to be honored, but He’s more honored by authenticity & vulnerability than our fancy words, in our fancy clothes, in our fancy pews.
So what does Jesus say to do when you’re burned out on religion?
Come to Jesus.
Get away WITH Me and you WILL recover your life!
You need to rest & I’ll show you how!
It IS possible, dear child, to truly rest & find freedom in Me.
Let me shower you with grace. I promise not to lay
anything TOO heavy on you,
that we both can’t handle together. Stick close with Me.
And through winced eyes, I say, ‘Okay, I trust You, Jesus.’
(of which I say exactly 3 billion times a day)
You know what the grace of God has done for me? Brought joy back into my life!
[It is NOT a license to act however you want & then cry ‘GRACE!’)
In my personal journey, God’s grace has allowed me to live more freely & lightly than I ever have before! I’m not so caught up in the do’s & don’t of religion. My family & I enjoy church, whether it be in a building with others, out serving in the community or on the mission field. And we even totally dig Andy Stanley’s church whereby we can participate via the internet.
I absolutely still live with conviction & do my best to honor God with my words & actions. BUT I’m not all bound up & afraid to be a REAL human in a REAL world with REAL problems!! I actually can laugh at myself instead of trying to hide my unholy imperfections! Also, I laugh at Christians sometimes because well, we ALL need to LIGHTEN UP!
I’m getting a taste of what ‘the unforced rhythms of grace’ feel like and well,
It feels like inhaling Peace and exhaling Love.
Inhaling Peace and exhaling Love oxygenates relationships.
It breathes life, vitality & acceptance instead of forcefully spewing religiously-imposed judgments.
I believe this is why people of all types were drawn to Jesus. He exhaled Love wherever He went, to whomever they were regardless of their sin or social standing.
We have to ask ourselves, are we exhaling love & the rhythms of grace or are we too caught up in making sure the sinners know how sinful they are? Jesus certainly didn’t ignore sin, but He didn’t make it His focus. He knew there was much more to people than their sin.
Instead, His focus was exhaling Love wherever He went. It still is. Through us.
We are His Body. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, we are agents of His grace, pointing the Way to inhale Peace & exhale Love wherever we find ourselves on the journey.
For nearly 20 years, my journey has been alongside my best friend, my husband Mike. There’s been so many times I’ve held my hand to my heart and felt incredible gratitude for him. When we said ‘I do’… When our sons were born… When he held my head & hand through a deep pit of depression… When I watched him dance with a little girl in Africa who had only one leg… and this week when I read his life-giving words in this article, ‘Would Jesus Bake Their Cake?’ … this man has deep conviction and even deeper love. I am so grateful for his heart that puts no limits on whom he will love & serve, no matter the personal costs. Now, GO READ IT!
Today, may you go & find your God-centered rhythm of grace.