In today’s digital world, many have gone from working to live to now living to work. A 2022 American Psychological Association article documented statistics that marked high burnout and stress across all industries. Based on a survey of 1,500 workers :
- About 19 percent noted a lack of effort at their jobs.
- Around 26 percent experienced lack of energy.
- Nearly 40 percent suffered from cognitive fatigue.
- Over 30 percent struggled with emotional exhaustion.
- 44 percent felt physically fatigued—a nearly 40 percent increase compared to 2019.
As I think about how often productivity, fatigue, and burnout are part of our vocabulary, I wonder if it’s time to assess our work ethics and consider some truths from the Bible that may help us. Here, I’ve thought of three Bible characters who got work done and kept their sanity in the process.
Moses: Learn to delegate/ask for help
If you feel drained after hours-long Zoom meetings (even if it’s with fewer than 10 people!), imagine the fatigue Moses must have felt talking to hundreds or thousands of people daily! For context, the total number of Israel’s population was nearly two million citizens, and Moses was handling all of their disputes alone (Exodus 18:14).
Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, realised that this would wear Moses out (vv. 17-18), so he proposed that Moses choose leaders to whom he could delegate this task, which would free him to focus on his role as Israel’s prophet and leader.
I manage a small team of eight people weekly through my Bible study group, and I’ve found Jethro’s advice to be helpful. I used to lead every session and coordinate everything, but I’ve now learned to delegate some of my tasks to those I’m training to become leaders. Doing so has not only reduced my stress, it has also empowered my team to grow. I now have two disciples who are leading their own discipleship groups and another two preparing to start their own.
Jethro’s advice doesn’t just apply to managers and discipleship group leaders, but to the everyday worker too! If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, can I suggest doing one of the below to seek help?
- Talk to your managers about current workloads and try to propose solutions for how to work better/reshuffle work priorities (instead of just grumbling under your breath about it).
- If you get the opportunity, consider asking your manager if it is possible to share the workload with another team member.
- If you’re stuck on a job, seek advice from fellow team members on how to proceed with a certain task if they have handled it before.
Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10).
Paul: Address anxiety by presenting it to Jesus
You need the right mindset to overcome habits that lead to overworking . . . or underworking! Research has shown that anxiety can decrease work performance and yet also drive employees to overwork. You may be working yourself to death, but you’re still not working as well as you could if you were not bogged down by anxiety.
Anxiety is all about the unknown future—whether we’re working and earning enough, if we will be able to retain our jobs. And so as Scripture encourages us, we are not to be anxious about anything, but to present our prayers and concerns to God through prayer (Philippians 4:6-7).
For some time I’ve been praying to the Lord for financial provisions so my girlfriend and I can start to prepare for our wedding, as we won’t be asking for monetary support from our respective families. In this economy where inflation and cost of living are steadily increasing, I need the Lord’s help to overcome my anxiety of not having enough money for the wedding (and for my future family).
Thankfully, my prayer was answered when I was promoted and given a raise one month after becoming a full-time employee with my company. This has reminded me that God does answer our prayers when we wholeheartedly surrender all our cares and worries to Him.
It can be very easy to skip through the familiar verse of Philippians 4:6-7, but it does pay to slowly read through it (and the chapter) again as the verse talks about the peace of God “guarding our hearts and minds” (v.7).
His peace protects us from our anxious thoughts, and knowing we have a loving Father who cares and loves us will lead us to be less anxious about the future, and in turn, less likely to overwork ourselves in a bid to look after ourselves.
Jesus: Know when to take a break/stop
Did you know that even the Lord Jesus Himself practiced healthy work habits by turning away people at the end of a long work day (Matthew 14:22–23), allowing Himself and His disciples to rest? Yes, while He was divine in nature, His human body still experienced the struggles we did, such as hunger, thirst, and fatigue.
Unless we learn to rest, we cannot be truly productive; this means rest—the good kind, where we are able to set aside our tasks and responsibilities for healthy recreational activities, sleep, and time with the Lord—is productive in itself.
We need to set limits to our work hours, especially for those of us who work remotely, and consciously log off when the work day is done. Those who are in leadership positions can initiate and help shape a healthy work culture by modelling punctuality in timing in and out, so our teams are more likely (and less guilty) to follow suit. Even for our discipleship group, we take a break from our study once a month so we can catch up on some personal stuff or just have fellowship together.
Another thing I’ve also learned is that unless the task is super urgent, a lot of the things on my to-do list can be moved to be looked at the next morning. Over my years working, I’ve also learned to plan my time wisely so I don’t panic at the last minute trying to rush through a deadline.
As we work for the Lord, we are to be productive in a way that shows faithful stewardship of what we have, using our talents, time, and resources well while also learning to rest and enjoy the fruits of our labour. As the wise teacher pointed out in Ecclesiastes 3:13, it’s good for us to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in our work—not simply devoting all our time to work itself. This enjoyment is a gift from the Lord, and so let us wholeheartedly receive it, and let that be the joy that fuels our productivity.
 American Psychological Association, Burnout and Stress are Everywhere, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/01/special-burnout-stress.