A few weeks ago, after a particularly hard week to be a Ministry Major here at Sterling College one of our professors asked us “What do you do when studying scripture gets dry?” This is was a great question and one that since Denver I have put a lot of thought into. In fact right now as I’m sitting into my second late night in a row working on Homework I find myself starting to get a little burned out with studying Ministry. Especially when you start working on your thesis which you are behind on, then you really may start to feel burned out.
I’ve said before that Burn-Out tends to come when we are overly stressed but that’s not always the case. Sometimes being burned out is a product of just focusing on one thing way to long. In Urban Ministry we often talk about the need to “Get away” from the Urban scene every now and then because of the heavy nature of Urban Ministry. You recall from previous posts that my get away was a coffee shop about five blocks from my apartment. That burnout was a cause rooted in the heavy stories I was hearing and the felt need to sympathize with the people I was working with. This Burn-Out wasn’t a product of an overly busy lifestyle, but of too much focus on the grief of those I was working with.
Then move onto classes, halfway through the semester your break is still two weeks away and you’ve been covering, with great intensity, some of the peripheral issues we encounter in Scripture. Add to that being almost two weeks behind on your Senior Thesis and hoping ot get back to work on the School’s Theology and Ministry Website. Keeping up with 10:31 Life Ministries and God’s Heart for Those and all the scripture prep that goes into that it’s very easy to get tired of studying scripture.
I know this sounds like a crazy and maybe even a heretical idea, after all we should follow the example of the Psalmist and “Meditate on them day and night” (Psalms 1:2). How can we get burned out on studying scripture?
I have to make the distinction here that there is a difference between academic study of scripture (Hermeneutics) and private study of scripture. When it comes to doing good Hermeneutics we are taught to go through a process that requires us to break down the passage and then to Exegete (Pull out) the meaning from the original context. It requires us to not just look at one passage but multiple contexts and passages from both the old and New Testament. To take the whole of scripture and consider that verse within that whole, along with original audience, learning context and whole slew of other situations.
Needless to say that this process can become tiring as a pastor but can become more tiring as a ministry student who is constantly being asked to write “Exegetical papers.” But what do we do when this becomes overwhelming, when we have three 4 page critical analysis, a reflection paper and a 4,000 exegetical paper due in the same week?
The best thing to do is to get away, not necessarily from scripture (though you can) but from the process. Doing something like praying through a psalm, just praying, or even doing something else altogether, these are all solid ways of dealing with burnout. It’s always good to get away and focus on other things for awhile. After our Paul class today I’ve been sitting here writing this article and occasionally joking with DT, while reading another person’s exegetical paper (Exegesis is always nice when it’s done for you). This was my escape before I dive back into the deluge of theological topics and ideas that always seem to want an opinion formed on them.
It’s good though, it keeps me sharp, keeps me humble and keeps me focused on the grace that I have in the Lord Jesus Christ. I love spending time in the gospel, Christ is the center of my life and that won’t change. But sometimes I need to get away from the Exegetical responses and 4,000 word papers and just rest in the Lord and in my dearest friendships. What is community for anyway? To build each other up and to encourage one another, even in the study of scripture.
Now take a break and get back into the study of Scripture, you’re doing great, keep going strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries