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Compassion on the Burnouts

Jesus had compassion on the burnouts, of whom I'm one. Here was his prescription for those tired of a hollow, lifeless faith: "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 compa…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Jesus had compassion on the burnouts, of whom I'm one. Here was his prescription for those tired of a hollow, lifeless faith:

"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.”   Matt. 11:30

For too long, I was burned out in my walk of faith. Too reliant on lifeless religious habits. I've carried around spiritual baggage that felt impossibly heavy for years at a time. And in that airless place, I've longed to breathe – to live lightly. I've longed for freedom, but not understood how to go looking for it.

22 years ago, when I gave up on dead religion and began to learn the unforced rhythms of grace, everything changed. Ironically, it started when, at the end of my rope, I declared emotional bankruptcy: "God, if you don't show up, I think I will die."

On the other side of that was a God who offered a conversation. My creator was waiting for me to burn out on my tired religious habits. He was waiting for me to keep company with him, to hang out with no agenda.

These days, when I go into a place where people aren't burned out on tired religion yet, a place where people are pretending to be OK, it calls up that feeling of exhaustion I once felt. I don't have much capacity to pretend to be OK in a place like that. You can read it on my face. I can be very un-PC in a dead church.

It's given me a lot of compassion for young people. Many of them are refugees fleeing the wreckage of dead religion. I tend to hang out with burnouts and refugees. It's like I hear a voice crying inside me, "Give me authenticity, or give me death."

If you're in a dead place trying to be a missionary to people who are practicing religious habits and you don't have a specific call to that mission field, here's my advice: Get out of that stuffy place before you stop breathing!

Go where Jesus is hanging out and keep company with him. Learn to live freely and lightly.

Comments (14)

  • My dear friend.

    Rarely have words spoken more deeply to the heart and soul of a man who understands every word you have spoken.

    T.S. Eliot wrote with such eloquence…”We are the hollow men…we are the stuffed men…headpiece filled with straw”.

    Vibrant faith is risk filled but with the confidence God is right there.

    I am thankful you have been in my journey.

    Shalom. And as my increasing number of Arab friends say…Salam.

  • This was super encouraging Seth, thanks for sharing this today. I’ve realized I wasn’t being as authentic as I should be lately and mostly dealing with things on my own. It’s nice to get back to a place of authenticity.

  • Dr.S.Gnanasekaran

    You have poured your heart and I able to sense your love and affection for this hour on needy..With affection and prayers.

  • I used to think the church I attend was the only live one left in town (I visited lots of them). Alas, I am not sure it is breathing anymore. There are a few people trying hard but is it enough?

    “Give me authenticity, or give me death.” So real. And yet, am I part of the problem?

  • The sentence: I declared emotional bankruptcy: “God, if you don’t show up, I think I will die.” speaks the truth to me. It’s exactly what I’m feeling right now. Thank you SO MUCH for for writing this.

  • Seth,

    I think this is what I sense in places going since I’ve been home. A heaviness I can’t describe. I want to run from. I tend to seek out open and authentic people. I don’t know how to relate to those smiling because they don’t know what else to do. People can’t seem to grasp the freedom we’ve seen. I desperately want to give it but it seems to fall on deaf ears. Years of pain and principalities oppressing the truth. On the eve of leaving to be with other like me on a hike I feel The Lord telling me to stay. I’m far more broken by the race then I realized, wondering where the Lord wants me to go next. Looking forward to seeing you at the lake home. Thanks for being a leader who sees and sits with the burn outs.


  • Hey Butch – I know this is a place that you have mapped well. I pray the recent rendezvous w/ the family went well.

    Working hard to keep it real here in this corner of a world that seems to militate against authenticity.

  • Great question to ask. Maybe another one is, “to what degree am I part of the system that allows people to live within their comfort zone and not recognize the freedom available to them?”

  • Sten – I pray that God shows up in your life. My experience is that often he shows up thru people. Look for people who speak the truth without varnish and who themselves have regular experience with Jesus and you may find they can show you where freedom can be found.

  • Bryan – I’m looking forward to connecting with you, hopefully before you arrive. Call or write and let’s talk. My advice: Hang out w/ those who understand you and can encourage you and help guide you to a more hope-filled place.

  • Thanks for the prayer and the advise! It means a lot to me, I will definitely keep my eyes open for people to speak the truth. By the way, I just applied to the World Race. I know that WR won’t necessarily solve my problems and have every questions answered, but I want God to show up so badly. Perhaps He will reveal Himself to me through this race, God willing.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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