taking the words of Jesus seriously


Theology doesn’t save us from spiritual burnout— people do.


No matter how convincing our doctrines and beliefs may be, they’re ultimately empty and unsatisfying if there’s no human relationships personifying them.


Throughout our faith journeys we face with moments of suffering, hopelessness, and sheer desperation—sometimes lasting for what seems like forever. We want to give up—sometimes we do.


These hardships can devolve into isolation, bitterness, and ultimately transform what was once a healthy spirituality into a total rejection of God. Within Christian culture we often label this as “burnout.” But it’s really more of a “falling out.”


Not only do we have a falling out with God, but we also disassociate ourselves from other believers and those closest to us. When we feel hurt, betrayed, or abandoned by people we feel rejected by God, causing us to question His love for us—even questioning His very existence.


People are the main reason we give up on God. Many quit faith not because of a newfound disbelief in God, but because of broken and unhealthy human relationships.


Our faith hinges on relationships.


Every Christian has experienced life-changing moments of spiritual intervention—faith-saving interactions that can happen in many forms. It may have been an old friend, family member, college roommate, mentor, or even a random stranger that intervened at exactly the right moment to provide relief, encouragement, safety, and help—saving our faith from certain death.


On numerous occasions we get pulled back into a right relationship with God only because people were willing to love us, and this wouldn’t have happened without individuals selflessly making the decision to invest, sacrifice, and give of themselves.


The amazing thing is that these people often don’t even realize the impact they had. Because in many ways the relationships and encounters are mundane: getting together for prayer, an invitation to coffee, watching sports together, or just hanging out and doing life together


These profound moments occur under the guise of ordinary and unremarkable actions. It’s within these contexts that we feel loved, cared for, and fully realize our divine worth.


Throughout the Bible God calls us to love Him by loving others, but we manipulate this message by interpreting it as going on mission trips, tithing, and doing religious things in order to maintain the status quo while simultaneously avoiding deep and meaningful interactions with those closest to us. We often do as much as we possibly can in the name of God while at the same time trying to get by with as little relational investment as possible.


But true love involves relating to people, listening, empathizing, learning, and being in honest and vulnerable and difficult relationships. If we can’t sacrifice of ourselves and simply love those who we see every day—with those who are all around us—how can we be expected to travel hundreds of miles and effectively minister to others?


Christian platitudes, quoted verses, and overused clichés don’t do much when we’re struggling in our faith. Instead of superficial religious jargon that’s treated more like propaganda than the Gospel, we need real people intervening in our lives.


You are desperately needed in someone’s life. Today. Right now!


Don’t overcomplicate the love of Christ.


It means helping those around us: being a good friend, loving parent, supportive spouse, kind sibling, helpful co-worker, respecting those who are different from us, and taking the time to love people in practical, small, routine, and real ways.


Life-changing love doesn’t require much: a fifteen minute meeting, an email, a Facebook comment, a voicemail, a friendly text message, getting together for lunch, scheduling a playdate, inviting people over for dinner, watching the game together, or just spending time together.


Within a society obsessed with money, efficiency, and busyness, dedicating time and energy towards someone is one of our culture’s greatest gifts of love.


For people who get spiritually “burned out, ” they feel like they aren’t worth it. In many cases they have been abandoned or rejected by the Christian communities around them. They haven’t been loved, or they’ve been sacrificed and forgotten for the sake of convenience, ignorance, and apathy.


So today, tomorrow, next week, and for the rest of our lives, let’s practice being present with others, interacting on a human level, relating to people and being brave enough to align ourselves with their sorrows, doubts, struggles, and joys—to be a part of their lives, and allow them to be part of ours.


It’s hard work, but it’s worth the effort. In the end, our relationship with God is directly influenced by our relationships with others. God is a relational being who demands we love others just as He loves us. God help us.

About The Author


Stephen Mattson is the author of "The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ." Follow him on Twitter (@StephenMattson_)

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