KEY THOT: Elijah was quite obviously on the edge of a burn-out for “he asked that he might die” (v.4). He was so wearied he fell asleep under a broom tree. Instead of granting him his death wish, an angel woke him up to eat hot bread-cakes and drink plenty of water--not once but twice. After much sleep, food and water, Elijah was revived in his spirit and left for Mt Horeb without eating again for forty days and nights. Sometime, the best cure for burn-out is not counselling, but a good sleep, proper nutrition and water. We can't just have soul-care without body-care, for the two are not separate but one.
Our body is our vehicle for ministry: it must be properly maintained and tuned up like a car. When we over-use it by cutting back on sleep or proper nutrition, it’s going to affect our spiritual well-being and start sending “death-wish” warning signals. Just as the car engine will “die” if not properly maintained, so will our body "give up" if we abuse it by over-working it without proper sleep, nutrition and exercise. When we are feeling burn-out, the best cure is sufficient sleep, proper nutrition and exercise. Our physical health affects our spiritual well-being.
Unfortunately, many Christians think they can be careless about what they do with their bodies (sleep deprivation, junk food and no exercise) and still remain spiritually strong. We have over-spiritualized the Christian life thinking that all we need as believers is "spiritual" formation while ignoring our bodily health. It's interesting that when Paul calls for consecration, he refers to our bodies, not our souls: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom 12:1).
"Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” is still a good proverb to apply for those who are busy in work and ministry—if we want to avoid work/ministry burn-out. If I want to serve the Lord long, I must make time for sleep, for exercise and of course eating healthy food. In recent time, I have been trying to sleep earlier so I can have sufficient sleep and still rise early and have my regular exercise. When I sleep well, and have my early morning devotion followed by physical exercise, I feel recharged and ready for my own Mt Horeb experience of hearing God’s "still small voice."
Father, thank You that You care for us as total persons—body, soul and spirit. Help us to care for our bodies as much as we care for our souls. Amen.