“Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without passion, without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness, vexation, despair” (Pascal, 1958)
Pascal seems to be describing what, in these days, we call “burn out”. Burn out suggests an inability to cope rather than exhaustion from labors. What we find is that many people are psychologically debilitated and overwhelmed even before they begin a task. Either the enormity of the challenge, or the perceived enormity, appears so staggering that they cannot face up to it. So emotionally, they retreat, and as they do, guilt overcomes them. The word of excuse-burn out.
In June of 1530, Martin Luther wrote to his young friend, Hieronymous Weller, who was overtaken by the spirit of melancholy. “Depression destroys many and is good for nothing……..The Lord does not confuse you……therefore, do not succumb to evil but courageously oppose it. In this struggle the best pattern is not to give attention to these thoughts and dwell on them and like hissing goose despise and go by them…..Wherefore you will do the right thing if you choose diversions with others, or find some other enjoyment, and ….have no scruples regarding games or play.”
There are good and not so good reasons why some people feel as they do. We would all be well advised to deal with their situation by heeding the analyses and counsel of Pascal and Luther.
“Lord, help me to throw myself into my work with passion, preparation, and abandon; into my home life with love and zeal, and into play with a freed conscience. Then, when the bedding hour comes, let me turn the world and its cares back to you while I sleep the sleep of a carefree child”.