As a social worker, jail chaplain, and justice advocate, Bethany Dearborn Hiser pushed herself to the brink of burnout—and then kept going. Stress, despair, and compassion fatigue overwhelmed her ability to function. She was called to serve the abused, addicted, and homeless people in her community. Yet she was emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Something needed to change.
Searching for answers, Hiser learned that trauma affects everyone who is exposed to it—not only those experiencing it firsthand. Psychologists call it "secondary trauma." She realized that she needed the very soul care that she was providing to others. From Burned Out to Beloved is Hiser's story of burnout, self-discovery, and spiritual renewal. But more than that, it's a trauma-informed soul care guide for all Christians working in high-stress, helping professions.
Whether you're a social worker, therapist, pastor, teacher, or healthcare professional, From Burned Out to Beloved will equip you to confess your limitations, embrace your identity as a beloved child of God, and flourish in your vocation.
"Trauma affects everyone, and yet as Bethany Dearborn Hiser points out, soul care is not for the faint-hearted and is often dismissed by the burned out and overworked. From Burned Out to Beloved takes us on an important journey of self-discovery, enabling us to balance contemplation and activism in a way that brings healing and wholeness. This is an important book for all who feel the growing pressures of ministry."
"From Burned Out to Beloved literally woos us as service providers and as leaders to slow down, to breathe in deeply the knowledge we are the Trinity's beloved child, and to be transformed! For twenty-two years I was the executive director of New Horizons, a ministry for homeless youth and young women involved in prostitution. Those years taught me and those I served with much about the trauma that can come into one's soul as we loved and served those in great need. We learned—through listening to the Trinity, practicing vulnerability with each other, and many trials and errors—much of the truth Bethany profoundly shares through her book. She has encapsulated significant truth, depth of understanding, and tools to embrace spiritual, emotional, and physical wholeness while learning from those you serve. For the last twelve years I have served as a spiritual director to Christian leaders and have seen the vital truths Bethany teaches us transform the lives of leaders who are weary and in need. I deeply encourage you to read this book slowly, to engage in Bethany's suggested practices, and to learn the joy of burning without being consumed. Just as Scripture calls out, this is holy ground."
"What Bethany Dearborn Hiser offers here is essential for every pastor, social worker, caregiver, or friend: a gaze into the groaning beauty of being human. Her vision of this mystery is candid, sustained, tender, and hopeful. Holistic life and ministry has seldom been portrayed as more inspiring, or as more daunting. Hiser gives those of us in ministry a clear reminder that human beings reflect the exquisite glory of God's design as well as our human proclivity to be victims and perpetrators of our own worst instincts. Therein lies the glory and agony of the human journey that every teenager, young adult, client, older parishioner, family, or small group must face. Our individual and collective need for credible hope turns first on God's gift in Jesus Christ and also on our readiness to live nothing more, but nothing less, than a truly human life—for our sake and our neighbor's. This is the mission of God's grace in every ministry setting. I'm grateful that Hiser helps us see why we need this ourselves and how to live it in freedom and joy, more than in exhaustion."
"From Burned Out to Beloved is an essential road map for those who want to be of service. We welcome our wounds and shift how we see. We don't go to the margins to make a difference but to be made different by those we encounter there. Hiser's book leads the way."
"Bethany Dearborn Hiser offers the reader a refreshingly bold and practical resource for those seeking healthier patterns toward wholeness and sustainability. Grounded in her experience and research, Hiser is not afraid to name critical intersections of race and gender and how those identities inform one's lens of engagement in the world. This book is a must-read for those who think they already have it figured out!"
"If you are picking up this book, you probably have a huge heart for the desperate and broken ones on the earth. This is beautiful, but if you try to save the world in your own strength, you will be extremely burned out. Bethany Dearborn Hiser could attest to that. Then God led her on a journey of recovery and reflection, and this powerful book was birthed through the process. During our first years in Mozambique rescuing abandoned children from the streets and praying for daily provision, I also reached my limits. I just wanted to go work at K-Mart, but then God encountered me in a radical way. He taught me to abide in him. John 14 and 15 became my life verses. As you read these pages, let God do a deep work in your heart and lead you into his fullness. God wants to encounter you and fill you with the oil of his presence. He wants to reshape your ideas about who you are and how you're called to minister. We are the lovers of Jesus, the body of Christ. We are fully accepted in him. Living from the secret place, we can truly burn for him and not burn out!"
"From Burned Out to Beloved is a tremendous resource for Christians involved in the caring vocations. Bethany has shared her own honest and raw story of burnout as well as recovery, and the lifelong journey that entails. As she states, 'Our theology, trauma exposure, and shame can all impact our behavior and beliefs.' Bethany makes good connections between Scripture and the beliefs that impact Christians in the helping professions, while guiding readers to excellent resources, reflective questions, and spiritual practices to heal the soul and help maintain caregiver health."
"Bethany Dearborn Hiser used 'invincible' to describe herself during her early years of doing social work. I have known Bethany for many years, and I can testify that she did seem invincible. But as she relates, her invincibility came crashing down. This wonderful book tells the story of how wrong she was, and how wrong all of us are when we serve as if we were God's equal. Facing classic burnout, she discovered what it means to live in grace and freedom, to know one is beloved, to learn to rest and play, all the while continuing to serve. This book is a banquet of insight, beauty, truth, and practical wisdom. I started to read it to honor Bethany's request for an endorsement. It did not take me long to discover how much I needed to read it for me. Thank you, Bethany, for this helpful, honest, elegant little book!"
"Bethany Dearborn Hiser's From Burned Out to Beloved is a great resource for all who have found themselves on the verge of being burned out doing service and wondering where God is. Her honest retelling of her story makes this book more a companion than a condemning voice, as she invites the reader to experience becoming the beloved of God. Hiser integrates psychological and theological resources to provide a deeper understanding of how to serve others and thrive, both thoughtfully and practically. The question is not, How do we serve, but from what sources do we draw to do service? For those of us who train people to think of communal service as a lifestyle, this is an important lesson in teaching them how to flourish."
"Applicable. Accessible. Essential. From Burned Out to Beloved gently and authentically challenges false belief systems, especially for those of us addicted to helping, overcommitting, and saying yes. Bethany Dearborn Hiser addresses the barriers that keep us from living fully from our true selves and provides applicable guidance toward healing and freedom. The text is vivid with concrete stories and examples, full of practical steps and guides, and grounded in prayer and authentic connection with God. Hiser looks not just at the why of burnout but even deeper at the motives behind our work . . . and at the how of healing, with clear steps toward freedom and growth. The text sings of God's deep love for us and our ultimate need for connection with him to sustain any meaningful work we do. This is a relevant and critical guide for anyone who is involved in ministry and people-centered work. We're adopting it as part of our staff-training program as an essential read."
"A former detective of child molestation and murder cases once told me, 'Detectives in this field don't last long. They either quit or burn out after a few years.' I've seen the same thing happen to those living and serving in marginalized communities. If Jesus calls us to insert ourselves into the wounds of society as agents of healing, how are we to keep from becoming swallowed up by those wounds? Bethany Dearborn Hiser has discovered the pathway out of secondary trauma and burnout. She found that walking alongside those experiencing domestic abuse, incarceration, and drug addiction was a gift, waking her to her own brokenness, poverty, and limitations. But it was also a slippery slope into a messianic complex and codependency. From Burned Out to Beloved is the personal protective equipment required for those serving in a global pandemic of violence and sorrow."
Introduction: Confessions of a Social Justice Workaholic
Part One: Centering
1. Trauma-Informed Soul Care
2. Living as Beloved
3. Wounded Healers
Part Two: Unpacking
4. Secondary Trauma
5. Codependency in the Workplace
6. Needs and Desires
7. False Beliefs
Part Three: Recovering
8. Identifying Stages of Change
9. Moving from Shame to Self-Empathy
10. Embracing Our Need for Others
11. Changing Beliefs and Behaviors
Part Four: Thriving
12. Discerning to Say No and Yes
13. Creating Rhythms of Rest and Renewal
14. Living in Joy
Appendix: Grounding Practices
Appendix: Listening Prayer Exercises