Life tends to hit us out of nowhere doesn’t it? I’ll be thinking I’m doing ok, going about my daily life, tending to my responsibilities, serving in my ministry, giving it my all. Then out of nowhere, I feel totally drained. Every ounce of energy is gone and I feel nothing. I want to close the door and my heart and retreat into myself. I was so busy taking care of everything and everyone else, that I failed to take care of myself. I didn’t rest.
This happens no matter my intentions. I try to be there for everyone, be a good hostess, reach out to the needy, and counsel the hurting. But somewhere along the way I lose my passion and drive. I get tired. Not just a physical tired, but a full tired. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. If I’m not careful and intentional about rest, that tiredness can lead places I never want to be.
“We are restless when we rest less” -Rebekah Lyons
Three things happen when we don’t take care of ourselves and rest:
1.) When we fail to rest, we make poor decisions.
A great example of this is Esau in the Old Testament.
Genesis 25:29-34 ESV: Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!”… Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob…
Esau was a hard worker and a good son. But amidst exhaustion and extreme hunger (other translations use the words famished, starving, or faint), he made a terrible life altering decision. This may seem like an extreme example, but how many of us have made poor decisions when we’re tired? How many of us had said or done things we regret under the influence of fatigue? When our bodies and minds are tired, we cannot think clearly and we are unable to make informed decisions. We were not made to function without regular rest.
2.) When we fail to rest, we get sick.
Philippians 2:25-30 “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow… for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.“
We don’t know for sure what illness Epaphroditus was suffering from, but the Bible says “for he nearly died for the work of Christ”. The text leads us to believe that he worked himself into exhaustion and his immune system failed. Sometimes we get so busy running around that we use God as our excuse for being exhausted. We’re not doing any good by wearing ourselves down. We’re only opening up our body to harmful bacteria and viruses that we won’t be able to fight off because we depleted the charge on our immune systems. God created us to need rest. He created the Sabbath for us. A whole day set apart just to rest, and it wasn’t a suggestion. He devoted an entire commandment to tell us to keep the Sabbath. We have to rest to keep our bodies and minds healthy. More than, we get to rest.
3.) When we fail to rest, we experience burnout
Exodus 18: 14-23 ESV “When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”
Moses was trying to handle all the problems, all the time, all alone. If he hadn’t have listened to the wise counsel of his father-in-law, he would certainly have experienced burnout. I see burnout a lot in ministry. Pastors try to carry the load of the church all on their own, whether out of obligation, a sense of duty, or a need for control. They try to counsel all the people, visit all the sick, teach all the classes, preach all the sermons, and make all the decisions. They simply were not made to do it all. We were not created to do everything all the time. We were not created to do everything alone. If you’ve been running and serving to the point where you feel drained, it’s time to step back before it turns to burnout. Burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. Burnout can be destructive to our ministry, to our family, and especially to our marriage. It’s ok to say no to things to preserve our emotional and physical state. One of my favorite authors, Rebekah Lyons, says “We cannot run if we do not rest” (Rhythms of Renewal)
What then should we do to avoid exhaustion or burnout? The Scriptures have a lot to say about resting physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sometimes we need to put up the “Do Not Enter” sign and rest. Look with me at 4 steps we can take to avoid exhaustion and burnout:
1) Return to the practice of resting:
Psalm 116:7 “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”
Psalm 62:5 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.”
Rest always starts with getting good sleep. I recently went through a rough episode of insomnia. As spiritual as I wanted to be about it, no amount of reading my Bible or praying put me to sleep. Growing up I heard a lot of preachers say that if you’re not able to sleep you must have a guilty conscience. That is NOT TRUE and is a very harmful claim that is not backed up by Scripture. Sometimes there are unexplained medical conditions that can hinder our rest. Let me shout it from a rooftop, if you need help, get it. Do not let anyone make you feel ashamed or guilty about getting professional help when you need it. You may need medication, therapy, or professional counseling. There may be a severe underlying condition that you desperately need treatment for. Don’t try to do it alone. You will not be able to function without sleep and it will only add to your stress levels and quicken the onset of burnout.
While rest can start with physical rest in the form of sleep, it doesn’t end there. We have permission to step back, take a break, and rest. Get into the habit of practicing the Sabbath weekly. Every month, take a weekend for renewal. At least once a year, take a full week for a vacation. Turn off your cell phone and have a staycation or get out of town and away from your daily routine. Log off of all social media and give yourself permission to live a private life for a bit. Use this time to lay on the beach, hike up a mountain, read by a lake, or picnic in the countryside. Rest.
2) Enter into the Father’s peace:
Psalms 4:8 “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Once we realize that we can not control this world, that we are in the hands of a great and powerful God who loves us, we can rest in peace. God tells us to cast our cares and anxiety on Him. We were never meant to carry the loads that we try to hold tight to. One of my favorite songs says “I will rest in the Father’s hands. Leave the rest in the Father’s hands”.
3) Sabbath as we are commanded:
Exodus 20:8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Ezekiel 20:20 “Sanctify My Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.”
Yearly vacations are optional, monthly weekend getaways are a rare luxury, but we have been commanded by our Creator to rest once a week. For most of us, that’s Sunday. However if your particular job has you working on a Sunday, you should be choosing another day each week to rest. Spend your time mediating of Scriptures, and renew your body and mind. God created us so He knows how critical rest is.
“A world without a Sabbath would be like a man without a smile, like a summer without flowers, and like a homestead without a garden. It is the most joyous day of the week. ” —Henry Ward Beecher
4) Trade stress for satisfaction:
Proverbs 19:23 “The fear of the LORD leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”
Psalm 107:8-9 “Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness…For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.”
Psalms 100:4 “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”
We get so busy with life, running around trying to accomplish so many things. We have such busy schedules and take on too many responsibilities. If you find yourself become weary time and time again, it may be time to give up some things. Re-evaluate what is important and adjust your priorities. Some activities or commitments may need to be cut and that’s ok. We overwork ourselves to accumulate more stuff. If we learn to be satisfied with what we have, we may find rest and peace soon follows.
Friends, we desperately need to learn to rest in this modern busy world. Rest was given to us by our Savior to use as a shield against the enemy. If we’re always busy and stressed out, we cannot tend to our relationship with Christ and we’ll soon find ourselves defeated. That’s what the enemy wants. Satan wants us tired and stressed so we give up, so we’re not able to be a light in this dark world. Don’t let him win. Rest in peace and rest in God. Then stand and fight.