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Finding Rest in a Burnout Culture

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Staying busy, working hard and striving to achieve goals aren’t bad practices, but they can’t replace our reliance on God.

Take the rest next time

Halfway through the song, my band teacher stopped everyone. People were looking at me, but I didn’t know why. I double-checked the music. I had played the right note. What did I do wrong?

“There’s a rest there,” my teacher explained. “You’re one note ahead of everyone else. Take the rest next time.”

Resting is important in music. If you don’t rest when you should, you’ll end up playing a desynchronized mess. It’s also important in life. I hate taking a beat at work because I’m afraid of falling behind. But God’s written a beautiful melody for our lives based on a rhythm that requires a rest every six notes.

Work, work, work, work, work, work, rest. Repeat.

The reality of burnout

I was putting in overtime, burning the midnight oil trying to complete a big project at work. I had just been promoted, and I felt I had a lot to prove. I wanted to impress my boss and show him I was the right person for the job. The pressure was enormous, and the stakes were high. I was determined to do the job well no matter how hard or how long I had to work to get it done.

I came home from work feeling depleted. My batteries were low, and I wasn’t recharging them. After three weeks, I eventually crashed and burned.

I had nothing left for myself or anyone I loved. I was spent.

The dangers of burnout

I was working so hard I stopped taking care of myself. I wasn’t eating healthy; I stopped exercising, and I spent as little time sleeping as possible. In a matter of two months, I gained over 60 pounds.

I was rarely happy and struggled to find joy. My closest friend was worried sick about me because nothing seemed to make me happy. My relationships with family and friends fell by the wayside. I stopped taking time to relax and enjoy my favorite pastimes.

And then there was the distance left between me and God.

I acted like I didn’t need an infinite and eternal God to provide for my needs. I didn’t need to rest. I was a self-sustaining entity — a god of my own. I tried to sustain my reckless pace of work without His help or provision and failed miserably.

When I ran out of juice, I didn’t slow down. I got mad. Why wouldn’t God just give me the time and energy I needed to complete this project.

A weekly gift from God

God gives us a special gift in the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11). He tells us to rest every six days. Unlike the other nine commandments, I have to remind myself constantly that the fourth isn’t optional.

Jesus said He made the Sabbath for us, not us for it (Mark 2:27). It’s a gift. God doesn’t just want me to rest from my work every once in a while. He requires me to rest after six days of work — just like He did. That’s an amazing gift, and I don’t appreciate it like I should.

I’d love it if I got to work after a long week, and my manager told me, “You’ve been working hard, and I need you to take today off and rest.”

I can’t imagine replying, “No thanks. I’ll just keep working hard until I crash and burn. I don’t need to rest.”

Yet, that’s how I often treat the fourth commandment.

Trust the Provider of all you need

God created us to work, to be fruitful and to multiply. He also created us to rest. In both the Old and New Testaments, God emphasizes how important it is to rest (Deut. 5:12-15; Heb. 4:9). Namely, how important it is to rest in Him.

Staying busy, working hard and striving to achieve goals aren’t bad practices, but they can’t replace our reliance on God.

When we act like work is the sole provider of the things we need, work becomes an idol. Work alone can’t provide food, clothing, housing and sustenance. Only God can.

He is the source of everything we have and need (Psalm 145:15-16).

I can’t neglect the work God’s called me to, but God’s provision for my needs doesn’t depend on how hard I work. It depends on His unconditional love for me. The Sabbath is a weekly reminder that God’s grace is more powerful than all my efforts combined.

Rest is a gift from God. We should take it every week, resting in Him and trusting Him to provide.

Copyright 2019 Marc Aker. All rights reserved.

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