When Rest Won’t Come

There are no quiet seasons. I’ve yet to live a year of life where the volume wasn’t loud.

“If I can just get through high school…”
“When this semester of college is done…”
“It’s a unique time, we just got married. It’ll settle down…”
“It’s a unique time, we just had a baby. It’ll settle down…”
“It’s a unique time, we’re in grad school. It’ll settle down…”

It never settles down. The weight doesn’t lift. It simply transfers to something else. The sense of urgency that comes with the immediate can be deafening at times and lead to despair.

Volume smothers rest and fosters burnout.

KNOW THE REASON
I found that even vacation couldn’t take the pressure. Too much rest had been pushed off, and a week couldn’t make up for lost time. Plus, rest felt fidgety. All I could do was think about what I didn’t get done the week before, or how I could get ahead on the coming week. I wasn’t a workaholic, but I had a disability when it came to rest.

There was always something or someone that needed my attention, or so I thought. The idea would push me to check my phone, my email, my calendar – just one more time. The inner murmur would get louder and louder until I couldn’t hear anything else. Then burnout.

I blamed my pace, stage of life, and leadership capacity. None of those were the issue though. And, if you find stress at every turn, they aren’t yours either.

Those things certainly influence life’s volume level, but you’re the only one who can turn down the dial. That’s what I discovered. The problem wasn’t my schedule, but my heart.

KNOW THE SOLUTION
Jesus told the physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted,

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What’s interesting about Jesus’ invitation is that He’s calling people to work. “Take my yoke upon you…” The Gospel allows us to work from our rest. I’ve heard that phrase many times but hadn’t experienced it until recently. It’s one thing to say you believe this, but another thing altogether to live as if it were true.

Over the last year, I’ve found that my rest and my faith are inextricably linked. If I cannot rest, it’s because I’m not first resting in Christ. Here are two realities from The Gospel that bring me rest each day:

  1. I am accepted by God in Christ. My worth, therefore, is not tied to the opinions of others. When my life isn’t driven by the fear of rejection, the volume lowers.
  2. All my failures have been paid for by Christ. I don’t have to be afraid of it. When my life is not adrenalized by fear, the volume lowers.

When we find rest in these spiritual truths, we have freedom to rest physically and mentally. Sometimes, we just need to sleep-in. It’s a good first step anyway. But sleep won’t ultimately rehabilitate a crippled heart. I had to create rhythms of rest that found their footing in Christ.

KNOW YOURSELF
For someone on the verge of burnout, hearing “Pray and read your Bible more” will only sound like another thing to tack on a “to-do” list. There’s no one-stop shop here. True and complete rest begins in our hearts with Christ. Everything hinges on it. And yet He has created us as spiritual, emotional, physical, relational and mental beings. When we are not finding rest in Christ, there are warning signs in all of these areas.

It helps to take a step back and look for your warning signs. Here were a few triggers I look for in my own life. If these begin to happen, I know that I need rest:

  1. I see my spouse as draining.
  2. I’m short with my children.
  3. I begin to spend too much time thinking about details that don’t really matter.
  4. I constantly check my phone.
  5. I feel like my schedule is drowning me.
  6. I don’t have time to exercise or mow my lawn.
  7. I go more than two days without writing.

At least one of these happens every week. It’s why I have to run to the truths of Christ daily, where fears are stilled and strivings cease.

And, as important as it is to know when you need rest, it is just as important to know how you rest well. Here is how I’m learning to combat burnout on a weekly basis:

  1. Turn off my phone
  2. Get 8 hours of sleep (every night)
  3. Take my wife on a lunch date (every Friday)
  4. Listen to a life-giving sermon
  5. Read my Bible slowly
  6. Roast coffee
  7. Write
  8. Read something unrelated to work
  9. Go to the library
  10. Watch a movie

What’s your list? You need one, and you need to guard it with your life. But most of all you need to remember that it will simply become another to-do list if your heart is not first resting in Christ.

Don’t burnout. True Rest is waiting for you.

7 thoughts on “When Rest Won’t Come

  1. What a heart you have, Blake, & much talent in writing!!! Seems you might be mentored in both by Bill Elliff?? PTL. Thanks for reminding us to rest in Christ & blessing us so very much!! Love in Jesus, Don & Suzanne Dudgeon. Psalm 28:6&7

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    • Thanks so much Don. That means a lot. Great to hear from you! And absolutely, I’ve definitely have been influenced a time or two by ole Bill Elliff 🙂

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  2. […] Social media, email, text messaging, and expectations surrounding our value of busyness all play key factors in our inability to rest well. I believe there is a foundational component to all of this, and have written about it here. […]

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  3. Courtney and I had a conversation about all of this last night in a roundabout way. Utter exhaustion everyday it seems for both of us. Thanks for writing. Extremely encouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Spot on! I learned very late that rest and peace are so important. I am now quite ill, ran myself so ragged for too many years. I am learning slowly to let go and let God. It has never come easy for me, but it is worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

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