For most of us, between work, family, kids, and just managing life, we’re tired.
It doesn’t help that we have a culture that chronically overworks, even going so far as to teach overwork as a value. Every study out there, of course, shows that overwork is bad for us—for our families and our health. Healthcare professionals say overwork is a factor in most of the common medical ailments in our society, including heart disease, lung ailments, cancer, accidental injuries, and cirrhosis of the liver. A recent CNN study showed that those who work 11-hour days are 250 percent more likely to become depressed than those who limit their work to eight-hour days.
We Christians usually know that God doesn’t want us to overwork. And yet Christians don’t seem to be any less tired than everyone else in our frenetic culture.
I know there are seasons when God has called each of us to extreme sacrifice (and accompanying weariness). For instance, no one should heap shame on mothers because their newborns are keeping them awake day and night. But as a way of life, we need to remember that God has not called us to be a tired people. He has called us, in fact, to rest as we trust in his provision for our lives.
I recently read an article from a Christian doctor and sleep specialist who identified four types of rest we need as part of our daily lives.
We need to remember that God has not called us to be a tired people. He has called us to rest as we trust in his provision for our lives.
1. Mental Rest
Mental rest means disengaging from what you typically do for work in order to do something else. For those of us with sedentary jobs, that may be exercise or something else active. It may be some kind of hobby—painting or reading a book. Whatever it is, mental rest works best when we do something that requires our full attention, and we do only that. (This is one of the reasons scrolling through social media like a zombie doesn’t actually make us feel more rested.)
Throughout the Bible, we see Jesus commanding his people to take time off to remind themselves that they aren’t the ones doing the work: “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (Mark 6:31 NIV).
Even when “so many were coming,” Jesus knew there was time to stop and prioritize the Father and reflect on the fact that it is God who does the work.
By the way, here’s a word for you employers: Make this a vital piece of your employees’ lives. Extend this benefit to your employees and don’t indirectly punish them when they use it. Prioritizing rest among your employees is a way of honoring God’s created order, and God will certainly bless you for it. And, ironically enough, statistics show that your employees become more productive, not less, when encouraged to take ample time off.
2. Social Rest
This includes daily time to connect with people you enjoy. Maybe it means one night a week you dedicate to building and enjoying community—like a small group. Whatever it means for you, this is a day to focus on God and the gifts he has given, one of the most important being your relationships.
Public worship should always be a part of Sabbath rest. After all, of all the gifts God has given us to enjoy, our relationship with him is paramount. But it’s also a day to be with family, be outdoors, and do things you enjoy. When you do, God multiplies your effort on the other six days.
3. Spiritual Rest
Sabbath is a time where the soul re-centers itself on God and his provision, and the best way to do this is to build a daily quiet time into your schedule to unplug from electronics and social media, get in God’s Word, and spend time getting to know him.
There are other ways to re-center throughout your day that will be specific to you. I know a pastor who asked his assistant to build a five-minute space between each of his meetings for him to pray. Between each counseling appointment, staff meeting, or visit, he would take five minutes to stop, pray, and rest, because he knew it would affect how he approached everything he had to do that day.
4. Physical Rest
Psalm 127:1–2 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (ESV).
According to Psalm 127, what’s the sign that you are beloved by God? Not Bible knowledge. Not holiness. Not working hard for God. Sleep. I struggle with that. Here’s why: If I’m asleep, then who’s watching over the city? Who is building the house?
We all tend to labor under the delusion that without us, everything would fall apart. So we overwork and overcommit. And sleep becomes a luxury for the unimportant.
But God knows we can’t thrive that way. At 3:30 a.m., God has not appointed you to worry about “the city” of your church, your job, or your family. He has appointed you to sleep. He intended sleep—and all rest—to be a time every day where you remind yourself of the gloriously freeing truth: You are not God.