Picture the last time you passed by someone you knew. Did the short conversation sound anything like this?
Them: “How’s it going?”
You: “Oh, not too bad. Just tired is all.”
For me, that is the script for just about every single passing interaction I have with an acquaintance. And usually I mean it, I’m usually pretty content and decently tired.
Why are we so tired?
The seasons can play a role, less daylight and colder weather in the winter can leave us feeling lethargic, sleepy, even depressed sometimes. Lack of sleep is an obvious one, it is sometimes even cited as a brag among the chronically tired, especially when I was in high school — who could show up having slept the least was a twisted badge of honor in some circles. Having a particularly hard day at work or school, maybe finals week is approaching, any one of these could be why we can feel so tired.
But I believe there is another aspect which is less considered by most people. It’s an aspect which I most often neglect despite feeling like it’s my goal.
It’s called “rest.”
At the end of the day you probably have some sort of routine you do to “relax.” You may watch TV, or if you’re in my demographic you watch YouTube, you may play a sport or go out with friends, you may even isolate yourself with a book for hours and find that to be relaxing. None of these things have inherent positive or negative qualities, but I think the misuse and misunderstanding of their purpose can lead to unrest and exhaustion.
What we call relaxation is often really recreation. We don’t settle our minds and spirits, we merely redirect our energy and attention.
God knows we need rest and even made it the law to his people. This is commanded in several places in the old testament, namely Exodus 23:12
“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the servant born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”
When we rest, I think we end up making ourselves even more busy. We pursue entertainment and distraction, but rarely do we truly rest. Jesus demonstrated a real and profoundly different style of resting than what many of us do. He would often get alone to pray, even before the sun rose. Jesus understood that the presence of God is more refreshing and calming even than really good sleep.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
Often I find I don’t rest because I feel like I don’t have time. I sometimes don’t even give time to the things I distract myself with, which could sound like a good thing except for that usually means I’m just extra exhausted. If you’re like me, you convince yourself that you have to always be working or things won’t get done and some terrible cataclysm or another will befall you. I have overworked myself lately with two jobs, trying to graduate, helping to plan and prepare for my wedding, and of course regular chores and errands. Even when I take a break, I feel like there’s more to be done, even when there isn’t a single space left to put more on my plate.
I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, the sense that you’re both doing too much while feeling like you’re not doing enough at all. We live in a world that praises “The Hustle” and “The Grind.” Lately, God is showing me how this can make me lose faith in him. It’s an important mark of a Christian to be diligent and reputable in their work, but the Bible warns about trusting too much in your work and not in God to provide for your needs. We can and should work at something and see to it that we do our part to do well. But when our only focus is working to acquire comfort or status or even just to feel secure, we eliminate God from our equation. We trust our own strength or skills to be all we need to get by when really, working without resting in God and trusting him is a recipe for burnout and exhaustion.
"And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
"And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing."
"Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
1 Timothy 6:17
"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy."
Remember if you’re exhausted, discouraged, or afraid of the future: God will sustain you. Trust in him. Learn to rest in his peace. Whether you have much time or little, God is faithful to give us rest when we trust in him.
If you are in a season of hard work, do it well. But don’t put your hope and trust in it. And don’t trust in distractions and comforts to give you rest. Peace comes through knowing God and being full of his Holy Spirit.
Take a day to rest each week. Take time each day to meet with God and be refreshed. It’s something so easy to forget but so vital to living a life seeking God.
Have a wonderful week!