For years I operated on this principle: “I’ll rest when the work is done.” But I slowly came to realize the work is never done. And as a result, I was never resting. It took a brush with serious burnout to convince me I had to change my thinking. I needed to learn to say, “I’ll rest when I’m done.” In other words, when I become weary or depleted it’s my sacred duty to stop for a bit.
Jesus illustrated this when He said to His disciples, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). Those words might lead us to believe they had helped everyone they could and done all that was possible. But the opposite was actually true. The same verse continues, “He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”
I’m convinced one of the reasons we see so much burnout, especially from those in ministry, is because we don’t think God gives us permission to pull away, slow down or take a break. But our souls are not made to go nonstop. Our hearts are vessels that need to be refilled. Our bodies have limits we need to respect.
When we ignore those realities it’s like driving a car and saying, “I’ll stop when there’s no more road.” It’s much wiser to say, “I’ll stop when my fuel gauge tells me my tank is getting low.” The latter ensures we’ll go much, much farther. And avoid a lot of pain along the way.
These are signs it may be time to stop and refuel…
- We lose the joy in what we’re doing. What used to be a blessing now feels like a burden.
- We are irritable or resentful of others who don’t work as hard as we do or appreciate our efforts.
- We’re consistently relying on quick fixes to keep up our energy like lots of caffeine or sugar while neglecting healthy food and exercise.
- We’re doing so much for God that we don’t have time to simply be with God.
- We’re anxious, depressed or discouraged but can’t figure out why.
- We’re falling back into bad habits or destructive choices to numb our pain.
- We hear from those who love us that they’re concerned about our well-being.
All of the above point to this: We are exceeding our personal capacity. Even if it seems like we’re getting away with it, there are unseen costs and consequences we can’t escape.
And while we get caught up in the urgent of each day, Jesus is focused on what’s important for a lifetime. He knows we may “gain more ground” now only to lose all of it and then some when we come to a standstill from exhaustion. As a life coach, I said this probably more than anything else to clients: There is a significant difference between what’s doable and what’s sustainable.
Choosing to say “I’m done for now” is not weakness. It’s wisdom. It’s also essential to staying strong and finishing well. The work will be there tomorrow. The real question if we refuse to rest is, will we be?
Thankfully, Jesus still extends the same invitation He did to the disciples: “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” We can trust He will use those times to fill us up then send us out again to serve even more powerfully than before.
Here’s the secret I’ve finally discovered: Sometimes the most important, productive thing we can do is nothing at all.
Cheering You On,
If you want more help moving from fear to a place of rest and faith, you’ll find it in my new ebook, Fear, I’m Over You: a 21-day Challenge to Live with Less Worry and More Courage (and it’s only $1.99 right now).
Also, on More than Small Talk this week we’re talking more about how to Beat Burnout!
And if you need a boost as a writer, my course Be a Kick-Butt Writer by Friday will help you move forward with new clarity and confidence!