“As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return. To go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labour. Which he may carry away in his hand.” – Ecclesiastes 5:15
Rest may refer to leisure, relaxation or sleep. Rest is the opposite of work. Rest is not being productive, not accomplishing anything and not overworking. Rest is often one of the most difficult things for people to do. Who would have thought that doing nothing would be one of the things we struggled with most? This is especially true in Christian circles! Christians are very prone to doing too much, trying to achieve too much while disregarding their need for rest. They fear being seen as lazy or unspiritual. Of course, this is a trap, a very well thought out trap by the one who opposes everything that God designed.
God rested after six days of work and He told us to follow His example. Jesus commended Mary for taking time out from work to be with Him. Jesus even said, “Come to Me, all you who labour 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.”
If the Almighty God and Jesus Christ have given us clear examples of how to rest, as well as clear instructions to rest, then why do we struggle so much with the concept of rest? Before we get into how and why we rest, let us examine why we do not want to rest. One form of not resting is of course overworking, burning the midnight oil, doing too much or burn the candle at both ends. Let’s take a look at why some of us tend to lean towards this horrible habit.
Some people are defined by what they do or by what they accomplish. If they stopped doing what they do, they would not know who they are. Is that you? Do you hide from who you really are by overworking? Do you feel good about your accomplishments and feel empty without them? Does your work define you?
Take some time to consider how your work affects you, it can be anything from your career or your work at church to things like being a parent or a spouse. Does anything that you do define you? If you stopped doing what you do, would others still recognise you? It is essential to stop every now and then and take an honest look at how much your work defines you. If you cannot be content with who you are during periods of rest, then you are clearly defined by your work and God never intended for our work to define us. We are made in His image therefore our definition should come from Him alone and nothing else.
This need to measure our value through the prism of our work is one reason why so many young people are often under so much pressure at school. Pressure to pick the right career is thrust upon them with the ultimatum that if they don’t pick well they will never amount to anything in life.
It’s sad that so much effort is put into pressurising young people to commit to a career and so little is invested in their self worth and identity as an individual. Family values, personal morals, integrity, confidence and other such things are seldom taught or encouraged at school, leaving young people unequipped to lead a balanced life.
Stop and Rest from Definition
If you know you are being defined by your work, stop and rest. Take time to discover who you really are and learn to be content whether you are busy with work or simply having a day off. Stop caring what people think of you and start taking care of yourself. After all, they don’t have to live your life, so you really don’t need to consider their opinion on how you live.
It doesn’t matter if you are not always on the go, if you don’t have something to show for your work, if you are not achieving all the time. Stop and rest, find out how you are made in God’s image and allow Jesus to give you rest.
Guilt is a trap in every possible form. Guilt is never a reason for anything at all. Too many people are trapped into overworking by guilt. They are not free to stop and rest because if they do people might think they are lazy. Perhaps they even perceive themselves as lazy if they rest and so guilt keeps them going.
Guilt motivates a parent or single parent to overwork in compensation for what the child has lost in a parent. Guilt motivates a spouse to overwork to make up for what they cannot provide in other areas of the marriage. Guilt motivates a student to overwork to get affirmation and love from their parents. Guilt causes a Christian to overwork in church because they have not understood God’s gift of grace.
The list could go on forever but if you are overworking at this point in your life, assess for yourself and see if you can find any guilt driving you to overwork.
Stop and Rest from Guilt
If you know you are overworking because you feel too guilty to stop, stop and rest from your guilt. Maintaining guilt is hard work and the opposite of guilt is innocence! Cut yourself some slack, you are innocent! Whatever you are beating yourself up about, stop and rest. There is nothing at all that you have ever done that cannot be forgiven. If you have been forgiven, you are innocent.
What will happen if I stop? What will I have to face if I am not consumed by my busyness? Some people fear having to face deep internal issues, they avoid dealing with things by overworking. At night they are so exhausted that the memories of a past hurt is easily avoided as they crash into a deep sleep from exhaustion. They continue with this pattern until one day everything comes crashing down around them. Their health suffers or their family falls apart or something dreadful happens as a result of their fear driven overworking.
Fear can also be a driving force where overwork is being done for love or approval, especially in children or in marriage. Children may drive themselves into complete burnout at school just to earn a simple well done at the end of the year. Many children are starved from tangible love and affection and so they force themselves to overwork. Fear of losing this love, affection and approval could cause them to continue overworking even though they know it is not good for their health.
The same can be said for a husband or wife who is working hard to earn love and acceptance or for a person who lives for the approval of their boss. Even when they realise how unhealthy it is, they may choose to continue to overwork, as they fear losing the approval that they so desperately need in order to survive.
Stop and Rest from Fear
If you know you are not taking time to rest because you are too full of fear, then stop and rest. Remember what the Bible says about fear, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
Rest in God’s love and allow His perfect love to cast out all of your fears. Take time out to be healed and set free from your fears. Overworking out of fear cannot solve anything, it will only add to your problems from which you cannot escape. Stop and rest.
This is a chapter snippet from He Restores My Soul. Find out more about disobedience, materialism and addiction – some of the other things that cause us to overwork and not rest in He Restores My Soul.