Monday, March 10, 2014

Stop Feeling Guilty About Needing Rest!

It’s daylight savings time. I probably don’t have to convince you that you’re tired. Most of us wake up in a fog until we’ve had that first (or fourth) cup of coffee. Then, next thing we know, we’re going to bed about to do it all over again. Life seems like it moves a hundred miles per hour. We all know when we’re tired.

If we all know we’re tired, it seems strange that so many of us (yours truly included) feel guilty about needing rest. We work 50+ hour weeks and feel like we’d be “letting people down” if we rested. The title of this blog is simply what I find myself speaking to others, and myself, far too often.

So is rest spiritual? More importantly, will the answer change how you approach rest?

I love the account of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:3-9. Right in the middle of all the hoopla that is 1 Kings, we find the famous Elijah with a rest problem:

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.
Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”
So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

Definitely not your everyday experience. Elijah had already done a lot of things as a prophet, but God wasn’t done with him yet. So what can we learn from Elijah’s experience?

1.    Everything seems more dramatic when you’re tired
No, you’re not turning in to a teenager again. It’s been proven that when you are sleep deprived you are more anxious, irritable, and self-absorbed. Elijah had already done a lot in serving God. You may have heard of a little incident when he called on God to rain down fire from the sky to consume other idols on Mount Carmel. Pretty intense stuff, but that’s a very different Elijah than we see in this section of scripture. Here, Elijah is asking to die! He is ready to give up! Elijah isn’t a sissy! He’s in desperate need of a break!

2.    God isn’t mad that you need a break
I don’t know how many of us would actually admit we’ve felt this way. It may come out as something like, “I should be able to handle this,” “I can’t let people down,” or “I don’t want people to be disappointed.” Granted, I am in the midst of crazy ministry all the time, so that’s where I see this play out up close, but it’s applicable to everyone no matter your vocation. Maybe deep down, we feel like we’ve failed if we have to take a break. What’s interesting about this section of scripture is that we really see the heart of God for Elijah. The angel doesn’t appear and say, “Oh you of little faith, get up and get moving.” No! The angel gives him food and then lets him keep napping! Don’t lose sight of the fact that God created the Sabbath! None of us have it together more than the creator of the universe and even He took a break.

3.    Maturity has little but everything to do with it
If that seems confusing, stick with me. None of us would say that Elijah needed rest because he lacked spiritual maturity. We wouldn’t have walked up to him and said, “Hey man, maybe if you spent some more time in the word, you wouldn’t so tired! Have you tried journaling?”
Don’t be that guy.
Elijah was a prophet of God! He didn’t lack spiritual maturity. The fact is, he had been running for his life and was tired. Spiritual maturity doesn’t have anything to do with our need for rest. However, it has everything to do with whether we actually rest. It takes maturity to recognize that you are tired, burned out, and need a break. It takes some courage to walk in to work or your home and say, “I need to take a little break.”

I have heard and said many different excuses for not taking a break. Usually, I know I didn’t speak up soon enough when I end up in a tired, puddle of emotions. It doesn’t have to get that far. Rest doesn’t have to be dramatic. We have to step away from our people pleasing, prideful selves and admit that we’re human.

I really believe that rest is a next step for a lot of people. God may have been telling you for a while that you need to slow down. Don’t let things get dramatic before you do. God isn’t disappointed that you need a break (and frankly, that’s where your concern about approval should end) and you don’t lack spiritual maturity because you’re tired, but it’s a sign of maturity to say you need a break.

Just like Elijah, God has more He wants to do through you. If you’re a leader of a team or organization, you need to know that you set the tone of this for everyone who is following you. If you aren’t being intentional about resting, your team probably isn’t either. Invest in your relationship with Him and embrace the spiritual side of rest. 

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