We live in a world where productivity matters. Being good at your job isn’t enough any more; life constantly demands us to be quicker, more efficient and more productive and it’s little surprise that stress is on the rise. With ‘to do’ lists that grow faster than queues for Black Friday bargains I wonder how many people put ‘rest’ on their to do list? It isn’t exactly exciting, glamorous or inspiring, but somehow we’ve almost allowed the idea of rest to be twisted into selfishness or laziness. This certainly isn’t what God intended. A quick bible search flashed back 508 references to the word ‘rest’. God modelled it in Genesis 2:2 (on the seventh day he rested) and Jesus modelled it in the new testament, regularly taking himself ‘away from the crowds’.
However, churches need to be especially careful about rest. A survey of 1,050 pastors from 2005-06 revealed ‘90% were frequently fatigued and worn out on a weekly or even daily basis’*. There are many pervasive reasons in a church setting why people give beyond healthy limits . Ideas that:
- God deserves our best
- We must live our lives sacrificially to Him
- God will protect you from harm/illness if you’re doing His work
Whilst I agree with the first two, giving our best means giving out of rest. Our best refers to quality but so often we still hear the words quantity. Constantly giving of ourselves will only drain the battery until there is nothing left to give. I don’t think this is the sort of sacrifice that God intended! None of us know where our breaking point is until it is broken and it is far easier to maintain health than to regain it.
Churches thrive on rotas. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a rota for people writing the rotas! Clearly chores need to be done in any community organisation but we also need to be careful that we are serving our own calling and not someone else’s. If there is not a shared vision for service then we shouldn’t expect the service to be shared! We need to make sure that what we are doing energises and motivates us and we don’t just become someone else’s prop. There is a lot of truth in the saying that if you want something doing then ask a busy person but maybe that busy person actually needs challenging on why they are so busy!
Stress is thought to contribute to many illnesses. For example:
Rest is something that I now take very seriously, partly because I spent too long ignoring it. I lost my career, my much loved active lifestyle of fitness and exercise and have spent years trying to build up a life that can sustain a (reduced) social life, and things that give me purpose in life. Whilst stress didn’t cause my illness, (ME) it was probably a contributing factor, although to what extent I will never know. I didn’t feel stressed at the time, and I was in a fortunate position of being able to do what I’ve always loved doing. However, our passions can also become our obsessions.
“I worked hard, played hard and exercised hard but hardly ever rested.”
I worked hard, played hard and exercised hard but hardly ever rested. I used to hate resting – I still do but I have learnt a lot through the years of enforced rest and I will probably always need to counterbalance what I do with equal amounts of rest if I want to regain a healthy lifestyle. It’s what everyone with ME knows as pacing. I’ve blogged a lot about living with ME over the last two years and it’s not my intention to go over old ground again although I would like to emphasise that ME is far more than being tired or chronically fatigued.
However, the principle of work-rest balance is important for all of us whether we’ve had a chronic illness or not. Whether we are in paid or voluntary work, we will all have to share our responsibility in things that have to be done but we also need to have clear boundaries on what our values, purpose and priorities are. There is so much more that could be said about the need for rest but rest time is knocking for me ( and probably you!) Lets not put the word ‘rest’ out to rest but reclaim it to prominence where it deserves to be. We need to be counter cultural and remember that to give our best we must give from rest. So, look again over your to-do list; are there any changes that need to be made?!