Just like Aretha Franklin so famously sang, “R-E-S-T-I-N-G is supposed to be so good for me, R-E-S-T-I-N-G what’s that? Please help me!” Ok so we all know that The Queen of Soul never quite belted those lyrics, but I have read them in the eyes of countless pastors, mine included. Sometimes it feels like there is just so much going on that taking a break to actually rest is not only impossible, but for all practical purposes, it’s probably a little foolish. Thoughts like this aren’t healthy long term, but we hold to them anyway. The truth is we were designed with rest in mind.
We all know the story, God created the earth in 6 days and then:
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.
-Genesis 2:2 ESV
If God needed rest why would we think that we wouldn’t? He designed the need for rest in our systems. Just like oil in your car, without it things don’t run smoothly and eventually they stop running at all.
Rest isn’t an option, but far too many of us have bought into the myth that we don’t need it.We hear stories about CEOs and business tycoons getting by on less than five hours of sleep and functioning at extremely high capacity and think we should do the same. This simply isn’t sustainable. A lack of sleep on a regular basis increases our anxiety, irritability, blood pressure, as well as increasing risks for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. None of this is news to us and yet, we still find ourselves living in patterns of exhaustion.
Our belief systems drive our behavior. We cannot change unless we confront the underlying beliefs that we organize our lives by. The Apostle Paul brilliantly spoke to this when he wrote:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
With that in mind I would like to challenge you to examine 5 myths that we believe that keep us from rest.
1. It all depends on you.
You are a leader for a reason. You are capable, talented, you finish tasks and know how to do the job well. All of that is true of you and it is commendable, but as we know our strengths become our weakness if left unchecked. As a leader the responsibility doesn’t really ever leave, but how you carry that responsibility makes all the difference.
To shine some light on this myth you need to take time and examine your resources. One of the greatest resources we have are the people we lead. If we are any good at our jobs at all we are attracting and developing leaders to us that are also capable, talented, and dedicated to excellence. Let them carry some of that weight.
2. The world will fall apart unless you hold it together.
There have been many times when you were the one who kept everything together for your family, the office, and even the community. People go to you for more than wisdom and direction, they need your strength. And all of that is awesome, but there is just one problem, there is only one of you.
The only way to develop leaders in any sort of real capacity is to trust in them, especially when tough things happen. In fact one of the best things that can happen for their development is for you to be absent so that they can make decisions on their own based on what they think you would do. Sometimes you will have to correct somethings, but by and large my experience has been that they do great without me holding their hand. Leadership that fails to raise new leaders up, empower them, and trust them to lead will always be lacking.
3. The ministry never ends.
Just this morning I was reminded that emergencies don’t schedule appointments. The reality is that ministry doesn’t end. People have needs all the time, and as people called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we are honored to serve them.
To do that effectively, it is essential that we define and enforce healthy boundaries. The reality is that not all emergencies are equal, and not all emergencies require you to be there. The ministry of the church is not supposed to be done solely by a few people called pastor. There are people in our congregations and families that are gifted for different aspects of ministry. Some are even naturally better than you are at doing it. Let them. We need to learn to discern when we actually need to be involved and when another leader that you trust, who has been equipped, can step in and serve the needs of the church. It is better and healthier for everyone when we do.
4. You don’t have enough time to rest.
This one is based on the idea that there is just so much that needs to be done that, if you took a day, or a week, to rest and replenish your soul that you wouldn’t ever get caught up. Sometimes life really is that busy, but if that is the norm it is a sign that it is time to delegate some of that work to one of those highly capable leaders we talked about before.
The other reality is that when when we fail to get the rest we need we will not be as creative, productive, or efficient with our time. If that is the case then it’s probably time to refine your focus. Take a long hard serious look at how you are spending your time. It is easy to lose large amounts of time to unnecessary distractions. It is perfectly acceptable to schedule meetings and phone calls. I practice working outside the office on a regular basis so that I can give focused time to sermon prep. I even turn off my phone at times so that I have the time that I need.
5. You can’t afford to take time off.
This one is for all my bi-vocational pastor friends out there. Let me just say right now that you guys are the unheralded rock stars of the ministry world. You don’t often have paid staff. You serve in often looked over places. You have to work another job to pay the bills. I spent years serving in that capacity as a youth pastor and leader of a new church start. Those are tough days because while your pay might be part time, the work of the ministry isn’t.
I can remember having young kids, serving as a part time youth pastor, and working 25-30 hours a week pouring concrete just to make ends meet. I was stressed out, wiped out, and on my way to burn out quickly. A good friend, Pastor Kelley Lovelace took me aside and asked me why I was killing myself, and I told him I couldn’t afford to take a day off. I believed that lie with everything that I had. I did the math and there just wasn’t any way we could survive, or so I thought.
Of course I made it about the kids. If I didn’t put in those extra hours, my kids wouldn’t have the things they needed. That’s when he asked me the question.
“Don’t you think God loves your kids, your family, even you more than you do? Don’t you think that He is going to take care of your needs?”
The answer in my head was yes, but the belief revealed by my behavior was no. He challenged me to set aside a day of rest, of play, of refueling my soul. I gave it a month, and it made such a huge difference! Everything changed. We never missed a meal, I caught a ton of fish on my fly rod, and I found myself living with real and powerful joy again.
This lesson taught me that it’s all a matter of faith. We need to give God our best. We need to serve our congregations and families well, and we need to honor Him by trusting His Word regarding our rest.
In Mark 2:27 Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The disciples were being accused of breaking the Sabbath because they picked a few heads of wheat to snack on as they walked. God designed us with rest in mind. He gave us the Sabbath for our rest because He loves us and only wants our good. We are wise to heed His command in all things, including our rest.
What do you do to get recharged? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.