Slowing Down

Posted: March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

busyWe live in a very hectic, fast paced, high speed culture where everything and everybody seem to constantly be on the go. Where you hear people bragging about the amount of hours they put in at work in order to be successful as we watch our families rushing from one activity to the other. And forget about being open on Sundays, thanks to the internet, we can shop 24hrs a day, seven days a week.

In Canada, studies show that one out of every four employees has mental health problems due to stress or burnout.  According to a Statistics Canada study in 2004, there were almost 3 ½ million Canadian workers suffering from burnout  and another 35% of the labour force who said that they were stressed by overly-heavy workloads or by having to work too many hours.

This of course is not just a work related issue. No, many in the church are experiencing the same type of thing… from serving on different teams and boards, teaching Sunday school, going to small group, meeting with an accountability partner, to volunteering in a charity… many Christians know all too well what burnout looks and feels like.

And so, how do we carve out time for rest. What are some practical steps we can take to help fight against the almost constant busyness. Pastor and author J.D. Greear suggests the following…

1. Sleep

Psalm 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” The sign that you are God’s “beloved” is that you are able to sleep. It is not your busyness that indicates closeness to God, but your ability to rest in the midst of a restless culture. Many times, our inability to sleep comes from the myth that we need to hold everything together.[1] We need to learn that while we are sleeping, God is building the city.

A lack of sleep doesn’t just lead to physical problems; it quickly fosters a spirit of cynicism that ruins our spiritual life. It’s no good burning the candle at both ends if it sours our view of God, deprives us of our joy, and ends our life prematurely. As a mentor of mine once told me,“Sometimes the most holy thing you can do is to just take a nap.”

2. Refuse to worry about tomorrow.

This one comes directly from Jesus: “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matt. 6:34, NIV). I used to find this verse a little odd. “Tomorrow is worrying about itself, Jesus? Well, that’s exactly what I was worried about!” But what Jesus is saying is that he’ll be with us tomorrow just like he’s with us today. The Israelites in the wilderness were only given manna for one day, to teach them that God would provide for their tomorrows. And he’s still trying to teach us the same lesson.

3. Create some margin.

You’ve heard of the “big rocks” and “sand” metaphor. Fill a jar with rocks and the sand will fill in to the cracks. Start with the sand and you’ll never be able to fit the rocks in, too. It’s a simple metaphor, but it’s still an insightful one: prioritize the “big rocks” of your life, and allow yourself margin for the “sand.”

Stress and busyness in our lives can come from doing too many things. But often they are the result of leaving no margin between the various items on our calendar. I’ve written elsewhere about the importance of rhythm and margin in maintaining our sanity. To summarize: ensure that you have time for the “big rocks” of your life, and keep the peripheral items peripheral. You need to take control of your calendar, because if you don’t, someone will take control of it for you.

4. Observe the Sabbaths.

The plural isn’t a typo; yes, I meant sabbaths. There are a number of sabbaths that God has given us: the weekly Sabbath (i.e. a day of rest and worship), the tithe, and sleep. Most of us know about the first one, but we rarely think of tithing or sleeping as Sabbath-keeping. But the principle of the Sabbath given to Israel was to intentionally cease from labor, and—paradoxically—God promised that he would multiply their efforts on the other six days.

The tithe is simply a monetary application of that principle, and sleep is a sort of mandated daily Sabbath. Each of these is like a pill to take to remind yourself that you are not God; to remind you that you do not bear the strain of providing and taking care of . . . you! God does! The more we remember that these Sabbaths are gifts and privileges, not duties, the more they will lead us to rest in Christ.

“Come to me, all who labor 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.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

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