At some point, our Christian culture has rewritten the greatest commandments from loving God and others as yourself to loving God and others instead of yourself.
We live in a fast-paced, busy culture. We have full plates overflowing with good things: jobs, children, kid activities, household responsibilities, hobbies, leisure activities, church, community service, outreach projects, small-group fellowship, Bible studies, extended family and friends. But we are left breathless — feeling overworked and exhausted.
When we lament about our hurried life, our culture beats us up by sending a clear message: “Don’t be such a whiner. You made these choices. So, buck up, buttercup, and push on.” So we trudge on like the living dead.
But this “suck it up” strategy isn’t working. Ignoring our exhausted hearts and bodies only makes things worse. We want to be the perfect employee, boss, parent, spouse, son or daughter, friend and Christian. But the high standards and striving are taking a toll on us physically and relationally. We are rushed and hurried — with little margin. We’re burned out, stressed out, sick, tired, depressed, anxious, grumpy, resentful and angry, and our relationships feel isolated, disconnected and strained.
Think about this past week. Did your schedule feel hectic? Did you feel rushed? Do you remember feeling overcommitted — that your plate was overflowing? Are you tired, exhausted or sleep-deprived?
So what’s the solution?
The key has everything to do with time — but not time management. It’s about discovering a rhythm that keeps your body rested and your heart alive.
The rhythm of godly self-care
A metronome produces a steady beat that lets us know if we are slowing down or speeding up while practicing. Musicians have used metronomes for centuries to help them develop a strong sense of rhythm and tempo. In the same way, we need an “inner metronome” to pay attention to the time, rhythm and pace of our lives. The Enemy wants us to exist in a fast-paced, chaotic rhythm. But God didn’t intend us to live exhausted, joyless, stressed out, depressed, worn down, overloaded, hurried, bitter, burned-out, resentful and empty lives, because it keeps us from living out His greatest commandments (to love God and others).
At some point, our Christian culture has rewritten the greatest commandments from loving God and others as yourself to loving God and others instead of yourself. This is why Satan is so ruthlessly committed to your being empty and exhausted. He wants to destroy your vital connection with God by keeping you preoccupied doing too many good things.
Jesus wants the exact opposite. Jesus doesn’t just want to save us; He wants us to have a full and abundant life so that we can love God and others wholeheartedly. So the real question is who is winning the battle over your inner metronome — the Enemy or Christ?
As is always the case, God has a wonderful solution. The solution requires that you discover the rhythm and pace of your inner metronome by answering two important questions: What brings you rest? What brings you life?
What brings you rest?
What do you do when you’re tired? Drink a third cup of Death Wish Coffee, veg out in front of the TV, guzzle an energy drink, grab a quick nap in the carpool lane, or pound a bag of Doritos or something sweet? Unfortunately, these survival behaviors rarely rejuvenate us and most often do the exact opposite — leaving us jittery or feeling guilty about the extra calories.
So what gives you real rest?
Our fast-paced society regularly trades rest for overwork. This puts such a strain on our bodies. It doesn’t matter if you sit at a desk or do manual labor; your body and mind need rest to recuperate. Jesus himself modeled rest — often withdrawing to the wilderness to be alone, sending crowds of people away so He could be alone with His friends, going to social events when He could have been “working,” sleeping while everyone else was panicking and once even hiding from His disciples. Jesus was not selfish; He was simply doing what He needed to do to prevent exhaustion and emptiness.
Rest involves building breaks into our lives before we collapse and finding activities that rejuvenate us. Rest is not passive but active. Here are just a few activities to help you rest well and reenergize:
- Spend time with God. Go on a spiritual retreat or find a special place you can go to be quiet before the Lord.
- Meditate on God’s Word. Repeat it over and over until it’s been etched on the tablet of your heart.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Engage your funny bone.
- Listen to music.
- Read your Bible or a book.
- Relax in nature.
- Take a break from social media.
- Take a leisurely walk.
- Have a spa day or do massage therapy.
- Eat healthy foods. Your diet and nutrition choices can make your stress levels go up or down.
- Soak in the tub.
- Participate in a relaxing hobby.
- Limit your caffeine intake.
- Complete a puzzle.
- Paint a picture or use an adult coloring book.
- Watch a favorite movie or TV program (just don’t watch TV mindlessly without purpose).
- Observe the Sabbath every week.
- Take a nap.
- Sleep in.
- Turn off the electronics and take a technology and digital sabbatical.
- Snuggle with a loved one or pet.
- Participate in stretching exercises.
- Play an instrument.
- Walk the dog.
What about you? What activities will you invest in that will give you rest?
What brings you life?
The other part of godly self-care is to discover and regularly participate in experiences that bring you life. Rest is vital, but not sufficient. Remember, the goal of godly self-care is to give from a place of abundance.
To love others from a place of abundance, it’s imperative that you devote time and resources to what invigorates you, to what brings passion, hope, creativity and joy to your life.
My wife, Erin, and I recently spoke at a weekend marriage seminar (which also brings me life). But after speaking and being around people for two days, I desperately needed a break. As soon as I boarded the plane, I put on my noise-canceling headphones, closed my eyes and listened to my favorite music. I felt rested because praise and worship music gives me true rest. However, I also needed something to bring me back to life.
For me, trout fishing in the mountains of Colorado brings me life. Standing in the middle of a cascading stream surrounded by pine trees and God’s beauty ignites joy and passion within me. But fishing doesn’t bring me rest. I’m usually worn out after a day of wading through a rushing river, and yet my heart has come alive.
The following list is intended to “prime the pump” and help you clarify what will ignite passion in your heart and help you stay abundantly full of joy (and review the earlier list of activities, because some of those may apply here, too).
- Spend time with family.
- Serve others.
- Invest time in a hobby.
- Have a coffee date with a close friend.
- Exercise or work out.
- Mentor a troubled teen or underprivileged youth.
- Go on a mission trip.
- Travel or go on vacation.
- Conquer a fear. Take a risk and try a new activity — something that pushes you out of your comfort zone.
- Take a class or learn something new.
- Learn a foreign language.
- Teach a class.
- Start your own business.
- Regularly attend a Bible study class.
- Go on an adventure to a museum, historical site, concert, play, etc.
- Try creative writing or blogging about a topic you care about.
Living in rest and life
We have full plates overflowing with good things. This state of busyness leads to hectic interactions that lead to exhausted people who are empty and have deadened hearts. Ultimately we hurt, and our relationships suffer because empty people have nothing to give.
This is exactly the opposite of God’s plan for us to love Him and others wholeheartedly and abundantly. The world needs people who are well-rested and alive!
© 2022 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Adapted from Reconnected by Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers.