By: Stephanie Englehart
Five experienced professionals sat in a semi-circle, and all said the same thing—slow down. Twice a year I get to help guide and assess incoming church planters as they discern what God is calling them into. This year, as each of the assessors gathered around and deliberated on final recommendations, there was a common thread with each church planter we assessed—rest, get emotionally healthy, set boundaries, and slow down. Whether you serve in vocational ministry, are a stay-at-home mom, or work full time—we can all feel the pull of too much, too busy, and too tired. Sometimes it’s because chaos erupts, and we know it’s just a season. But more often than not, we as believers, wrestle with the wise counsel of Jesus and align with the workaholic culture of our world.
Submit it All to Jesus
We are all naturally self-centered. The human heart seeks to put self first all on its own. However, Jesus leads us away from self and towards satisfaction in Him. Jesus calls us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). Our service to others is to flow from submitting our whole heart to God and seeking to love Him above all things. When Martha came to Jesus complaining about her sister not helping with housework, Jesus didn’t chastise Martha for serving. Instead, He helped Martha see where her priorities were misaligned (Luke 10:38-42). If we’re neglecting time at the feet of Jesus for the sake of work, our priorities may need to be realigned and something taken off the table. Even selfless work that is good can become idolatrous if it becomes more important than Jesus, Himself.
In life, there’s almost always an opportunity to serve or care for someone. There’s a neverending stream of text messages, phone calls, and social media DMs. Our home calendar is regularly full, and we can struggle to know how or when to say no—when to slow down, or when to rest. But when our hearts are more focused on achieving in the kingdom, rather than receiving, we have it backwards (Matthew 5:1-12). The hope of a Christian in service flows out of and is based upon, the hope we find in Jesus—not the acceptance that comes from ‘doing it all’ or ‘being all’ to all people (2 Timothy 2:15).
Our approval or acceptance will only ever be fully satisfied through Jesus. Some of us are likely running on a hamster wheel, exhausted and burnt out, because we believe that if we get off, the love and grace of God will be lost on us. We tend to function under the belief that God is distant and disappointed in us—that if we don’t keep it together and keep the wheel turning people will withdraw from us, and God will go absent. This is works-based religion and a false belief about who God is. The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to abide more, and achieve less. The gospel of Jesus calls us to lay down our weary burdens before Him and rest (Matthew 11:28). The gospel of Jesus calls us to peace in the midst of chaos (John 16:33). He gives grace to the humble, and His heart is to confirm, strengthen, and establish us (1 Peter 5:5-11).
Our God is not disappointed in us, and we need not be afraid that people will withdraw if we slow down (Psalm 118:6-9). Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, He has secured our place in the kingdom and given us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). God the Father loves us, not because of what we can do for the kingdom, but because of what He sent Christ to do on our behalf (Ephesians 2:4-10).
We can step off the hamster wheel, and live in the grace that God is not looking to use us, but to love us. God is not looking for you to check a box, and (hopefully) neither is the church. Instead, Jesus is beckoning us to live within our limits under the direction of the Spirit (Romans 12:9-13). This means that every day starts with prayer, asking the Lord to do His will in and through us. We ask God to direct steps and reveal wisdom and discernment about how to spend our day, week, and month. We can schedule margin into the calendar, knowing service opportunities are likely to pop up. Most of all though, we rest in the sovereign grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s okay to plan a regular time during the week to have no plans. Sometimes I like to take the dog for an extra long walk, play with my kids, or go on a date with my husband. Other times I spend 5 hours in a coffee shop writing because it’s the number one way I process and pray. The key to a regular day of rest is to take time off of work (whatever it is your work may be). When we do this, we are seeking to actively live by faith by putting our trust in the fact that it is God who works and wills all things—not us (Philippians 2:13). We are humbling ourselves and acknowledging that we are humans with limited ability—we need sleep, to eat, to play, and to sit at the feet of Jesus. We are not God. Resting regularly reminds us to be still and know that He is God, and we are not (Psalm 46:10).
Live Within Flexible Seasons
Seasons come and go. We are living breathing people who change and develop and grow over time. Just as the seasons change, so do the rhythms of our lives. Sometimes busyness is just a short sprint, and other times we need to take a hard look at how we’re living and stewarding our time. One thing we can always count on is that change is a constant. Our kid's ages change, our maturity grows, our childcare shifts, and our work looks different, life is always shifting and it’s okay that we are too. We won’t ever figure out a magic formula to get the right amount of rest, and the perfect amount of work in. As long as we live, there will be work to do—but in Christ we can work joyfully, knowing that it is Christ who is sustaining and satisfying us along the way.