God doesn’t call you to wear yourself out

I’m always busy, and I like it that way. But that means I burn out. Frequently. I try to head it off, but most of the time I have to crash and burn before anything changes.

For years, people have told me that I need to rest. But I’ve never really let myself do–well, because it doesn’t accomplish anything. At least, in my own mind, it’s a waste of time.

For me, what makes me feel rested is just being at home. Sleeping until I wake up, without an alarm. Having a real breakfast. And then spending the whole day just doing homey stuff. Cooking. Baking. Maybe watching a movie or two. Walking outside or playing in the snow–or just watching the snow fall with a cup of hot tea.

No word counts. No deadlines. No plans.

But when you have so much to do, so much to accomplish, so much to get done, it’s really really hard to take a real day off. Just because I’m not at my day job doesn’t mean I’m not working. At any given moment, I have five novels in progress, and the thought of taking a day off and not using the time to work on some personal project is horrifying.

So what if I need the rest? I only have a limited amount of time and energy, so I’d better be a good steward of what I have. And God will give me the strength and the energy and I need.

Won’t He?

Today’s verses are Matthew 11:28-29.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

I do believe God gives us supernatural strength to finish the things He’s called us to do, but as with everything else in our lives, before we just assume He’ll do something for us, we need to check our hearts.

For me, I don’t think I’m always driven to be busy for Him. I’m driven to busy because I want to prove (to myself) that I have a purpose or that I’m useful. I think that’s my greatest fear is not being useful. But I think I’ve equated being busy with being useful for so long that when I’m not busy, I feel useless. And that’s not true.

This is why God gives us best friends: to talk sense into us when we’re being dumb.

Yes, it’s true that God calls us to work. He has great things He wants to do through us, but that’s up to Him. Not us. And just as He calls us to work, He also calls us to rest.

I fought it, but my best friend eventually convinced me to take a mental health day. Sure, I had to work overtime to get it, but I had plenty to do. And in other times, I would have used that extra day off this weekend to knock out 10,000 to 15,000 words on one of the four projects I have sitting around.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t write anything. For the whole day.

I woke up when the sun came up. I ate a lovely breakfast. I spent time with my parents. I cooked and baked. I Skyped with my best friend for two and a half hours. I watched a movie. And I went to bed when I got tired. And I didn’t allow myself to feel guilty that I didn’t get work done. I just enjoyed my day, and I woke up Saturday morning and felt–new.

How often do we push ourselves past the breaking point because we think it’s what God wants? I think I do it more than I would care to admit. But that’s not the life He’s called us to. A life following Christ isn’t easy, no, but it shouldn’t have the same burdens as a life lived without Him. That’s where we get it wrong.

The world tells us we have to be busy. We think we have to run around like crazy people so that everyone will know that we’re accomplishing something. But that’s a lie Satan uses to distract us and wear us down.

No, don’t be lazy, but don’t let the world set your schedule. Don’t let the world’s standards hold you to a timetable you’ll have to kill yourself to achieve. That’s not God’s path.

God’s road is narrow, yes, but there’s no weight He gives us that He won’t help us carry. So stop working yourself to death. Stop driving yourself into the ground. It’s okay to rest. It’s okay to take a real day off. You need it. Everybody needs it.

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Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Fresh strength for the worn out

Do you ever get tired of everything? When you hit that wall on the edge of burn out where you’re not ready to give up but you’re too worn down to keep trying? Anyone else ever been there? I end up there more frequently than I care to admit, and there are a number of reasons for it. The primary reason is simply that I load myself down with too much to accomplish. I was lauhing at a drama team leader meeting last night that I had made a priority list of things I needed to do, and it turned out to be two pages long.

Sometimes I have those moments where I know everything is fine and even if it’s not fine, I know it will be. But even so, I just get tired. And as busy as my year has been up until this point, it’s fixing to get even busier, and if I’m already exhausted now, I’m kind of nervous about fall, which is when my life turns upside down.

So if any of you out there are where I am this morning–skirting the edge of burn out, trying to stay focused, grasping for the strength you need to accomplish things that used to bring you joy–this is for you. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Isaiah 40:12-31 (The Message)

Who has scooped up the ocean
    in his two hands,
    or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger,
Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of his baskets,
    weighed each mountain and hill?
Who could ever have told God what to do
    or taught him his business?
What expert would he have gone to for advice,
    what school would he attend to learn justice?
What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows,
    showed him how things work?
Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket,
    a mere smudge on a window.
Watch him sweep up the islands
    like so much dust off the floor!
There aren’t enough trees in Lebanon
    nor enough animals in those vast forests
    to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship.
All the nations add up to simply nothing before him—
    less than nothing is more like it. A minus.

So who even comes close to being like God?
    To whom or what can you compare him?
Some no-god idol? Ridiculous!
    It’s made in a workshop, cast in bronze,
Given a thin veneer of gold,
    and draped with silver filigree.
Or, perhaps someone will select a fine wood—
    olive wood, say—that won’t rot,
 Then hire a woodcarver to make a no-god,
    giving special care to its base so it won’t tip over!

Have you not been paying attention?
    Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
    Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?
God sits high above the round ball of earth.
    The people look like mere ants.
He stretches out the skies like a canvas—
    yes, like a tent canvas to live under.
He ignores what all the princes say and do.
    The rulers of the earth count for nothing.
 Princes and rulers don’t amount to much.
    Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,
They shrivel when God blows on them.
    Like flecks of chaff, they’re gone with the wind.

“So—who is like me?
    Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy.
Look at the night skies:
    Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
    counts them off, calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—
    and never overlooks a single one?

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
     or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything?
Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

Sunset on the wheat field

Unforced rhythms of grace

Do you ever get bogged down with work? Boy, I do. And most of it is self-imposed. I have a list of things I need to accomplish because if I don’t complete them, I won’t be able to view myself as a worthwhile person. But my value isn’t dependant on how much I accomplish in my life. That’s hard for me to wrap my head around, but it’s the truth.
 
Granted, understanding that my value isn’t based on my accomplishments doesn’t mean that I can just stop working. But it does mean that I don’t have to do things all by myself anymore.  And it means that there has to be a balance between laziness and the performance-driven mentality of the overworked. But what is it?
 
I live in a rural area, and there is always so much to do to keep the house up, to keep the orchard alive, to keep the outbuildings standing. I also work full time as a copywriter and web guru for a global corporation. I also am in the middle of writing three novels and a short story a month in pursuit of having a job where I can work from home so I’ll have time to take care of my house and keep the orchard alive and the outbuildings standing. And on top of all that, I’m involved in my church, in the technical ministry and in the drama ministry. And I also try to have a life, keeping up with friends, with a book club, with family.
 
I’m not a Type A person. But I’m beginning to think that I live like one, flitting from one thing to the next, so busy and so overwhelmed with life and living that I’m little more than a zombie. So when I read today’s verse, it resonated with me.
 
Sunset on the wheat field

Sunset on the wheat field, Haven, KS

Matthew 11:28-30

 
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
 
That’s a pretty major claim. Notice that it isn’t really physical rest that Jesus is offering here, though. See that? This is soul rest.
 
And there’s a lot of other cultural statements in this verse that we could take hours to dissect. There’s so much more being said here than what is obvious. But this morning I’m going to focus on the obvious.
 
Everyone needs rest. We weren’t created to run 100 miles per hour all day every day. We need a Sabbath. And we need time for people, but if you’re the sort of person who never stops serving people, you need to get away from them.
 
This is the same passage in the Message.
 
28-30“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
 
What are the unforced rhythms of grace? What does that mean? It’s very poetic, but how is it applicable?
 
It’s living by grace. It’s believing that God has covered all your actions with Christ’s blood so there’s nothing you can do that will ruin His plan — there’s nothing you can’t no do either. It’s not trusting your accomplishments to make you worthwhile. And when you live by grace, nothing is obligatory. Service isn’t mandatory. Worship isn’t something you just do on Sunday mornings. And loving God becomes natural, just like breathing.
 
We aren’t supposed to run ourselves into the ground. We weren’t designed for that.
 
And this is the lesson I need to learn for 2012. I’m tired. I’m worn out. Not on religion, necessarily. I don’t really have religion, so I don’t get burned out on it. But I am burned out on everything else.
 
The key is keeping company with Christ. Oftentimes, I neglect Him for other friends or other duties or other plans. I know He’s always there, but I rarely take the time to actually sit and talk to Him. No wonder I’m exhausted. I need Him to teach me how to live, how to work, how to walk.
 
So that’s one my other goals for 2012, getting to know Christ better and learning to live by grace and not just by faith.