Updated: Jul 18, 2020
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it” (Isaiah 30:15).
I was sleeping twelve hours a night and still waking up tired. None of the things I usually enjoyed felt motivating anymore. I was bewildered about why I might be feeling like this, but the psychologist knew what it was as soon as I described my situation: 'You have burnout'.
The psychologist prescribed me: physical exercise, breathing exercises and mindfulness. These were an essential part of my recovery, but at the same time, God also called me to repentance from the root cause of my burnout. Over the next 12 months, as I came again and again before God with a broken and contrite heart, he showed me how I was caught up in a vicious cycle of frenetic activity because my faith and security were attached to my efforts and achievements. If I didn't work hard, then I was haunted by the fear that I might fail. And failure wasn't an option because my self-worth was attached to success. Gradually, God changed my frantic heart and taught me to rest in Him.
Rest is found in placing our self-worth on God's grace rather than our efforts. It is grace: God treats us as people of great value when we were still rotten sinners. Reflect on the unshakable security Christians should gain from the truth in Romans 5:8 which says, "But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." My value had nothing to do with my efforts to start with and never will. It only depends on God's steadfast love which endures forever. From time to time, I still have to remind myself to stop trying to earn my keep or bolster my sense of self. God already knows I don't deserve it, but he still delights to give me grace. If I am hidden in Christ, God already looks at me and says, "this is my child with whom I am well pleased". (Consider for reflection: Romans 5:8, 9:16, Psalm 118, Matthew 3:17).
Rest is found in right priorities. In Luke 10:38-42, Martha is very stressed about cooking for guests and is exasperated that Mary is sitting at Jesus' feet listening to him teaching when she needs help in the kitchen. Jesus gently corrects Martha saying, "Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." When I don't have clarity on what is most important, everything I have to do becomes urgent and demanding, and I feel overwhelmed like Martha. Mary listened to Jesus, and I too, can listen to God through reading the Bible. It helps me to align my priorities with those of God. I work not for a human master, but for God, who has both high and realistic expectations. As I work mindful of God as my ultimate Master, I recognise that restorative rest for mind, body and spirit are essential so that I can do a task to a quality and with an attitude that glorifies God. A rushed begrudging approach gets the job done, but doesn't glorify God. Another priority that God has taught me to fix is I realise now that some things I don't have to get around to doing in this lifetime because as a Christian I will have all of eternity to enjoy God's new creation. (Consider for reflection: Luke 10:38-42, Colossians 3:22-23, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Hebrews 4:8-11).
At first, saying "no" to people felt like slaughtering my opinion of myself. At first, taking a day off felt like the inevitable doom of being swamped by work the next day. But slowly and gently, God taught me to crucify that part of myself that had clung tight gripped to futile wisps of self-made worthiness. God showed me to find my worth in his immovable love demonstrated on the cross. God taught me to identify undiscerning busyness from intentional work that glorified Him. God taught me to start practising now and look with hope towards his eternal rest that he promises to those who trust in Jesus Christ.