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Are You Burnt Out, Bored, and Barely Rested?

When I began working full-time earlier this year, I struggled with the long hours and intense work. Having been a student pretty much all my life, adjusting to the transition of #adulting was—and still is—painful.

As a TV journalist working 12-hour shifts and weekends, I can go days without seeing my family; having any semblance of a social life is a privilege.

I constantly felt burnt out and exhausted from both work and having to interact with so many people on a daily basis. So all I wanted to do on my days off was to hide in my room and shun all human contact. I craved me-time—just me, my ice-cream, and Downton Abbey, that is.

Yet I felt guilty for neglecting those around me. So I would arrange meet-ups with friends and family, filling the remaining blanks in my calendar with more outings, gatherings, and dates.

When it came to resting, I tended to veer to extremes: either trying to squeeze in as many appointments with my family, boyfriend, or friends as possible; or not doing anything at all and binge watching Downton Abbey for the entire day.

But whether I spent my day off shut up in my room alone, or out and about with loved ones, I’d feel just as tired by the end of the day as I would have been if I had worked that day. It was as if the more “rest” I had, the more unrested and restless I felt.

I soon discovered that my perpetual state of exhaustion and feeling that I didn’t have even enough time came because I was “feeding” my fatigue the wrong way (by spending time on my Facebook or Instagram feed).

I wasn’t feeding myself with real rest—the kind of rest lavished upon us from the Shepherd of our souls, who alone gives true peace and abiding rest (John 14:27).

Over the last couple of months of trying to reconcile work and rest, I’ve learned two lessons on taking a break from our fast-paced lifestyles.

 

1. We were created and commanded to rest

Rest is a repeated refrain throughout Scripture, where we see God singling out getting enough rest as a command. From the very beginning in Genesis 2:2-3, rest was prioritized, as reflected in how God created for six days before taking a break—not because He needed it, but to set the standard for humankind to follow.

In the Ten Commandments, God commanded resting on Sabbath as a requirement of the Law: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).

 

2. Jesus alone is our rest

But lest we think this refers to mere physical rest, in Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus beckons: “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.”

Our ultimate rest is found in Christ alone, in whom we can cast our anxieties and burdens onto because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Unlike in the Old Testament where the Jewish Sabbath was strictly ordained and observed, we have Jesus, who is our Sabbath rest, and in whom we enjoy rest—not just once a week, but always.

We find complete rest in Jesus—anytime, anywhere (Exodus 33:14).

 

This begs the question: What does it mean to rest in Jesus?

The simple answer is to abide in him.

 Abiding in Jesus means being intentional about how we spend our free time (Ephesians 5:15-17). It means choosing to spend time with Jesus, and not wasting away our time on worthless and trivial pursuits (Psalm 101:3, 119:37).

Abiding in Jesus means dwelling, soaking, and lingering in His presence—be it as we turn to Him in prayer, meditate upon His word, or as we worship Him in song and praise (Psalm 27:4; John 15:1-7; Philippians 4:8).

For a while I struggled with feeling guilty about wanting, even needing, to watch the latest episode of Modern Family or Conan’s latest escapades in Israel. While there’s nothing inherently wrong or evil about watching our favorite show or surfing our favorite website, we must be careful that it doesn’t overshadow our time with God.

A good way of knowing whether this has happened is to ask ourselves: Do I desire to spend my time doing or watching this rather than spending time with God?

In his book, Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World, Teaching Director of Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka, Ajith Fernando, describes those who swap activity for their identity in this way:

“they become restless souls, afraid to stop or slow down their frantic pace and busy activity. They work without taking a break because they sense that stopping will force them to confront the emptiness of their hearts. To avoid this, when they do stop to take a break, they enter an imaginary world offered by TV or some other pastime. These experiences, though they can be good when experienced in moderation, are never a substitute for silence in the presence of God.”

If this describes you—as it did for me—it may be time to take a step back and do the following. Pray for your heart, asking the Lord to give you the desire to spend time with Him, and delight in Him as you do. If it helps, find a quiet place where you can spend with Him without distractions. Open your Bible and dive in. Meditate and journal about what the Lord speaks to you about.

These days, when I feel burned out, bored, or barely rested, I put away my laptop and phone, and pray. I put on my favorite worship playlist. I read His word, sometimes along with quiet time material. Other times, I read literature that points me to Christ. I ponder, and talk to and thank God over what I’ve learned.

I’ve found that an afternoon spent this way gives me more deep soul rest than an entire day skimming superficial entertainment. And interestingly enough, my desire for saturating myself in social media has decreased to the point that I actually feel bored when I do.

It may sound hard and almost counter-intuitive to read the Bible rather than binge watch BuzzFeed, but let’s not give up striving to enter into His rest. And when we do, we’ll find that Jesus indeed refreshes and satisfies our souls in a way no one and nothing else can (Jeremiah 31:25).

2 Tips to Date in A Loving Way

Does he like me? Did he just flirt with me? Does his reply mean something more?

Should I ask her? What does her silence mean? Should I confess to her?

When it comes to interacting with members of the opposite sex, it’s likely that such questions would’ve crossed our minds before. After all, a friendship blossoming into a tentative relationship is bound to generate a measure of uncertainty in our hearts: Is he the one? Is she into me? What should I do?

And with most of our conversations taking place through a screen—what with instant messaging and social media—we can miss out on subtle social cues that usually guide face-to-face interactions. Unfortunately, this means that misinterpretations and miscommunication are more likely to happen, creating even more anxiety over what our crush may have said (or not said).

These days, an entire vocabulary has been formed to document the amorphous nature of not-quite relationships and patterns of interactions.

There isn’t just ghosting—the act of completely disappearing from someone’s life after losing interest in them. There’s also benching, where you become a plan B for someone who wants to keep their options open; and cushioning, where you’re still in contact with potential suitors even after having exclusively committed to someone else. Not to mention other dating terms such as slow fading, breadcrumbing . . . and you get the point.

But what does God think about these situationships—where it’s more than a friendship but not quite an exclusive relationship? While the Bible doesn’t explicitly lay down laws for dating, it does give us commandments that can be applied to dating.

In fact, we need to look no further than what Jesus says are the greatest commandments in the Bible: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

American pastor Richard Phillips and his wife Sharon write in their book about dating, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts:

“In dating, this requires us to honor God first. Many Christians approach dating mainly in terms of pursuing romance and meeting their emotional needs. Far too few think of it as an opportunity to honor God and grow in grace.

“What about loving our neighbor? This commandment requires us to put our dating partner’s holiness ahead of our happiness. If you are dating someone and the relationship does not grow into marriage, the least you can do as a Christian is to ensure that dating you was a spiritually beneficial experience.”

In the light of modern dating, this means asking ourselves: What would the most loving action be towards him or her?

Here’s two points to consider when it comes to making sense of your feelings:

 

1. If you like (or don’t like) someone, make it clear.

Don’t leave someone hanging. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get to know someone better before expressing your interest in him or her. But be careful about what kind of impression you’re making on the other person, and consider how he or she might be feeling in the meantime.

Conversely, if you don’t like someone, make it clear. Don’t flirt with them for the fun of it, especially if you know that this might create unnecessary ambivalence. Song of Solomon 2:7 tells us not to “arouse or awaken love until it so desires”.

For example, if you know that someone is likely to feel terribly hurt if you openly reject them, a more loving option might be to drop more subtle hints. This might mean politely turning down offers to meet or waiting longer periods before replying their messages.

Similarly, you might want to consider gently and lovingly telling them that you’re not interested in a relationship, if the situation calls for it.

While you might feel uncomfortable, presumptuous, or afraid of hurting them, remember that it is our duty to honor them as a fellow believer, brother- or sister-in-Christ, and child of God. If that means causing some hurt now, it’s better than causing him or her even more hurt by revealing it only much later on.

Ask yourself: Am I relating to the other person in a way that honors God and him or her? Are my responses clear when I express how I feel towards this person? Or are my responses leading them to draw the wrong conclusion?

On the other hand, if someone you like is sending you mixed signals—ignoring you one moment while flirting with you openly the next—you might want to consider two options. Either frankly ask how he or she feels about you, or step away from the relationship if you feel that the other person may not have honorable intentions.

Treat others as you would want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Just as you don’t want to be left hanging—or ghosted, breadcrumbed, or cushioned—don’t do to them what you wouldn’t want to be done to yourself.

 

2. If you’re unsure about how you feel, commit it to God.

There may be occasions where the relationship isn’t always so clear-cut. You might be ambivalent about how you feel towards someone, especially where his gestures or her words might possibly indicate something more. Do you really like him or her, or is it something else that’s fueling these feelings—infatuation, desire, respect, loneliness, idealism?

I’ve felt this way countless times over the years, thanks to the adolescent longings and raging hormones of a teenage girl. How I pined, cried, and moaned for the affection of one boy or another!

It was only when I became a Christian that I found that there was a better way: casting my cares and worries at the feet of Jesus, who loves us with a love no boyfriend or girlfriend can offer us.

Before entering into a relationship or even entertaining the thoughts of entering into one, it’s important to seek the Lord for discernment and wisdom on how we ought to relate to the other person.

I wrote this in my journal a few years ago when I developed a strong crush on a classmate I had just gotten to know:

“I find it so difficult to see a trace of that spark or non-spark; in that I cannot tell whether or not he feels the same way. Surely if he did, I could tell? Yet no, I see nothing (and therefore continue to believe everything) that might come to be. And this is the worst part: not knowing yet believing it to be so. Since he has shown neither interest nor dis-interest, I continue to hold on to this hope, which is a potentially devastating thing to do. Already I catch whiffs of him everywhere I go, and he is continually brought up again and again in my mind, reinforcing the infatuation I feel.

Alas, what I feel for him has neither been encouraged nor discouraged. And so what I am left with is this budding of love, one that is continuously being fertilized by his frequent presence, watered by all that we have in common; and thus it grows just as our friendship grows.

Where this friendship will lead me, I do not know. But I pray with all sincerity that God will keep and guide me, that ultimately He will give me His stamp of approval or rejection; and in the meantime will reveal to me more about him, that I may decide for myself whether or not this can develop any further.”

God eventually did reveal something to me: this person was a non-believer who already had a girlfriend, which I only found out a few months later. Yet the process of committing this situationship to God daily—by choosing to commit my anxieties and uncertainties to Him, seeking His wisdom and will, and praying for Him to guard my heart—helped me to overcome the hurt and disappointment upon finding out.

It may be tempting to brood over whether the person you like feels the same way by overanalyzing every little thing they say or not say.

But don’t take things into your own hands. If it is meant to be, God will reveal it to you, and the other person (if he or she is a believer). If it’s not meant to be, God will reveal it too. I find that this is such a simple but deeply comforting truth, as someone who’s personally prone to overthinking and worrying.

So trust in the Lord with all your heart, and He will answer whatever desires, worries, and questions you have, in His perfect timing and according to His perfect plans.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your flesh

and refreshment to your bones.

— Proverbs 3:5-8

Praying: For whose ears?

Photo by Terry Bidgood

Palms sweaty, heart racing, mind on overdrive.

No, it’s not nervousness over an impending exam or presentation, but, well . . . praying with others.

Even though I grew up in a “culturally Christian” family, I had never really prayed with others before. The closest I had come to it was muttering a quick prayer before the occasional celebratory family meal to give thanks for the food.

But for the most part, I saw prayer as a one-on-one, personal conversation between me and my Father—my whispered words for His ears alone. So, after I truly accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and joined a small family church where praying with those around us was a common practice, I was both intrigued and terrified.

I had never heard people talking to God out loud before, and doing so felt like I was spying on a secret conversation. While I was comfortable observing them, I would clam up whenever it was my turn.

I remember one occasion in particular: I was painfully stuttering through a prayer with two older people I’d just been acquainted with, my eyes scrunched up in concentration and cheeks warm. I felt stupid for not knowing how to pray, and mortified at how stilted my prayer was compared to theirs; my words sounded thick and clunky coming out of my mouth.

Over time, as I listened to the prayers of others, I couldn’t help but notice how they prayed. Some stammered, generously sprinkling filler words like “um” and “like” throughout their prayers; others were capable of reciting concise summaries of sermons we’d just heard in a perfectly packaged prayer. Some prayed like a bullet train, spurting out clipped words in a single breath, while others meandered wherever their thoughts took them. Some prayed with boredom tinging their voices, others prayed with emotion quivering at the back of their throats.

I marveled at my best friend’s eloquent prayers, richly adorned with descriptive language and generously furnished with Bible verses. I envied her easy confidence and poignant words, which felt like a much more pleasing prayer to the Lord’s ears than my own—or so I imagined.

As I listened to them, I began to pick up expressions and phrases to incorporate in my own articulated prayers, as if collecting shiny baubles to deck my petitions to God with. Without knowing it, I became overly conscious of what I sounded like in the ears of others—and even critical and condescending as I began to judge other people’s prayers against my own.

One Sunday, I had the opportunity to pray with a sister a couple of years younger than me. She was a small, unassuming, and quiet girl whom I hardly knew. Even though she came from a Mandarin-speaking background and wasn’t fluent in English, her prayer was beautiful. She prayed to the Lord earnestly and simply, with short sentences, in a tone of complete reverence and humility. And even though she spoke with few words, I could hear and feel her love for God.

Right then, I felt ashamed of my own prayer, which, though gracefully delivered, didn’t come from an intimate or authentic place. Instead, it was motivated by a subconscious desire to be found praying the “right” way, and to sound and appear holy and perfect, as I assumed Christians ought to be. As I learnt to participate in corporate prayer, I had unknowingly mistaken my primary audience to be my fellow brothers and sisters. I had forgotten that while praying with others can be one way to edify and encourage them, it shouldn’t be the main motivation behind praying with others. This sweet, young sister-in-Christ made me realize that no oratory prowess can compare to a humble prayer uttered from a genuine and contrite spirit.

Jesus made it clear that He isn’t impressed by eloquent prayers that exalt Him on the surface but indirectly exalt the person praying (Matthew 6:5-13; 23:5-12). Rather, He is pleased with and accepts the prayers of those who call upon His name in repentance (Luke 18:10-14).

Today, I have learned to pray slowly and thoughtfully, and to murmur simple, heartfelt words directed solely for the ears of my Father in Heaven while in the presence of others. After all, our prayers are ultimately for God’s ears, who alone hears and answers according to His perfect will and in His perfect time.

Why I Almost Didn’t Get Baptized

After five years of knowing, believing and growing in my Lord and Savior, I finally got baptized on Christmas Day last year.

It still feels somewhat surreal as I recall the day I declared my faith and was baptized at sea, with my friends and family watching on.

Yet it almost didn’t happen.

If you’d asked me a month or even two weeks prior to Christmas, I’d have shaken my head hesitantly and said, “Maybe next round . . .”

Even though I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior in early 2012, proudly called myself His follower, and prayed and read His Word daily, somehow I still didn’t feel ready to take the step into the waters.

 

Excuses, excuses

Maybe it was the fact that I was no longer riding on the spiritual high that came with first falling in love with Him.

Instead, as the daily grind of life soon took over, I ended up giving new excuses with the arrival of each Easter and Christmas: I was too stressed out by my studies and didn’t have the brain-space to join my church’s baptism class, I was bogged down by my thesis and struggling with depression . . .

Two weeks before Christmas—the last day on which we had to inform our church whether we wanted to be baptized—I bumped into an older sister-in-Christ from church.

“Are you getting baptized this Christmas?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Maybe next time.”

“Why?”

“Well . . . I don’t feel ready.”

She looked me in the eye and said, “But you’ll never feel prepared enough for baptism—no one ever does.”

Her words rang in my ears, and that night I sought the Lord in prayer, confessing my reluctance. As I did so, He revealed to me that my excuse of not being ready enough for baptism actually disguised a deep-rooted and flawed conception of myself, and what I thought I needed to do—or had failed to do—as His follower.

Beneath all my excuses and at the heart of my hesitance, was a whisper that I wasn’t worthy enough. And this belief ignored the very crux of Jesus’ redemptive act on the cross:

[B]ecause of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9, emphasis mine)

By grace, not works

On our own merit, we will never be good enough, or ready enough.

But we have been called to be baptized by Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:19-20), because it is a symbolic act of identification with Christ (Romans 6:4). Once I understood this truth, I went to my church leader and told her I wanted to be baptized. I wanted to publicly testify of how God had saved and sanctified me over the last five years of my life.

Baptism is a sign of the beginning of your journey with God, rather than a sign of having arrived.

If you’re like me and haven’t yet been baptized for some reason or another, I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord to reveal if there are any lies or misbeliefs that may be holding you back.

After all, baptism is a sacrament instituted by Jesus and a reflection of God’s glory, grace and goodness—not a benchmark of our own worthiness or deservingness.

 

To learn more about baptism and the Lord’s Supper, check out this Discovery Series: https://discoveryseries.org/discovery-series/baptism-the-lords-supper/