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).