For many, August is a turning point that marks the end of summer vacation. It means back to school, back to regularly scheduled church programming, back to business—and busyness— as usual. We can feel slightly frantic, as we desperately try to fit in as many summer activities as possible before the weather turns, while also turning our attention toward preparing for September. Because we hold these two realities in tension—the call of both our vacation and our vocation—we run the risk of burning out before we’ve even hit the starting line of the upcoming season.
Corrie ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place, which recounts the story of how her family sheltered Jewish people during the Second World War, once said that “If the devil cannot make us bad, he will make us busy.” And busy we so frequently are. How often do you ask someone how they are, only to receive the response, “I’m fine—just busy”?
If you are like me, you are driven by productivity, always trying to get more and more done. This comes naturally to us in the capitalistic society we live in. Because of this drive to achieve, it is only after every last detail is checked off our to-do lists that we allow ourselves a guilt-free moment to put up our feet and catch our breath.
And while productivity is good—we are not called to laziness—it can be a slippery slope to think that we need to earn rest. This is something I actively struggle with. I even argue with myself that it’s biblical—God didn’t rest until he created the whole world, after all. But the more I learn, the more I am convinced this way of thinking is unhealthy.
While I’ve heard the quote many times before, my heart has recently been challenged anew by the words of Christian philosopher and writer Dallas Willard, who argued that to be spiritually healthy “you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
In a world where we so easily wear our busyness as a badge of honour, the elimination of hurry can indeed be a ruthless endeavour, one not to be entered into lightly and one that will not be easily accomplished.
And yet, Dallas Willard stresses that there is nothing else that is needed for spiritual health.
Over the course of our lives, God will call us to many things. We may be called to a particular job or ministry role. We may be called to move to a new city or country, or to invite someone into our home, or to any number of new opportunities that God will use for our edification and his glory. But there is one thing God will never call us to, and that is exhaustion. If we are constantly worn out and weary, we are missing the point of the Christian life.
Rest is not a reward for good behaviour or hard work. It is not something to be earned. If you are like me, the guilt associated with resting comes from within as much as it comes from the world around us. But the truth is that we all need rest, and we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for resting when our bodies need it. In fact, we were created for healthy rhythms of work and rest. To neglect this is to turn away from God’s design for our lives.
The writer and poet Cole Arthur Riley writes on her Instagram page, Black Liturgies, that “work is not the salvation you think it is. If you want to get free, exhaustion is not the way. Rest. Go slow.” It’s important to determine what is restful for us, whether it is walking, journalling, visiting with a friend, gardening, or any other number of life-giving activities, and then practise this regularly, allowing these intentional times to refresh and restore our souls.
So, let’s offer ourselves grace and remember that rest is integral to our well-being, and may we embrace healthy rhythms of work and rest as we prepare our hearts for this upcoming season.
Captain Laura Van Schaick is the corps officer at Barrhaven Community Church in Ottawa, and the divisional secretary for women’s ministries in the Ontario Division.
Illustration: Rudzhan Nagiev/iStock via Getty Images Plus