Recovering Rest in a Burnout Culture
The cry of our age is “busy.”
How are you? “Busy.”
How’s work? “Busy.”
How are the kids doing? “Their lives are so busy. I feel like I’m just a taxi driver.”
How was the shopping mall today? “Too busy.”
Can you help me? “I’m busy at the moment.”
The fast-paced busyness of life that pushes God to the margins can easily turn into burnout. Lots of us are crying out for ways of handling the busyness before it does.
Yet expectations of keeping up with everything continually escalate, courtesy of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, and the rest. We are all susceptible to the expectation that we always are available, aware of everything that is happening, and capable of achieving anything. Unsurprisingly, this demand to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent places pressure on all of us, whatever our level of social media dexterity.
“The fast-paced busyness of life that pushes God to the margins can easily turn into burnout.”
But each of us is, if you like, the chief cook in our own kitchen. We can choose to rethink the ingredients we stir into the mix of life that leave us feeling bloated and stressed rather than nourished and sustained. The 24/7 hustle and bustle is of our own making, at least to some extent. Just as people go on detox diets, we would do well to heed calls for digital detox and reconsider how much we try to pack into life. A good starter is the practical suggestions for a twelve-step digital detox by Tony Reinke, followed with the richly nourishing poetry of Wendell Berry’s This Day.
The futile attempt to sustain ourselves by our own efforts is not new. Our digital age simply offers new manifestations of the age-old temptation to usurp God’s role for ourselves. But against this age-old temptation, God offers an age-old response: what would happen to our 24/7 switched-on world if the people who came to Jesus for rest (Matthew 11:28) regularly took a day of rest from distraction, work, and busyness? What would this weekly habit have to offer to the world in which we find ourselves — a world that restlessly continues to search for peace amid busyness?
1. Taking a weekly day of rest is a sign that we desire God.
“Taking one day a week to cease our strivings and focus on God shouts out that we desire God above all else.”
Treasuring a day of rest and worship lets people know where our heart lies.
2. Taking a weekly day of rest is a sign that we trust God.
When we have a weekly rhythm of a day of rest, we stand alongside the old covenant saints who trusted God to provide for their needs (Exodus 16:22–30). We stand alongside Jesus, who rejected Satan’s attempt to convince him to look after his own needs, by recalling that we live not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Matthew 4:4).
We live with integrity as people who pray “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), and then trust God to do it. As finite creatures, we declare our trust in the resources of the infinite Creator, who provides us with every blessing (Ephesians 1:3; 1 Timothy 6:17). When we commit to enjoy a weekly day of rest in the busiest seasons of life (see Exodus 34:21), we declare our trust in God even more loudly.
3. Taking a weekly day of rest proclaims Christ’s supremacy.
“Everything we cannot do, even with endless striving, Christ has done already.”
4. Taking a weekly day of rest declares our freedom.
We take a day of rest not by obligation, but out of a greater desire to pause, to remember, to look forward, and to worship. Declaring that we freely choose to celebrate freedom is a message sorely needed by those who are enslaved to the obligations of busyness and who feel like they cannot escape the tyranny of burnout.