You Need Rest
Last week, I introduced a new, short series of posts on how to regain your footing when you are faced with these thoughts, ”I’ve had enough. I’m ready to quit!” We’re using the story of Elijah, who utters those words to God, immediately following his most triumphant victory as a prophet.
Elijah made it back to health through embracing three mentalities:
- Rest to Restore
- Receive God’s Word
- Respond in Faith
You need a Word from God. So how do you put yourself in a place to find it? It begins with rest – not just slowing down, but resting to be restored.
Faith is not Logical.
Elijah had just faced down his enemies, and it seems logical that if God acted once he would move again to save Elijah from this new enemy. Logic tells Elijah he would be safe, but his emotions were drained from the confrontation with the prophets of Baal. But faith is not logical.
Elijah says, “I am no better than my ancestors who have already died,” then immediately he lays down in the shade of a tree. Reading within the context of the passage, Elijah doesn’t lay down to rest, but to die.
Elijah doesn’t just want to quit, he wants to die.
Faith + Burnout
Research tells us the average American worker is on their way or have already arrived at burnout. The World Health Organization gives three symptoms of burnout:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings negative towards one’s career
- reduced professional productivity
Can you relate to any of these symptoms? Again, the stats tell me you are fighting burnout. Here are a few that jumped off the screen at me:
- 75% of workers have experienced burnout, with 40% saying they’ve experienced burnout specifically during the pandemic. (FlexJobs)
- 67% of all workers believe burnout has worsened over the course of the pandemic. (Indeed)
- 61% of remote workers and 53% of on-site workers now find it more difficult to “unplug” from work during off-hours. (Indeed)
- Prior to the pandemic, just 5% of employed workers and 7% of unemployed workers said their mental health was poor or very poor. Now, 18% of employed and 27% of unemployed workers say they are struggling with mental health issues. (FlexJobs)
- More than three-quarters (76%) of respondents agree that workplace stress affects their mental health. (FlexJobs)
- Only 60% of workers can strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. (Gallup)
- Workplace stress is estimated to cost the U.S. economy more than $500 billion dollars, and each year, 550 million workdays are lost due to stress on the job. (APA)
Burnout was a problem pre-pandemic, and it has only worsened in the last two years. Elijah was burned out, and we can relate to where he was.
Rest to be Restored
Faith runs much deeper than our logic. God knows this better than we do, so rather than scold Elijah, God gives space to restore Elijah physically, emotionally and spiritually. God allows Elijah to sleep and then wakes him a few times to eat. This is what God speaks to Elijah the second time he feeds him,
“Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.” -1 Kings 19:7 NLT
Rest isn’t just a solid 7-8 hours of sleep. In fact if you are showing signs of intense stress or burnout, a good night‘s rest probably will do nothing for you. Research shows there are seven different types of rest needed to be restored.
How to Find Spiritual Rest
You can read more about how to rest in each of those seven categories (much of it will be obvious). Rest looks like eating healthy and exercising (physical) and surrounding yourself with positive people (social). But let me dive a little deeper on what spiritual rest looks like for a follower of Jesus.
There are various ways we can rest spiritually, but two vital forms of rest are grace and identity.
1. Be Spiritually Restored Through Grace
In it’s most simple definition, grace is “unmerited favor.” As fallen human beings who naturally keep score of the rights and wrongs done against us, this concept of grace is very difficult to understand. We expect to earn God’s favor.
It is impossible to earn God’s grace. It is a gift given to anyone who will accept it. God’s nature is to extend grace. In the Old Testament this was known as “loving kindness”. In the New Testament it is grace.
Spiritual rest is found by sinking into God’s grace. This begins by bowing our knee to Jesus. However, it’s imperative we understand his love for me and you is not attached to the things we do or say.
“Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” -Romans 3:24 NLT
This grace isn’t just available to you at the point of salvation or for the forgiveness of subsequent sin. God’s favor is available to me when I’m at the end of my rope, I’m stressed out, or I’m burned out.
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” -2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV
Human Doings or Human Beings
So stop striving! One of my college professors often made this statement, ”You are not ’human doings’. You are ’human beings’.” There is nothing more you can DO in order to earn God’s favor. He requests we simply BE with him. Being with Jesus means daily walking with him. Your walk may be with a significant limp, or it could be at a snails pace, but it is still a walk. Spiritual rest means being with Jesus.
Remember, the purpose of rest is to be restored. Restoration was God’s goal for Elijah. Spiritual restoration is God’s goal for you. You cannot earn God’s favor. Allow God’s grace to extend to you in every area and situation of your life. Do it now.
Right now, receive grace. It’s simple. Ask for God to give his grace to you. And receive it.
But spiritual restoration goes beyond simply sitting in God’s grace. We must also identify with the God who created us.
2. Be Spiritually Restored Though Your Identity
In the midst of stress and burn out, it’s easy to forget who we are. Our spiritual gaze drops, so we identify more with the fallen and broken world surrounding us than with the One who created us. How we view ourselves, our identity, can easily become a mix of both a Christ worldview and that of our culture. To be restored spiritually, we need to remind ourselves of the truth. Often we can’t see the truth with our natural eyes.
Here are two things that are true about you:
1. You are God’s child.
Read the following scripture closely:
“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” -Galatians 4:4-7 NLT
Several years ago, I read the book, ”12 Years a Slave” documenting the story of a free black man, living in the North, captured into slavery in the 1800’s. As the title indicates, it was 12 years of suffering backbreaking work with no recourse. The man, Solomon Northup, does eventually escape to freedom, but his freedom restored, Solomon saw the world he lived in differently. As a black man in the United States, even in the free North, he was less-than. Solomon’s freedom was tenuous. He might have been a citizen of the United States, but he was a second class citizen at best.
You were a slave to your old human nature. Your freedom was purchased by Jesus. Now free, you aren’t alone, but you have been adopted by God. This good news only gets better, because your freedom isn’t tenuous. You aren’t a second class citizen, pushed to the back of the line, hoping for the best. Our past doesn’t matter. Our sin is wiped out. Your race, ethnicity and gender are now all secondary to your TRUE identity. You are an heir to all the riches of God!
Receive spiritual restoration by asking God for it. All he has is yours, and he loves to give good things to his children (Matthew 7:11).
2. You are an exquisite masterpiece.
It’s easy to believe God’s grace purchased our freedom. But when we are burned out, our thinking becomes skewed (our faith is not logical; it has not been restored). We believe: “God has to set me free, but his goodness ends there. He loves me because God has to love me.” How wrong you are!
This is how one 20th century Christian thinker put it:
“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” -Brennan Manning
When Jesus saves us, it restores us to perfection — the way God designed us to be from the beginning. That is reality. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. It is as if God is a master painter, and we are the canvas on which he has created his piece de resistance!
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” -Ephesians 2:10 NLT
This is one of my favorite New Testament scriptures. Before you were born, God had you in mind to do amazing, unbelievable things. Because of these amazing things in store for you, he made you exactly and perfectly the way you are.
Because of this, you are a masterpiece!
Spiritual rest restores your self-image.
We need a strong sense of identity because what comes next won’t be easy. There is a journey ahead. It is imperative we know who we are for that journey.
Rest allowed Elijah to begin to regain this sense of his true self. It isn’t fully developed (as we’ll see), but the work has begun. You need rest in order to be restored to this sense of who your true self is – a beloved, child of God.
Today, sink into the GRACE of God, so you can see your TRUE IDENTITY as a child of God. Rest, so you can be restored. Once you are on the road to restoration, you are ready to receive God’s Word. The real fun is about to begin!