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Are you tired & worn out?



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“Can we be disciplined and still have rest? How can we pull the workaholic out of us and stop hiding behind our work to experience rest, and be who we actually are?”

This is the question that showed up in my inbox and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. The question was sent in by a young woman named Bethany who is learning that she’s extraordinarily good at hiding behind her work. 

I think that is a lot of us. There’s something about doing good work that fuels us, gives us affirmation, and fills us with a sense of purpose. Get enough of those good feelings and it can be extremely hard to shut off the overdrive mentality and take a break.

I spent almost all of my twenties never bothering to rest.

I never took days off. I didn’t know how to pump the brakes. I found so much of my identity in what I was doing that when I took time away I felt like I wasn’t myself or that I was missing out on precious hours where progress could be made. But the truth was I was just exhausted. I felt like everything relied upon me. I was being a martyr for no apparent reason because I wasn’t serving the world anything but a tired, worn-out version of myself.

Back then, I would have told you that people who rest are crazy. They’re lazy. They are wasting time. They are getting behind. What I didn’t see back then was that my choice to empty myself for the sake of “good work” wasn’t heroic, it was a recipe for a deadly crash.

While I don’t think the severe depression I experienced in 2014 was spurred on by failure to rest, I know that was part of it. It was an “all systems are down” sort of moment for my brain. The “do more, be more, work more, create more” mentality was broken at long last. When I found myself unable to use my brain, I could no longer hide behind my work. I could not continue to use it as an identity and I would have to make the long trip towards a new kind of normal, not knowing when the arrival at that new place would be. 

At one point I visited a doctor who, if I am being honest, I didn’t want to meet. I was at the point in the story where I was sick of doctors and sick of questions and I just wanted some answers. I just wanted someone to look at me from across their big desk, open up a drawer, and hand me back my old life. I was tired of being sick. 

“So tell me about yourself,” the doctor said to me. 

I began to talk, wondering how I might be able to come off as normal as possible. But I remember only telling her the good parts, the successful parts. One after the other, I put accolades and accomplishments on the table as a way to say to her: I’m okay. We don’t have have to do this weird doctor-patient thing. I’m doing just fine. 

And when I was finished the woman just looked at me.

“Well it all makes sense,” she said to me, scribbling something down in her notes. “I mean, you could have seen this train crash coming from a mile away. At the rate you were going, there was no way you could not crash.” 

It was one of those statements that make you think— did other people see the train crash coming? Did I see the crash coming? How did I not see what this doctor sees and if I had seen it, couldn’t I have prevented it?

These are questions I’ll never have the answers to but I just know this: I was bound to crash at some point. If the standard of success and worth came from pleasing other people, I was bound to crash. If the only thing that could fill me was a checklist of things that made me look impressive then yes, there was bound to be a crash. And though I wish I could have seen the warning signs, the crash was necessary.

The short answer to Bethany’s question is: yes, we can be disciplined and still have rest. We can work hard and still take breaks. My friend Jane always says that rest is the new hustle and I agree with this— when we rest, we place our trust back in God by saying, “I know I don’t control the universe. I am taking my hands off the steering wheel and trusting that you’re enough to keep all things spinning.”

Rest isn’t something you stumble upon. And it isn’t something you need to be legalistic about. It doesn’t matter what day of the week you choose. It doesn’t matter how the rest looks to you. What we need to understand about rest is three-fold:

  1. Rest is something we have to willingly enter into— it is not accidental, it requires action.

  2. Rest is a gift, a pure gift— there is no need to try to “perfect” it to please God. He is already pleased and nothing you do or don’t do can change that reality.

  3. We were created to rest. Jesus was consistently bringing up the Sabbath (another word for rest) because he wanted people to know the point of the Sabbath wasn’t to follow the rules of resting one day… the Sabbath was created with us in mind. To better us. To strengthen us. To heal us. To draw us back to what matters most.

What’s crazy to think about is that you might be missing out on your true identity because you’re incapable of releasing the tight grip you have on controlling everything. Rest is a way of loosening the grip. It’s an invitation into an identity that is free and faith-filled.

Here’s what I learned years ago, during that crash: I am not holding the world together. That is not my job. It is not my job to control the people I love. It is not my job to always be successful. It is not my job to never fail or hit a wall or need to start again. 

As long as I think I am holding the universe together by working seven days a week and never taking breaks, I am not trusting God. I am finding subtle ways to send out the message, “I cannot rest. I cannot take a break. I cannot stop because I am afraid if I stop then everything will cease.”

If that is the reality today then you need what I needed back then: a bigger God. A God who could handle me taking breaks. A God who gave me rest as a gift, not as a one-way ticket to the sidelines. I needed to re-meet the God of the Sabbath and it was a painful but necessary road to get there.

One of the first invitations that Jesus ever makes to people is one where he asks the question: Are you tired? Are you worn out? Are you burnt out by religion?

He isn’t mad over the exhaustion. He knows exactly where we are on the map and just how tired we feel.

He sympathizes and he invites us into something better.

He draws us in, gets us real close, and begins to tell us a different kind of story.

I can promise you, this story is so much better than a to-do list that never ends and a storyline that relies on us having to hold it all together.


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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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