Sleep deprivation has made unwelcome appearances during various seasons of my life: college exams, the 11 p.m. shift as a television news reporter, and when my kids were newborns. Nowadays, it sneaks up on me when I overbook commitments, chase my kids to their extracurricular activities, and stay up too late binge-watching episodes of Downton Abbey.
Apparently, I’m not the only one suffering from this sleepy state. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control claim an upwards of 70 million U.S. adults aren’t getting enough rest. That number seems low to me because the abundance of dark circles I see on a daily basis (accessorized by pajama bottoms worn out in public) doesn’t scream “I am a well-rested, balanced person!”
We are a tired bunch! Yet in place of eliminating one or two commitments, we squeeze in more. It’s just one more work committee commitment, one more soccer practice, a quick errand, or an extra Bible study or choir rehearsal.
Running ourselves ragged is not what life with Jesus is about. Matthew 11:28-30 is my go-to verse when life’s merry-go-round flings me off into the bushes. Jesus said “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus speaks to the heart of a person who is overcommitted and burned out. He knows of our human tendency to perform – in the workplace, in our families, and in our churches. Jesus had the most significant ministry in history, yet found time to get away, to be alone, to pray, or tell the crowds he’d be back later. He needed rest, so he spent time with his Father. Once he was filled up with the kind of rest that can only come from above, Jesus went back to his ministry – refreshed and refocused.
If the Son of God needs time away to rest and recoup, we shouldn’t feel guilty about doing the same. What one thing you can implement this week to rest? Here are 4 ideas to encourage you:
- Reschedule. Look at your docket this week. What can you cancel, push back, or eliminate? The sun will come up tomorrow even if you say “no” or “not now” to a commitment.
- Reprioritize. Do you find joy in your daily activities? Every commitment isn’t always about having fun, but your hours should not be filled with drudgery. If something isn’t bringing you joy, it may be time to move on.
- Recharge. Instead of throwing in one last load of laundry before bed, how about propping your feet up with a devotional book? Do those phone calls really need to be returned now, or can they wait until office hours? Would it soothe your soul tell a bedtime story to your child rather than grade the papers you brought home from school? There’s a time for work, and a time to recharge. Know the difference between the two.
- Reward. You work hard, so stop beating yourself up! Go get ice cream, read that best-seller, take a walk, grab a nap, go on a date, watch a movie, or work in your garden. You don’t need to earn these privileges; they are yours for the taking.
God took time out from creating to rest on the seventh day. Jesus pressed pause on his life-changing ministry to regroup. If the ones who have the whole world in their hands can take a time out, we can certainly cut ourselves some slack.