“Be still” by Kaitlyn Fraser, MA, LPCA

“I need a vacation.” How often have you found yourself thinking or saying that? picture of hat and bag on a sandy beach American culture stresses the importance of doing, achieving, and being successful. We learn to schedule each second of our week – working, chauffeuring children, and meal planning. Although these are all good things, they begin to take over our lives. When we get a minute to rest, we either pull out our phones and check for updates, or we simply fall asleep because we are so exhausted.

There is no stillness in today’s culture. We have been led to believe that stillness and rest are unproductive and that if you are not continually working on something, you are lazy. Instead of taking time to rest, rejuvenate, and care for  ourselves, we turn to coffee, endless to-do lists, and medications to help us concentrate. We then need medication to sleep because our minds cannot stop thinking about what must be done next. Our bodies are screaming for rest, yet we ignore them. It is as if someone is begging for vegetables, but we keep feeding them chocolate – it may make them feel good for a while, but the crash is coming.

Valuing busyness seems to be especially prevalent in the American church. We focus on verses about the evil of laziness such as Proverbs 21:25-26 (ESV) “ The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.”  We should care for others but we interpret Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV) “Do nothing from selfish ambitions or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” as meaning that because God wants us to empty ourselves for others, we must work to the point of exhaustion. However, this is not what God asks of us.

In Mark 6:30-32 (ESV), Jesus tells his disciples to rest after working. “The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while’. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure to even eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.” Who can relate to that – “They had no leisure to even eat”? I know that I can, but Jesus does not want it to be this way. He guided his disciples away from the situation and commanded them to rest. They had done good work, and now he wants them to rest and be restored physically and emotionally.

Hebrews 4:9-11 (ESV) reminds us of the Sabbath day that God commanded saying, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience”. God plans for us to rest so that we do not become weary, vulnerable, and fall into sin. When you are burdened, overworked, and tired, it is much easier to respond in harsh ways or to fall into making bad decisions. Our mental clarity becomes foggy, and our emotional and physical health declines. This is not what God wants for us.

So how can we rejuvenate our bodies? Self-care. Since self-care is any healthy way of lowering stress, it looks different for each individual. Self-care can be intentional breathing, journaling, taking time to enjoy a meal, going on a run, taking a bubble bath, or any sort of healthy calming activity. Think of it as giving yourself a little gift of space and time to breathe and relax. Be intentional about taking time to rest throughout the week.

Self-care may feel awkward and selfish at first, but imagine that we are all vessels. If my vessel is empty, how can I pour into someone else’s vessel? We must first be filled in order to be able to give to others. It is vitally important that we take time to rest as God has commanded us to and take care of ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically. When we become less stressed and healthier, our relationships are more likely to reflect that. Since self-care is often neglected in our busy lives, you may need to schedule specific times for self-care during the week. Put your phone away, get a babysitter to take the kids to a movie, or put away your “to-do” list and take some time for yourself. Release some of the expectations you have for yourself and give yourself grace, just as God gives us grace.

Further Reading Recommendations:
Boundaries:When to Say Yes and How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend