After months of intense stress at my job, as well as a busy season with family and ministry, I was exhausted—and more than just physically. Reflecting on the prior six months, I realized that, although I had tried to be consistent in my work ethic, I didn’t consistently take time to rest. Responsibility is an important part of life, but disorder sets in when responsibilities become the chain holding us captive to self-reliance.
When an international scholar visited a seminary in the US, he was surprised to see an American colleague gardening on Sunday. For him, that activity wasn’t appropriate for the day of rest he observed on Sunday, whereas his colleague found the experience of planting, sowing, and digging to be restful, providing enjoyment and a bit of mental relief. Although the two men interpreted the Sabbath principle differently, they both agreed on the importance of seeking to rest each week.
Tonight as I sit here writing, one of our family dogs lays curled up on the ottoman at my feet. I’m his favorite of all our family members, though—in truth—it probably has something to do with my keeping his food bowl full! Seymour loves to be outside, but his preferred activity is to rest all seventy-five pounds of his sweet self on my lap. On especially busy days, he remains near me, patiently waiting until I sit down.
What keeps you awake at night? Lately, I’ve been losing sleep as I’ve worried about work. I worry about how to meet deadlines, respond to emails that could lead to soured relationships if not handled wisely, and more. I toss and turn on my bed, trying to work out various solutions in my mind. But the more I try to mentally solve the issues, the more sleep eludes. Eventually, I begin fretting about not getting enough rest to handle the challenges of the next day!
Sleep deprivation has become a serious health issue around the world. A survey of South Koreans found that 17 percent had at least three nights of insomnia each week. Another study in Hong Kong revealed nearly 12 percent have insomnia. In the UK, 50 percent of Britons fail to get enough sleep; and 30 percent of American adults have symptoms of insomnia, including 10 percent who experience challenges in their daily activities due to a lack of real rest.
During a particularly tense period at work, I found that the stress was making it difficult to concentrate. My mind was constantly racing, and I struggled to focus even on Bible study and prayer. I had to learn to deliberately separate and guard my heart from prevailing winds—wherever they came from.
A woodcut illustration in a German book from 1512 depicts a woman tossing out a baby along with wastewater from a bucket. This is the first known use of the idiom, “Throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Some say this phrase came from the idea of a family sharing bathwater (from oldest to youngest) until, finally, the last one—the baby—could barely be seen in the dirty water. Whether this story is true or not, we can be grateful for the invention of modern plumbing!
My son and I spent a few days with friends at their home in the beautiful northern region of New England in the US. Our visit followed my ninth consecutive year of fruitful but intense ministry in East Africa. Depleted and in need of recharging, I was grateful for the physical rest my friends’ hospitality provided.
When I was a young child, I thought that thunder and lightning were separate phenomena that just happened to occur at the same time. It was only years later that a science teacher explained to me that lightning and thunder are directly connected to one another—that the rapid heating and cooling of the air during a lightning strike causes a massive atmospheric boom which we hear as thunder. In other words, you would never have thunder if lightning didn’t strike first.
One morning, I was surprised to see my mail carrier lugging his heavy bag. I asked him why he was delivering mail on Sunday, and he curtly responded with a single word: “Amazon.” The online retailer had started offering Sunday delivery, so it was no longer a day of rest for postal workers.
My eldest daughter is extremely helpful at home—caring for her younger siblings and even baking cakes for their birthdays. But in her desire to be helpful, she sometimes takes on things that she shouldn’t—such as trying to discipline her siblings or demand that they sit up straight at the table. When she does those things, I have to tell her to stop. This isn’t necessarily because what she’s trying to promote is wrong, but because what she’s taking on is her parents’ role and too heavy for her shoulders.
If you were given an extra day each week, how would you use it? To read books, volunteer with a charity, perhaps catch up on sleep? In truth, I’d probably spend that extra day working. While I enjoy what I do, I don’t think that’s the healthiest of confessions.
My wife and I used to live in a small flat on the sixth floor of an apartment block. We loved its balcony views and simplicity. And there was no yard work to do! But our little home had its problems, one in particular—a limited power supply.