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  • Writer's pictureApril Knapp

4 Traps That Leave You Feeling Guilty About Rest

One Summer morning, I decided to hedge the bushes in the hot, humid, southern sun. One hour in, my body told me to rest. I ignored it. I believed that if I stopped, I wouldn’t complete the work. An hour later, I nearly passed out. I drank a ton of water, but the damage was done. My refusal to rest caused me to overheat. I threw up for an hour and was forced to lie down with a migraine. For one more hour of accomplishment, I lost the rest of the day.

You may never have suffered from heat exhaustion, but how often have you suffered from spiritual exhaustion? How many times have you told yourself, “I must keep going for the sake of my ministry,” only to find yourself completely depleted later on, with nothing left to give?

Christians have a rest problem-we desperately need rest, but we feel guilty taking it.

There are four main traps that cause us to feel guilty about taking rest. When we become aware of these traps, then we know how to fight the guilt.

1. Finding Your Identity in Work or Roles

If we are looking to ministry to find our worth, then rest feels like a threat to our identity. As we attempt to fill our cup with things other than God, our cup will remain empty, yet we attempt to keep filling it with emptiness. Finding our identity in anything else other than Jesus is complete emptiness.

If you find yourself unable to rest because ministry seems more important, ask the Spirit to reveal to you where you are looking for worth and identity. Humble yourself before the Lord- even God Himself rested-who are we to think our ministry is too important to rest from?

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah 58:11

Only God can satisfy your desire in scorched places.

2. People-pleasing

Often we feel guilty resting because we’re afraid others will be disappointed if we fail to meet their expectations. We fail to say no to things not required of us. As a result, we have too much on our plate.

I see this especially true in moms who work in ministry. Often we feel like we’ve given to others all day and have nothing left to give at home. We feel like we can’t rest because we must meet demands at home and in ministry.

If you find yourself in this place, I want to encourage you to practice saying no. Learn the capacity God has given you and leave the worry about disappointing others at his feet. People-pleasing means we are searching for worth in others’ view of us rather than in Jesus. Finding worth in other’s approval will never satisfy our souls.

3. Trust in Own Ability/Control

Many times we feel guilty about resting because we’re afraid the ministry will fail if we step away. We trust our own ability to make ministry succeed. We may say we trust God with our ministry, but it is usually an after-thought. In reality, we don’t believe he will come through, so we attempt to control things on our own.

We fool ourselves into thinking we are servants, but in reality, we have an inflated view of our own importance. If we think our ministry will fail without us, then we are not following God, but our own agenda.

Serving in ministry is a privilege. If we step away, we are not so ultimate that everything would fall apart. God has a plan for your ministry and his plans will not fail if you take the much needed rest he commands you to take.

If you find yourself unable to rest because of this fear, I encourage you to humble yourself before the Lord and ask him to help your unbelief. Rebel against your fears, take the rest, and watch how the Lord shows up.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:1-2

4. Resting in Ways That are Not Really Restful.

When I am exhausted, I often do what feels most comfortable. But, what feels most comfortable is not always the most restful for our souls. Taking naps and watching TV can be restful, but if we always default into these activities, we may miss out on what is truly restful. We may end up feeling not rested at all.

I have often taken naps only to wake up in a worse mood. I’ve numbed myself with entertainment only to feel more lost when it was over. Sometimes the best rest is journaling or praying, but I default into sleep and entertainment. I deprive my soul of the rest it actually needs. By the time I realize this, I feel guilty for taking the needed rest because I already took the non-needed rest.

If you’re finding that you’re taking down time, but don’t feel rested, you might want to ask-”Am I doing what is truly restful for my soul?” Ask God to reveal to you what speaks most to your soul and how you can find true rest in him.

The Truth About Rest

God rested after creating the world (Genesis 2:3). He set his example of rest as a pattern for his people to also rest (Exodus 20:8-11). Jesus often rested (Matthew 14:13) and invites us to rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

Rest is vital for ministry. If you fail to rest, you may end up like I did on that summer day- unable to function from exhaustion.

Author Pablo Martinez said, “There is a supernatural dimension in our fatigue, therefore we need to ‘be alert’ (1 Peter 5:8). This is why prayer is so important as a key antidote and a source of inner renewal. As E.M. Bounds put it, ‘When you do not pray, you are an easy prey’."

Which trap do you most easily fall into that causes you to feel guilty about resting? How can you pray today to battle the guilt?


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