Six Reasons We Fail to Care for Ourselves (and How Jesus Modeled the Opposite)
Ministry without rest causes burn-out. Here are some reasons we fail to rest.
We are afraid the ministry will fail/lack/fall apart if we take a step back to rest.
We probably don’t say it out loud because it sounds prideful (and it is!), but often times we fail to rest because we’re afraid our ministry will fall apart if we take a step back.
Matthew 8:23-27 is a familiar passage about Jesus calming the storm. This event happens after Jesus spent time healing many people and preaching the gospel. It is no surprise that he is exhausted and asleep in the boat.
When the storm comes, Jesus doesn’t frantically jump up and attempt to keep everything afloat. He continues to sleep because he knows His Father is the Controller of the wind and the waves. He isn’t afraid that everything will fall apart if he rests.
However, his disciples certainly are afraid. He, of course, responds to their fear by waking up and calming the storm-but not at the cost of his own energy.
Jesus was able to sleep because he knew his Father was in control of his ministry.
We fail to plan.
Often times, we simply fail to plan for rest. Mark 1:35 is one of many verses that tell us how Jesus awoke early and went to a desolate place to pray. Jesus planned his time and place for soul rest.
Daily devotionals are great for soul rest and may come easy to some of us in ministry. However, it is harder to take needed times of rest that require longer days and maybe even multiples days or weeks. We may not make the best of our Sabbaticals if we fail to plan. Rest often takes planning and intentionality.
We do not set boundaries.
With all the demands of ministry and the people vying for our attention, we can easily fail to set boundaries with others. We may plan to rest, but we allow it to go out the window when others demand our attention.
Perhaps we do set the boundary and take rest, but are left feeling guilty and fearing that we are neglecting our ministry. It is hard to rest when guilt is hovering over us!
In Mark 6:45-46 we see Jesus setting boundaries without guilt. In this passage, Jesus had just miraculously fed the crowd of 5,000. He then sends the crowd and his disciples away so he can rest in prayer.
We do not create rhythms of rest.
Creating rhythms of rest helps us to not neglect resting. Rhythms of rest are patterns of rest that we build into our routine. This goes along with planning rest, but rhythms of rest are a bit of a step up from planning.
Luke 5:15-16 tells us that Jesus had a habit or rhythm of withdrawing from the crowds to pray. We also see this in scripture, as it often tells us that Jesus went by himself to pray.
Rhythms of rest can be daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc. They often become so natural and routine that it makes rest harder to neglect.
We do not listen to our bodies.
“Listening to your body” may sound strange, but God has created our bodies to give us signs of what we need. For example, I often get headaches if I am dealing with stress or suppressing certain emotions. I know when a headache starts that I need to examine if I need immediate rest or reflection.
Jesus also listened to his body. In John 4:6, Jesus stops to rest at the well simply because “he was wearied from his journey.” Jesus knew he needed physical rest because his body told him. The God of the universe recognized the limits of his human body and gave it rest.
If you are not in the habit of listening to your body, it may take some time to learn. It helps to note (and even write down) when your mood or physical feelings change and what might have caused it. After a while, you will probably notice a pattern-our bodies tend to respond the same way to certain stimuli. The signs our bodies give us are evidence of God’s grace and care for us.
We don’t grieve properly.
I admire the early Jewish community’s ability to lament well. They not only shied away from mourning, but they hired professional mourners to wail with them.
In Western culture, we are often scared of grieving. We are expected to get over sadness quickly and move on. It is more efficient. Mourning only slows us down. Ministers can fall into the trap of hiding within their ministry to avoid the hard work of mourning.
Grieving is a form of rest. Failing to grieve brings severe consequences. Physical ailments, emotional isolation, and indulging in sin to cover pain are some of the consequences. There is a reason God gave us tears.
Jesus models proper grieving in Matthew 14:10-13. After his cousin, John the Baptist, is grotesquely murdered, Jesus withdraws by himself to mourn. The crowds follow him and demand more, but he takes time to grieve.
John 11:35 I the shortest verse in the Bible, but it packs a punch. Jesus wept. He grieved with those around him because he knew grieving was a necessary rest for the soul. Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but he still recognized Martha and Mary’s pain and took the time to grieve before reversing death. He didn’t dismiss their pain by insisting he would make it right. He wept.
Think About It
Take time to reflect and as God which of these failures to rest do you struggle with the most? How can you trust God to change this? How can you care for yourself today and rest?
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