I'm a daughter, granddaughter & niece of pastors. I love God & studying the Bible and want to empower others to do the same.
He said to them, "Is not the LORD your God with you? And has he not granted you rest on every side? For he has given the inhabitants of the land into my hands, and the land is subject to the LORD and to his people. -1 Chronicles 22:18, NIV
Workaholics and perfectionists struggle with something called the “performance trap.” We tend to unwisely base our worth on what we have accomplished each day, or what goals we have achieved. The more tasks on our to-do list that were successfully completed (according to the standards of the critic in our heads or inner circles), the more self-pride, accomplishment, and false self-worth we feel that day, when our true self-worth has already been established by Jesus at the cross and on the day of our salvation. The fewer tasks we’ve completed, the lesser we’re tempted to feel about ourselves. And the negative self-talk creeps in. If a task took longer than expected to accomplish, rather than give ourselves grace, we grow frustrated, irate, impatient, sometimes rude to ourselves and others around us.
We put ourselves down, or our skills, or the materials, or the job, or company, our spouse or our children, for not meeting the standards and expectations in our heads. We place blame rather than realizing this is sometimes how life is, and that’s why it’s important to allocate “empty” time every day between tasks, in anticipation that meetings will run over, technology will fail, materials will be forgotten and need to be acquired, children will forget or lose important items, etc., especially the more hurried we are.
“Drawers only seem to catch on the clothes of the angry and hurried”, an internet meme mused. Another said, my brain: “be perfect.” Me: “you mean, do your best?” brain: “no, only perfect.” And some of us let these little gremlins run the show and shame us into despising ourselves, our jobs, our coworkers, the means we work with, and ruining every gift in our lives in an impossible, endless, striving to do it all, every day, according to an impossible, achievable standard of perfection. It’s exhausting, and almost never achievable.
On the rare days we do “get it all done” and “perfectly” according to our standards, these are the only days we feel we deserve to then “rest” or celebrate how we please (and even this can be selfish sin, if we look at what God commands in Is. 53:6 and 58:13). Because these “successful” days are so rare, they create a chemical high in our brains that releases dopamine, and we chase it again and again, the addiction continuously self-perpetuating and being reinforced each time it’s achieved. It’s a form of legalism, an idol we bow to. When we feel we have adequately served our idol, we are filled with pride and condescension toward those who “don’t have it all together as we do.” When we fail to hit our mark, or others around us “fail” (as if we decide the standard of success or failure in what God calls them to do), we spotlight others, we criticize, guilt trip, shame, and blame. Pride takes over and we leave no room for grace, for ourselves or others.
Rest is often the most elusive target for the American who has been taught to work a minimum of 40+ hours a week at their job, plus turn their hobby and their dream into side hustles, to make money at everything, to have a perfect house where everything looks and works perfectly, and to not stop doing until either everything is “perfect” or they collapse from exhaustion. Rest is also elusive for the mom who takes care of all the kids, homeschools or works, takes care of all cooking and cleaning and housework, and then reads that she needs to make money with her passions as well. So she crams one more thing into an already overly packed schedule. And she doesn’t give herself permission to rest. The child, spouse, or employee of the critic or the perfectionist is also never allowed to rest, never knows when they will finally have done “enough” to earn the elusive, ever-moving target of their approval. As a result, they have an incessant need to please, low self-esteem, struggles with worthlessness, depression, anxiety from constantly jumping up at the smallest beckoning. We never know when we might be “needed” again, and our fragile, fractured esteem feeds on even an opportunity to finally gain a crumb of the love and approval we think we must earn, not knowing God’s is all we need, and He has already given His boundless love which we could never earn.
In Italy, shops close for a couple hours every afternoon. Workers go home, eat, nap, read, rest. In some cities in Germany, shops close from late Saturday afternoon until Monday morning. In Spain, France, and much of Europe, hours off are a daily occurrence. Businesses close for weeks, sometimes even a whole month at a time for vacation and rest for the employees and owners. In America, however, there was a push to start Black Friday on Thursday evening, as early as 6 PM, to make sure us consumerists get the most Black Friday deals, which is apparently much more important to some than dinner with their families. Or rest from buying, selling, and consuming.
Perfectionism, striving, hustling—all these become idols, cruel dictators who are never satisfied, never celebrate achievements, for there is always overwhelmingly more to achieve and accomplish. There’s certainly never time to slow down, or for rest, especially not weekly or even daily.
However, in Matthew 11:29, Jesus commands His followers: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Jesus took breaks. He went away in the mornings to talk to and hear from the Father. He took an entire Sabbath day off every week (though not according to the Pharisees’ standards, but His own). He decided what was work for Him, and what wasn’t, and He honored the Sabbath’s rest. He also knew how to slow down, listen, be present with His people, to enjoy their company and talk with them. In Luke 10, when a woman called out her own sister for not working as hard/much as she was, He gently reprimanded the workaholic sister and put things in the proper perspective: Jesus is the highest priority—obeying, spending time with, and serving Him. Nothing matters more than what He says we ought to do, or who He says we are. And in Jesus, we are already enough. Those of us addicted to striving are perhaps doing it because we are trying to earn something already freely given—rest in knowing that God is enough (Ps. 46:10), and what He tells us to do each day is enough, even if some of it “failed” or was incomplete (Matt. 6:34).
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Haggai 1:5-9
We need to do what God tells us to do, when He tells us to do it. That includes rest. It is a gift. The gracious Father knows we need it (Ps. 116:7). He knows we are made of ashes (Gen. 18:27, Job 30:19). Our Maker knows how much our physical bodies, our souls, our emotions, our frazzled nerves can handle. He knows when we need to take brief breaks. He graciously offers all of these exactly when we need them, if we will slow down from trying to continuously achieve and have it all, all these things that do not satisfy. Only God satisfies, and only He makes the things we do satisfying, when we do them WITH Him, as well as for Him. It’s not enough to say we are doing things for God, we need to be doing the things He desires us to do, how and when and how much He tells us. We need the asking of prayer, the knowledge of the Word by reading it daily (even in little bits if that’s all time and small children allow), we need the leading of the Holy Spirit to guide us in this. Lord, what would YOU have me do next, right now?
Do what is in Your heart. You choose. I’m right here with You, whatever You decide. -1 Samuel 14:7
As we build this habit, we find necessary pockets of rest throughout the day, not just on our individual “Sabbath.” We grow weak and weary when we overschedule, overplan, try to do in our own strength what we were never capable of. I can do all things THROUGH Christ, WITH Christ, not on my own pretending it’s in His name and pleasing to Him, when it’s really just obeying the pressures of the critical, over-achieving voices.
RETURN to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. -Psalm 116:7
For the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said: "By repentance and rest you would be saved; your strength would lie in quiet confidence--but you were not willing." -Isaiah 30:15
Thank YOU Lord, that You are so powerful, You not only offer rest, You even graciously give us a heart that is willing, that is accepting of Your rest. In God, because of Jesus, I am enough, and I do enough, when I obey Him above all others, instead of the critics, whose voices grow smaller and weaker and fewer the more I learn to listen to my Savior. And I’m also thankful that just like Jesus knew better than the Pharisees what constituted rest versus work for Him on the Sabbath, so God knows what activities and people give me rest, whether I am an introvert or extrovert, and He desires and plans to give me that rest, first in Him, then in things I enjoy, because He delights in my delight. He delights in me, His creation, His child.
© 2021 Amanda Lorenzo