Nancy and I entered into fulltime pastoral ministry when I was 29 years of age. We were appointed to our first church on August 10, 1980. It was a struggling congregation of 18 primarily elderly people in an old building that needed a lot of TLC. We were blessed to enjoy 10 fruitful years there until God called us to Lebanon nearly 30 years ago.
I learned a lot in those beginning years. One lesson I learned pretty quickly was “beware of the dangers of burnout.” I discovered that juggling family responsibilities with those of leading a growing church was more of an art as it was a science. I “hit the wall” several times over the years.
Long-distance runners know all about “hitting the wall.” That’s the point in a race when the runner feels totally depleted – legs dead, skin rubbed raw, feet hurting with each step, joints aching, vision blurred, and lungs unable to get enough air. But the mental fatigue is even worse, with the mind filling itself with thoughts of doubt and quitting. At that point, runners long for a renewed strength – a second wind.
Life is like a marathon. At times, we can feel totally depleted, especially when we’re facing problems and conflicts. We can feel like slowing down or even quitting.
Most of us have forgotten or have never learned the fine art of resting. When we fail to see our need for rest, it can be dangerous for others and ourselves. When we don’t rest, we lose our way. We race past the “way points” that give us directions. Our judgment becomes suspect. Ultimately, failing to rest may even cost us our lives.
Rest is not an option. It was never meant to be a luxury, but a necessity for growth, maturity and health. God commanded and Jesus demanded that believers rest. We don’t rest because the job is done–we rest because God created us with a need for periodic breaks. Jesus said to his disciples in Mark 6:31, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place. You need to get some rest.”
Often during the winter months, the schools in our region cancel classes because of a snow event. I remember snow days when I was a kid. Do you remember snow days? When it snowed, we would get up in the morning and immediately turn on the radio (or TV) to see if school was going to be cancelled. Nowadays many schools send out text messages and emails when school is canceled or delayed. And when it was canceled, we rejoiced. We had an unplanned day off in which we could do anything we wanted. It usually turned out to be a perfect day.
What I’m getting at is that we need to create our own kind of snow days–or at least some snow time. We need blocks of time on a fairly regular basis to rest our bodies and recharge our souls in order to remain free from burnout and breakdown.
That day–that time of refreshment–is what Jesus had in mind when he said this: “Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29).
When we come to Jesus, he gives us the snow days we need.
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31).
When you feel overwhelmed by life–exhausted, frustrated, weak, discouraged–remember that even young and strong people get tired. But God’s power and strength never diminish. He is never too tired or too busy to help and listen to you. And God’s strength is the source of your strength!
Let’s trust God to lift us up on wings like eagles’ wings. And then let us soar in faith!
Happy snow day!