Written by Alexander Pezzutto
Perhaps you find yourself working 80-hour weeks or 40-hour weeks with endless evening and weekend obligations. Perhaps you haven’t taken a day off in months, or have this inner feeling of depletion and emptiness. You may have bought into the idea that hurry is praiseworthy.
Now, of course, I don’t mean that working hard is bad (look to the ant, you sluggard!). Nor do I mean that Sunday school, youth group, soup kitchens, your family dinners, music practice, babysitting nieces/nephews, or a freelance photography gig are bad things. But have you ever thought, “Wow, this is too much?”
Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” I used to interpret these verses as a direction to make sure everything I ever did had a purpose and was productive. I thought I had to work 60–80 weeks to get ahead in life, and to be at church seven days a week serving in some way to love God well. This didn’t work out well for me.
Drawing from a survey done by Hanover Research, Ceridian reported that 84 per cent of Canadian workers have felt burned out over the last two years. That’s an epidemic in the midst of this pandemic—and taking our work home only made it worse.
But when we read the Psalms, we hear a different story. Over and over, we hear the word “Selah.” The word is a reminder to pause, be still, soak in the psalmist’s words, and reflect.
“I have calmed and quieted my soul,” the author writes in Psalm 131:2. “Be still, and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10 tells us. And then, comes a gentle rebuke Psalm 127:2: “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.”
And even further back in human history, to the Garden of Eden, we remember God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. They walked together. God didn’t tell them to run and catch up to Him. He didn’t make them work all day. This was a morning and evening activity for them.
In 2019, American pastor John Mark Comer wrote The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, a book that may soon become a classic on this subject. In it, Comer describes receiving shockingly simple yet provocatively potent advice from Dallas Willard: “Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate it in your life.”
If your whole life is always in a rush, your inner life is also in a rush.
It can’t slow down. It doesn’t get a chance to slow to a walking pace where God can meet with you and just be, with no agenda. A pace where you can reflect on your life and align your schedule to Christ’s values.
Jesus spent time with his Father morning and evening. He went about with purpose each day, but He wasn’t in a rush. And because of this, when God-moments arose, opportunities for healing and connection, He could be present without being frustrated and exhausted, treating these moments as if they were in His way.
Friends, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, perhaps it’s time to re-assess the role of work or obligations in your life. God does not require that you do all of them. People are understanding enough for you to step away. Statistically, no one gets more done in 80 hours of work than they do in 50. The exhaustion makes you ineffective. So why not find ways to be smarter with your time and work less?
God knows our need to rest. This is why He gave His people the gift of Sabbath. To remind us of a very important fact. “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15).
He mightily delivered His people from overwork. Overwork is a taskmaster that depletes not just of the body, but also the soul.
It’s time we remembered our value does not depend on our work. Grace requires nothing of us; Christ insists we are worthy of love regardless of our performance. Scripture is filled with stories of ill-equipped, unlikely people who took part in God’s amazing work. This tells us we don’t need to strive to achieve everything we think we need. God provides. We must stop chasing a hurried life and embrace the pace of God. A slow, meaningful, walk.
So what actionable steps can you take next? Here are a few suggestions.
- Write out what a typical week looks like for you right now. Beside it, write a list of your prioritized values. What is currently in your schedule that doesn’t line up with your values? Can you cut out one thing? It’s in removing one thing that we make room for another.
- Try setting up digital boundaries. For millennials and Gen Z, there have been direct links to depression based on the amount of time we spend on social media. It also makes it difficult for your body to get a good sleep if you are on a screen prior to sleeping. Can you challenge yourself to not touch screens in the first and last half hour of the day? Ideally, keep your screen in a separate room during these times.
- Can you make room for scheduled times of peace and quiet? Be it a walk, meditative prayer (I recommend the examen at the end of the day; the Hallow app helps), or journaling to reflect. Ideally, this space should have minimal or no contact with technology and noise.
We change when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of what could be. And if you’ve been feeling burnt out or like you’re running on empty, it may be time to reevaluate your life. To live by design, not just by default.
Slow down. Selah.