Three questions to help you find rest

Written by Brenna Covelens

I’ve been working with at-risk youth for two years. Some days, I feel fulfilled. Other days, I feel discontented. For a while, it felt as if my fairy wings had been clipped, so to speak. My patience grew thin, and I was overly exhausted and anxious to the point where I couldn’t fall asleep for work the next morning. 

Despite this, I had loads to be thankful for in my job. This left me wondering why I felt burnt out. Why did I feel anger, resentment, and annoyance for the job and the clients? Being a Christian, I felt I was supposed to have a better attitude. Despite my feelings, God gave me the command to stay. I couldn’t just leave because the job challenged me. God made it known He had plans for me to grow where He had placed me.

I began to learn that part of the issue was I hadn’t figured out a good balance between my social life and work life. I had to learn a routine of being versus doing. As I worked through what this looked like, I found asking myself the following questions helped me find rest for my spirit and body.

What do I consume on my days off?

Ever heard of the saying “You are what you eat?” Whatever we consume with our eyes, ears, mouths, and brains, those things cling to us like smelly perfume, affecting our bodies and our spirits.

We have access to constant distractions—from addictive junk food to our smartphones—and all these distractions are designed to get us to consume and to keep on consuming. In his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, author and pastor John Mark Comer writes that“each iPhone user is on his or her phone for two and a half hours over seventy-six sessions [days].” Digital addiction is a huge piece of our everyday consumption. Our phones are our best friends. Like any friendship we form, when we’re together 24/7, it’s hard to cut ties.

When I began reducing my social media time to 20 or 30 minutes a day, I realized how much I relied on my phone as a crutch. It became more of an idol and distraction than a tool. As the well-known American poet Mary Oliver wisely said, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”

What I pay attention to is what I devote myself to. If I devote myself to the world, I feed myself the world. If I devote my time to the Lord, I become more like Him and feed myself the life-giving Word. A lot of things in my everyday life are a distraction from the One I should be devoting my time to. I’d rather have the look of God’s daughter than I would as a follower of the world.

Do I allow myself to rest?

Each of us defines rest differently, and I think it’s important to spend time discovering what is truly restful for you. For example, I’ve never been a girl to enjoy mani-pedis and bubble baths to relax. Rest to me is defined by proper sleep and not having too many dopamine-inducing activities, sounds, and movements around me while I do my relaxing hobbies.

Ultimately though, the best rest means time delighting in the Lord. Saint Augustine summed up what true rest is in this quote: “You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” Augustine doesn’t say, “Our heart is restless until it gets a vacation, gets a massage, or finds a new job.” No, he says true rest resides in time with God.

Sometimes, I’m too distracted by the things in my life to rest in the Creator of my existence. Sometimes, I’m too on the move to slow down and rest in the comfort I have right in front of me. By not resting, I lose myself in the world’s chaos and craziness. Let’s not do this any longer, friends.

Am I listening to God talking to me?

Once your distractions have been put aside, it’s time to listen. As Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen stated, “We do not take spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside time to be alone with God and listen to Him.” If we hear the voice of God through prayer and His Word, we are blessed. Yet we must be receptive to that blessing. We are more blessed if we can follow the directions and accept the answers He has given us.

Both my personal and professional lives were out of balance due to my habits of consuming unhealthy things, hurrying through life, and failing to listen to God. As author and speaker Jefferson Bethke said in his book To Hell with the Hustle, “What forms our identities are the million, tiny, micro-sized actions we do every day without realizing it or thinking twice about it. We are the sum of our habits.”

By narrowing my life choices down to these three questions, I was able to see where I needed improvement. Through the process, I saw that His mercies are new every morning, as Lamentations 3 says. The Lord is willing to work alongside us to further maturity and growth. He is the source of our balance.