Work and rest are both gifts from God, so why are they impossible to balance consistently? Life is too unpredictable to balance, so we often throw up our hands in frustration and say, “why bother?” The balancing act is just that – an act. The lives of most successful people are anything but balanced. When driven people run, they want to run hard, which is often both fulfilling and rewarding. When our Lord modeled and implemented a literal 24-hour day of rest, it was not to slow us down, but to refocus and refuel us for the next week.
I would suggest that you abandon the fantasy and frustration of a balanced life, and instead, embrace a biblically healthy life of rhythm that pushes us to, not beyond, our limits. A life in rhythm takes into account the different seasons and stages of our lives. Unlike balance, rhythm embraces both work and rest as friends, not competitors. A healthy life is not the result of balancing work and rest, but oscillating between the two. Oscillation is what a pendulum or rotating fan does – it moves or swings back and forth in a rhythmic way.
Even Jesus oscillated between stretches of work and rest. Sometimes after pouring Himself all day into people, He would encourage them to stay longer and feed them (Mark 6:37); or heal one more person. Other times however, He would send the crowds home (Matt. 14:23). A couple of times we see Jesus praying all night (Luke 6:12); then we also see Him sleeping through a storm (Matt. 8:23). His life was a series of sprints and recoveries, spending and renewing, working and resting. He experienced a rhythm of cycles and seasons that were sustainable in His life and ministry.
In The Power of Full Engagement, executive consultants Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz explain the importance of both spending energy (work) and renewing energy (rest). “Chronic stress without recovery and chronic recovery without stress both serve to reduce capacity. In sports, these conditions are referred to as overtraining and undertraining.”
Driven leaders have a tendency to overtrain, overcommit, and stay overwhelmed. Finding a sustainable rhythm between work and rest and worship may take some time, but it will be well worth the effort.
How do you know if your life and ministry are out of rhythm?
- You have too many irons, but not enough fire
- You multitask during meals or in the middle of conversations
- The only time you take a day off is when you are sick
- You have recently told someone how many hours you worked
- Ministry anxiety consistently robs you of sleep
Go on strike, take a stand, get your life back! In my daily quest for an abundant life of rhythm, I had to give up on the quest for balance. I would love to hear how you find a rhythm of work and rest in your life.