Many people do not understand the importance of rest. And still more people do not understand the importance of being intentional with rest. There are many instances, especially in religious circles where a pastor, or lay leader will burnout. And then, once burnout occurs, it is more often than not because the person did not have rest as part of their life rhythm.
Rest is important and sacred to God. It was so important, that God, an infinite being with infinite strength, designated a day of rest (Genesis 2:2). But its also important to define what rest is. In Genesis, God rested from achievement and physical creation (labor). This is not an indication of God being inactive. Rest is active. And in order for rest to be good, it must be active and intentional.
The Gaelic peoples of Scotland, Wales and Ireland understood the importance of intentional rest. They considered it so important that they had a consecration prayer for it. It reads like so:
Sleep Consecration (Carmina Gadelica, pg 87)
I AM lying down to-night,
With Father, with Son,
With the Spirit of Truth,
Who shield me from harm.
I will not lie with evil,
Nor shall evil lie with me,
But I will lie down with God,
And God will lie down with me.
God and Christ and Spirit Holy,
And the cross of the nine white angels,
Be protecting me as Three and as One,
From the top tablet of my face to the soles of my feet.
Thou King of the sun and of glory,
Thou Jesu, Son of the Virgin fragrant,
Keep Thou us from the glen of tears,
And from the house of grief and gloom,
Keep us from the glen of tears,
From the house of grief and gloom
God Desires us to Rest
When we rest, we are doing so with the blessing and protection of God. God is with us and actively working with us and through us when we rest and even when that rest is sleep. God has used this time to visit us in our dreams and give the prophets vision. God has used rest to create (Adam was in a deep sleep when the rib was removed). Rest is so important that God has forced the issue. Consider Psalm 23:2: “He makes me lie down in green pastures”. Rest is a requirement from God, a time to regroup and refocus.
Rest Looked Down Upon
In our modern western society, it is common for those seeking rest to be treated with contempt. Because of this, we push through our pain, tiredness and this is a leading cause of burnout. This is true in all aspects of western work life but it is striking in religious circles. According to Bill Gaultiere, statistics on pastoral burnout are alarming. He states the following:
- 75% of pastors report being “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed”
- 90% work between 55 to 75 hours per week
- 90% feel fatigued and worn out every week
- 70% say they’re grossly underpaid
- 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
- 78% were forced to resign from their church (63% at least twice), most commonly because of church conflict
- 80% will not be in ministry ten years later and only a fraction make it a lifelong career. On average, seminary trained pastors last only five years in church ministry.
- 100% of 1,050 Reformed and Evangelical pastors had a colleague who had left the ministry because of burnout, church conflict, or moral failure.
- 91% have experienced some form of burnout in ministry and 18% say they are “fried to a crisp right now”.
Lack of Soul Care and Rest
These alarming statistics are directly a result of the lack of rest. And in many cases lack of rest is occurring because we, as fellow parishioners, will in many cases attack a pastor for needing a break. We require our pastors to be shepherds that follow the bible, but for some reason when it comes to rest, we see our pastors as lazy if they follow the biblical mandate to rest. The lack of following this mandate to rest has caused a mass exodus of pastors as they burn out, and we have ourselves to blame.
Let your pastor rest; Let yourself rest. It may save your life.