I know I’m not the only one out there who feels this way, tired and worn out. I don’t need a national holiday to remind me that most Americans are so overworked and overcommitted that we are burning-out in record numbers.
A survey by Barna research discovered that 1,500 clergy are leaving pastoral ministry each month. Burn out is one of the key factors to this phenomenon. This is happening in every field and profession scours the country. We are busy, burnt-out people.
Even when we’re not working our job, we’re busy commuting, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, helping our kids with homework or being their Uber driver.
Most of us have been busy for so long that it seems we have forgotten how to nap how to shut down long enough to let our batteries recharge.
Given the fact that this pandemic has forced us to slow down and reprioritize our life, you’d think we’d be rested and renewed by now. Instead, COVID has just given us one more thing to be tired and worn out over. The world is tired.
Tired of the rat race and climbing the corporate ladder. Tired of the media noise and empty political rhetoric and partisan bickering. Tired of the hate and hypocrisy. Tired of living hand to mouth and keeping up with the Jones’. Many of us are tired of being alone. Tired of being in lockdown and wearing masks. Tired of worrying for ourselves and the people we love. We are tired of feeling angry all the time, or feeling afraid all the time, or feeling worthless all the time.
We are busy, burnt-out people who are tired of being tired. The good news for us today is that Jesus gets it. He knows just how exhausting life can be. Especially a life of ministry.
So he has this to say about it:
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. ~Mark 6:30-34
Prior to this passage, Jesus has sent his disciples on sort of a short-term mission trip to preach and teach and heal the sick in the surrounding villages. They were so busy, Mark tells us, that they didn’t even have time to eat.
You know what that’s like don’t you? Popping a dollar in a vending machine to get something to munch on as you work through lunch. Or grabbing a handful of chocolate covered almonds between Zoom classes, just to have a little sustenance to keep you going. We’re becoming so stretched thin that basic functions of life, like eating and resting, are being reshaped in the image of the world and not in the One who came to redeem it.
Mark doesn’t say how long the disciples were gone. Nor does he give us any details about what they did or didn’t do. If we read between the lines, it seems Jesus wasn’t concerned with how well they did, as much as how they are doing.
He knows they’re tired and burnt out. He is too. So He says to the disciples, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
Even though their plans will be foiled by the crowd of people following them, Jesus puts a priority on his disciple’s health and wellbeing just as he does with all who come to him for healing.
The takeaway from this is simple: Jesus is inviting us to go to with him and rest in the presence of our gracious God.
Like the psalmist wrote, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you, he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).
Back when my dad was in med school, it wasn’t uncommon for Interns and Residents to be on call for 24 to 48 hours straight. To stay on top of his game, my dad had to learn how to get quality rest in a very short period of time. He did this by drinking a cup of coffee, then shutting his eyes for a nap. Mind you, he’d be so exhausted that falling asleep was easy. And since it takes about 20 minutes for the caffeine to kick in, he would automatically wake up - refreshed and renewed.
Rest is important in the kingdom of heaven. Even if it’s just a power nap. It’s important because there are people in need of Jesus and his spiritual sustenance. If we will be of any use to the kingdom Jesus ushered in, then we need to take the time to find our rest and sustenance in God’s loving arms before we can be that for each other.
Some of you know that I try to work out often. I don’t do anything crazy, but i do enough lifting to I know if I don’t take a day off to let my muscles recuperate, I could do serious harm to myself. Just the same, we need to set some time aside each day to recuperate and refresh our body, mind, and spirit.
We need to get away, literally or figuratively, and go to the wilderness where God always encounters the faithful – providing sustenance, protection, renewal, and direction.
In fact, rest is so important that out of all the 600+ commandments God gave to Israel, taking an entire day for rest made the top 10 list. “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”
The Bible tells us that this isn’t about spending an hour or so in church every Sunday. It’s about taking the entire day off, you and your entire household, including your pets. The Bible states no physical work should be done so that weary bones and muscles could rejuvenate.
The principle of Sabbath rest is for the purpose of being refreshed and renewed in God’s spirit. God gives us this time so we can gather as a community to enjoy life without the stresses of life getting in the way.
Jesus understands this and tells his tired disciples, “Let’s get out of here, let’s take a break and get a little rest.” What a gift to be given – the time to get away and be in God’s loving and healing embrace.
I can only imagine what those words must have sounded like his disciples. I know that when I’m stressed out and overly tired, I get cranky. It makes my mind foggy, and it stops me from bringing my A game.
But here’s the thing, Jesus needs us to bring our best, to be fully present in his mission.
As we enter Anamesa, that space between life and death, we do so knowing this is where life happens in real time. This is where all the many dangers, toils, and snares lurk. We need to be rested and alert so we can be fully present and not get trapped ourselves.
We need to be refreshed and always at the ready to help and heal and preach and teach, because people are still lost, like sheep without a shepherd. If we’re burnt out, what good are we for this work that is needed?
Jesus knows the needs of the people are urgent. And still he finds time throughout the gospels to be alone with God; to be renewed and refreshed by the Holy Spirit.
"If our Lord knows that He needs to stop and rest with all of the important things He has to do, don’t you think the same applies to us, as well?"
You don’t have to take an extended vacation to the islands or wait for a national holiday. There are plenty of ways to sneak in rest or even a nap. It might mean stopping for a few moments, every hour or so, to sit with God and breath in the Holy Spirit.
It might mean finding a quiet spot outside or in your car, where you can close your eyes and enter a meditative prayer. Or instead of picking up your phone to see who’s posting what, pick up the Bible, or a book of poetry, or a journal to see what God is writing on your heart.
Again, the psalmist writes, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). So, where’s that still, quiet place in your life? Does it even exist?
Given our fast-paced world, and the bombardment of media noise all around us, the idea of stillness seems almost alien. But if we want to experience true intimacy with God, we must learn to quiet the chatter, be still and be with God.
Set an alarm. Put it in your schedule. But do whatever it takes to find rest in God’s love for you.
The prophet Isaiah reminds us that, “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 40:31).
How’s that for a promise. Rest in God and you will never grow weary or faint. It’s like a nap for your soul.
Jesus knows our hearts and knows what we need, even when we don’t know ourselves. He knows what it takes to do the work of God’s kingdom, and what it can take out of you if you aren’t careful. So, he calls us to come away with him and rest.
For the Lord is our shepherd who makes us lie down in green pastures, and leads us beside the still waters, and restores our soul.
In Christ, God is leading us all home; to be refreshed, renewed and resurrected.
Therefore, let us give ourselves over to the One who says to you and me, and all who are weary, “Come away with me and rest for a while.”
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word, Year B Vol. 3. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009).
Pagano, Joseph S. We Are In Many Ways…” (episcopalchurch.org, July 19, 2009). Accessed on September 4, 2021
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”