But while God wants us to use our time, talents, and blessings to bless and serve others, that doesn't mean He desires us to work ourselves to death.
In the last decade, I have learned two things about myself that I consider double-edge-swords. One is that my love for humanity comes at a cost, and two that my addiction to productivity might just be the death of me.
Through a one-on-one counseling session with my therapist, I have learned that while I am a type-A personality, living with an "on" switch twenty-four hours a day isn't feasible or healthy. And as much as our society screams busy, multi-tasking, and efficiency, it takes a toll on us as human beings.
We Are Only Human
As humans, we have a finite and limited amount of time, energy, and money. And like Christina Perri's song Human notes, "I'm only human. And I bleed when I fall down. I'm only human. And I crash, and I break down. Your words in my head, knives in my heart. You build me up and then I fall apart. 'Cause I'm only human." And isn't that the truth?
We have some time.
We have some energy.
We have some money.
But at the end of the day, we simply cannot do it all. And we must not attempt to do it all. Eventually, our clocks count down, our energy slows, and our money dwindles. Even the most timely, powerful, and rich grow late, weak, and poor from time to time, and for me, I have had to learn this lesson the hard way.
An Addiction to Productivity
Growing up I grew up too fast. I became the second parent of my home at fourteen and quickly abandoned my childish ways. I tasted bitterness, verbal abuse, and familial chaos to the point that my mental health suffered just as much as those suffering around me. I quickly became a frantic, anxious, multi-tasking, over-productive queen.
Productivity is "focusing on the efficiency of a production of goods or services expressed by some measure." But while God wants us to use our time, talents, and blessings to bless and serve others, that doesn't mean He desires us to work ourselves to death.
Today, I struggle to take breaks. I fight with an addiction to productivity that I know is slowly killing me. I am often a slave to the grind even when everything within me yells "no." I fail more days than I win. I give in to overexertion when all God ever wanted me to give was my best.
Living to Meet the Status Quo
Yet, in Hebrews 4, I see another group of people living to meet the status quo when all God wanted them to do was rest and believe in Him. They somehow make me feel less alone in this struggle:
"God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God (Some manuscripts read they didn’t combine what they heard with faith.)." (Hebrews 4:1-2, NLT)
For the people of God, resting with Jesus was counter-cultural. Not only did believing Jesus could save them from their sins strike many the wrong way, but it poised Him as the Messiah. And only the Messiah could cleanse them from their sins and obsession with productivity.
Before Jesus' death and resurrection, hundreds and thousands of laws and sacrifices had to be completed. Only death and blood could atone for the price of sin. But when Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He paid that price once and for all. It wasn't that the sacrifices and laws were null or void. It was that Jesus had paid their balance in full.
While the rest Jesus speaks of here is a reference to believing in Him and living that out through one's faith, I firmly believe it applies to how we live today. Just as Jesus promised rest to those who knew Him and entered a personal relationship with Him, He promises the same for those living in the twenty-first century and beyond.
A Promise of Rest
While many during Jesus' time struggled to accept His rest, either through disbelief, or ignorance, it is evident that many of us still wrestle with it.
As Hebrews 4:8-11 notes, "Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall" (NLT).
Many could not accept that Jesus' rest could transcend productivity and work. It was incomprehensible to them how the death and resurrection of one man could suddenly cover the time, energy, and price of hundreds of thousands of kept laws and sacrifices. It is incomprehensible to us now. Yet it is a promise. And the promises of God are always true. They will never grow null or void. They will never be dependent on our measure of productivity or inactivity.
The Beauty of Rest
Today, the beauty of entering God's rest is not that it is easy (while it can be for some, it is not for most). And it certainly isn't that He doesn't want us to work hard, using and making the most of our time, talents, energy, and finances. Scriptures tell us to be good stewards of each of those things.
But when we care more about our measure of efficiency or how many to-do's we check off our lists, there is a problem. When we go, do, and be twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to the point that we are slaves to a productivity-driven life we call religion, we are striving to uphold a life He never called us to keep.
Resting, truly resting, in the Lord is a process. There will be days when we place productivity, tasks, and chores above the love and service He calls us to show others. I struggle with this daily.
Yet the most beautiful thing about His rest is that it is always available to those who believe, even when we continually try to pick productivity back up, carry it, or accomplish more.
Let us strive now not to do more, be more, or give more but to rest in the rich rest He brings. Not because He will never ask us to do, be, or give more, but because He's patient with us and loves us through the process. He's in the business of producing good fruit within us—not turning us into productivity-obsessed
And in the end, we will rest for eternity. Why wouldn't we strive for it now?
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Morgan Sarkissian
Amber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at amberginter.com.