July 02, 2019
I have a confession to make: I am a workaholic.
I’m not proud of it, because being a workaholic isn’t a badge of honor that one should proudly wear. It’s a misplaced dedication to work borne out of wrong mindsets, unhealthy habits, or a lack of self-control.
I used to pride myself in working for more than 40 hours a week. I don’t stop when I’m tired; I only stop when I’m finished with my tasks. At home, after a long day at work, my mind would sometimes continue thinking about work. When the gears in my head start turning, my brain won’t stop doing somersaults.
Technology isn’t my friend. It’s nearly impossible to ignore the notifications on my iPad, and the Facebook messages just keep popping up. Say hello to the “always-on” generation.
Yes, I usually accomplish much, and I get satisfaction from the results of my hard work. But the long-term effects could be detrimental, if not fatal.
Workaholism isn’t just for the “working class.” This could also be for students who tend to overcommit themselves and find it difficult to pause. A word of caution to you, my fellow workaholics: If you don’t take a moment to chill, you will suffer from one or all of the following.
A life without joy. There’s a very thin line that separates passion and addiction. Passion results in joy and a deep sense of fulfillment, but addiction to work might rob you of joy. In fact, passion, if left unchecked and unguarded, could result in workaholism. Workaholism replaces joy with pressure, stress, frustration, and exhaustion. When joy is gone, we will feel enslaved by work. God ordained work not to punish us, but to make us enjoy a life of purpose.
Strained relationships. Nobody wants to hang around a grumpy, uptight, and negative person, right? That’s the result of a heart that’s drained of joy. Workaholism strains our relationships in many different ways. When work supersedes the value of our relationships, we inevitably lose time for key relationships in our lives, including our family and friends. No amount of success will ever compensate for failure in our relationships. Ultimately, workaholism strains our relationship with God. When life becomes too busy and hurried, we will end up neglecting our intimacy with Him.
Unhealthy body. Workaholism results in too much stress, which could lead to sickness. Also, unhealthy work habits result in unhealthy lifestyles such as stress eating, skipping meals, or not having enough sleep. Been there, done that. I’ve missed deadlines, skipped meetings, and went on an extended leave because I felt too exhausted to work. Thank God for people who remind me to slow down, take it easy, and just rest.
Soul fatigue. In May 2019, the World Health Organization classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” resulting from “chronic stress that has not been successfully managed.” It is characterized by exhaustion, cynicism to one’s job, and reduced professional effectiveness. But burnout is more than just physical and mental exhaustion; it is a chronic fatigue that runs deep in the human soul. Burnout is a condition of the soul that has been disconnected from the Source of its strength.
I used to think that my exhaustion was caused by the heaviness of the load that I carry. But God taught me that it wasn’t the load that was causing my perennial burnout; it’s the way that I’m carrying the load. As Jesus said, His burden is easy and His yoke is light (Matthew 11:30). My exhaustion and burnout, then, were self-inflicted. I was carrying the load the wrong way.
Why is it so hard to rest?
Human beings can really be unreasonable at times.
We all desire to rest, to enjoy, and to just take it easy in life. But why can’t we? Contemplating on this, I realized the following:
We can’t hit the pause button because we sometimes think that the world will stop turning when we stop working. We buy into the illusion that we are fully responsible in running things. But God gives sleep to those He loves (Psalm 127:2), because He is the one in charge. God desires faithful stewardship for the things He entrusted to us, yet He also desires faith from us—faith to recognize that He is the one in charge and that we can rest in Him.
Are you burdened by too many projects? Do you sometimes feel drained because of endless school work? It’s okay to rest after you’ve done your best. God sees your diligence; He will reward your faithfulness. He is the one in charge of your future.
We can’t hit the pause button because we think we have enough strength to keep going. We abuse our bodies and push ourselves to our limits, thinking that we are strong enough to take care of everything. So we retire to bed late, wake up early in the morning, skip our meals, or binge eat to reward ourselves. We were bought at a high price—the precious blood of Jesus. We are not our own. Therefore, we are to glorify God in our body (1 Corinthians 6:20).
We can’t hit the pause button because we feel pressured to achieve security and stability. We work hard or study hard because the world tells us that hard work is the key to success. It’s partially true, because God’s Word teaches us to be faithful and diligent stewards. But, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:1,2).
In short, our security and success ultimately rest on God. Don’t feel too pressured in your studies. If you’ve surrendered your life to Jesus, He is the one who builds your future. You’re no longer studying to build your future; you’re studying in order to walk toward the bright future that Jesus has prepared for you.
Retire as the general manager of the universe, because you’re not. God is. As author Max Lucado put it, “Do you really want the world to revolve around you? If it’s all about you, then it’s all up to you. Your Father rescues you from such a burden.”
Lastly, we can’t hit the pause button because we feel the need to prove ourselves or meet people’s expectations. This is called “approval addiction,” a deep need for significance and validation. Jesus’ finished work on the cross frees us from the need to prove ourselves. He has given us a secure identity as God’s children. We’re not defined by how good we are in school, at work, or in our respective crafts. We are defined by the perfect work of Jesus Christ—His sinless life, His perfect sacrifice, and His powerful resurrection. As they say, “nothing to prove, no one to impress.”
Note to self: Resting is not a crime!
God is a God of rest. Jesus calls Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8). God has been inviting people to enter His rest (Hebrews 4:3). Jesus offered rest for the tired and weary.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28–30 (NLT)
Are you tired? Do you feel drained? Exercise your faith by resting in God. Resting requires more than just self-care. It requires soul care. It means taking a moment to reconnect with Him, sitting in silence just to talk to Him, and carving out time to listen to what He has to say.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:30,31 (NLT)
Now, take a deep breath and whisper to yourself, “Hey, it’s okay to rest.”