What to Do If You Feel Exhausted
If you’re exhausted, overwhelmed, and so busy you can’t even think straight, this article will be good for you.
Many of us feel stretched to the breaking point. We’re trying to get things done, reach financial prosperity, process our lives, raise our kids, handle our money well, keep our families healthy and whole—we put in all this effort, and we are tired.
The biblical model of abundant life is not an escape from work like many of us think. It doesn’t mean navigating around work into a place of leisure where there is no work. Instead, it’s about escaping toil and stepping into a place of fulfillment.
To find true fulfillment in our lives, we need to walk on two “legs.” One is work and the other is Sabbath.
Biblical Toil vs. Exhaustion
Biblical toil is different than just feeling exhausted, working long hours, or desperately needing a break. Biblical toil is an escalated form of exhaustion that deadens our hearts.
At the height of my season of biblical toil, I was working full time at a church and also had a side business as a CPA doing tax returns for friends and colleagues around the country. My kids were small, I was working to keep my marriage alive, and I felt pulled in so many different directions.
I’m a farm boy, so I know how to work hard. To this day, I love working; I love to get up in the morning and have something to go to and accomplish. But after about seven years of working 100-hour weeks, I found myself in a bad place. I realized I was starting to feel dead on the inside, and it didn’t make sense to me. I was in a growing church, I was seeing God do miracles, my family was healthy and happy, I was at the top of my game in my career—yet in the middle of all this prosperity, I felt like I was dying.
I began to ask, “Why do I have all this goodness around me, and yet I feel dead inside?” I was suffering from biblical toil.
Wheat and Tares
Many passages of Scripture discuss the concept of biblical toil, but here I want to focus on Matthew 13:37–38:
The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one.
“Evil one” is better translated simply “evil,” as in the concept of evil. This verse isn’t talking about the devil but about a strategy the devil uses to weigh us down with toil, to wear us out, so we enter a condition of deadness. Our good ideas (wheat) compete against lies (tares) that were planted by the “sons” of evil.
I got into this condition with good intentions. I was trying to serve the Lord, but I walked too far into work and the enemy’s push toward toil. God’s increase is like an umbrella that protects me from the enemy’s influence, but if I go beyond that umbrella, I get into a place that is filled with toil. Proverbs 10:22 says the blessing of the Lord makes us rich, and God adds no sorrow to it. Within the territory of God’s blessing, I can play hard, work hard, dream hard and serve the Lord, and no sorrow is “added” to me.
But if I walk out from under the edge of that umbrella, it still feels like blessing, but I come in contact with sorrow, with toiling. Proverbs 10:22 is a key Scripture because it tells us when we’ve come out from under the Lord’s blessing.
What do we do if we find ourselves toiling? The answer is to run back underneath the umbrella, to the place where God put us. That place isn’t always easy to find, yet the principle is simple: If we realize we are toiling, we just need to back up.
Sabbath and Recovery
Many people don’t really talk about Sabbath—they talk about rest. The Western concept of rest means simply rearranging your schedule or “doing nothing.” It’s like going on a vacation and coming back more tired than when you left. You can be so busy “resting” that you don’t actually recover.
But Sabbath is different. It is sacred and blends with our faith, adding a dimension of rest to all three parts of who we are: body, soul, and spirit. Sabbath is about recovery, which is why it is important to distinguish Sabbath from, say, just taking a nap, which rests the body but not necessarily the mind and spirit.
How does a person keep the Sabbath? We’ll talk about some practical ways to do this next week. In the meantime, may you learn the secret of rest and work. May God relieve you of your battle with toil, and may He bless your Prosperous Soul.