The past year has been a whirlwind of activity: completing my adult fantasy trilogy last March and launching the Christian Creative Nexus, Focus Writing Services, and the Lost Pen Magazine were big undertakings that involved a myriad of smaller tasks and crazy amounts of organization. There were times I was so busy that I struggled to balance my priorities—to not let my projects interfere with my family and day job. It was tough.
Setting goals and accomplishing them is important to me. They are what get me from point A to point Z. I make lists and timelines and consult them along the way to make sure I’m on track. They are how I measure productivity and success. The journey towards accomplishing goals gives meaning and purpose to the sacrifices I make.
Over the last year, I came to understand something important about myself, something that actually saved my mental health and my relationships: I am a project-driven person. Working, producing, activity—getting caught up in the rush of energy and creativity—sometimes become so intense that it seems impossible to be productive without them.
In other words, without something to focus on and throw my energy into, I feel like I’m stagnating. Wasting time. I twiddle my thumbs and stress about all the things I feel I should be doing, which pushes me towards busyness—actively seeking “filler” activities—to fill the void. Ultimately, this is unproductive and, potentially, destructive.
Rest is important. Few things feel better after having accomplished a major project than the moments immediately afterwards when we can finally relax. But, if you’re like me, you probably find yourself quickly getting restless and asking, “Okay, Lord, what’s next?”
Waiting on God is hard. If you’re like me and struggle with anxiety, having projects into which that nervous energy can be redirected is important. But we also have to learn to trust God with our emotions and thoughts, just as much as we have to trust Him with our projects and our time. We have to be able to discern when it is time for activity and when it is time to rest (Ecclesiastes 3). We have to learn to let go and trust that God has everything under control.
Just this morning as I drove into work, I had to repent of not fully embracing the period of rest God imposed on me. See, about a month ago when I was finishing up the Lost Pen, the last thing He said to me was: “Await further instructions.” The words were so clear they woke me out of a dead sleep. They also filled me with both joy (at the promise that God is working something out on my behalf) and frustration (at the knowledge that something is coming but not knowing what it is or when it will happen).
I know God has been working to reshape my thinking and beliefs about what it means to serve Him and how best to use my skills and talents. That includes accepting the He is in control of my writing and ministry. It’s tough, but I am working on wrestling the control freak inside of me to the ground. I’m learning to accept that I don’t have all the answers and that I don’t need to have all the answers. Trusting God and simply following His lead by putting one foot in front of the other is enough: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33).
I believe that God wants us to be productive but not to the point of overextending ourselves. I believe that He imposes times of rest to protect us. Think about it. Rates of anxiety, burnout, and stress are off the charts at the moment. People are running themselves ragged trying to keep up with life, friends, strangers on social media, their jobs and family life, expectations…the list goes on. Throw writing, publishing, attending conferences, etc. into the mix and where does it all end?
Readers, what is driving you? Can you trust God to help you learn to rest?
Colossians 3:1-3 (NIV)
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Romans 12: 2 (NIV)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.