Thoughts on Rest in Recovery

Bob Damrau

Say, ‘When’

A cartoon that recently got my attention depicted a client exclaiming to his counselor, ‘I’m learning how to relax, doctor—but I want to relax better and faster. I want to be on the cutting edge of relaxation!’ I smiled on the outside but a deeper sense of fatigue prompted a time of personal reflection. I was feeling overwhelmed by the demands of a major life transition. My behaviors appeared frantic, as if I was in a run-down between necessary activities and scheduled deadlines. I thought nothing was being done quite right and gave up on ever hearing the words, ‘You’re safe.’

This downward pattern of thought is a vulnerable place for anyone, but it is especially dangerous to an individual with compulsive tendencies. The temptation to give in to a quick fix presented itself as my way to escape from feeling out of control. It would have been easy to act out and medicate the seeming negativity, but I have learned to better manage situations like this in order to prevent that kind of relapse. I brought to mind a quote from Rollo May, who said, ‘It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.’

Then I remembered the Lord Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew’s gospel, ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ Did you know that Christ spoke this during a time of increased opposition to His ministry? That acted as the reality check I needed to identify the problem, break free from the insane thoughts, and find rest within the bounds of a healthier perspective.

The earthly lifestyle of our Savior is the prime example of living a balanced life. A colleague once said, ‘Jesus–the only person ever to be charged with saving the world—never got in a hurry.’ Just prior to preaching in Galilee, cleansing a leper, and healing a paralytic, the Lord ‘went out and departed to a solitary place’ (Mark 1:35). When the disciples finally located Him they said, ‘Everyone is looking for you’ (Mark 1:37). There were urgent matters to be addressed for sure, but He knew the limits of life in the flesh.

People teetering on the edge of burnout usually spend too much time and emotional energy caring for others and too little for themselves. That happens when we attempt to outwork and under-rest everyone we know, including God. I often wonder if Jesus would be hired by a lot of churches if His work habits were well known. My favorite movie is ‘Regarding Henry.’ Harrison Ford plays a powerful and arrogant lawyer whose life is drastically altered when he walks into the middle of an armed robbery and is shot in the head. His injuries leave this character with some long term cognitive deficits. Returning to his office, Henry’s secretary offers him a cup of coffee and cheerfully says; ‘Say when,’ as she pours the milk. The camera pans from the coffee cup to Henry and back again, without a word from him. When the secretary realized her disabled boss would not respond, she finished pouring the milk, handed Henry the cup and cordially said, ‘When you’ve had enough, you need to say ‘when.” Later in the movie, Henry is fed up with his old lifestyle of sex, lies and greed, and decides to change. As he walks by his secretary he exclaims, ‘I’ve had enough, so I’m saying ‘when.” I was that character—always on, ready and in control. It wasn’t until I experienced a traumatic illness that landed me in the hospital for an entire month that I began to come to terms with the fact that control is God’s realm and I needed to cast aside my plan and take on His yolk. That’s how I learned to say when.

Getting caught up in the fast pace of life is a certainty. A lack of rest can lower a person’s resistance to the place of despair. Any plan for recovery must include an appropriate amount of R & R, and Jesus, Himself, promises to give it. He simply requires that we come to Him. There, in His presence, is where I heard, ‘You’re safe.’

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