The Joy of Work and Rest
by Doug Gehman
Life is almost always more satisfying when we slow down and simply enjoy the journey. The process of learning and contentment on the way to accomplishment enriches the soul. Developing personal interests for a future profession or a hobby, if pursued patiently and with a mindset to enjoy the journey, allows us to genuinely enjoy our work! In other words, perseverance can be rewarding when it is connected to an attitude of patient determination focused on learning and growing rather than simply producing an outcome. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied people who worked for enjoyment without promise of money, fame, or the pressure of a deadline.
Chess players, rock climbers, dancers, and composers devoted many hours a week to their [pastimes or hobbies]. Why were they doing it? It was clear from talking to them that what kept them motivated was the quality of the experience they felt when they were involved with the activity. This feeling…often involved painful, risky, difficult activities that stretched the person’s capacity and involved an element of novelty and discovery.
Patience in work, and contented rest, have the same renewing qualities. When asked by his protégé John Ortberg what a person must do to stay spiritually healthy, Dallas Willard paused for a moment and then replied, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
In a recent survey by our church, 80 percent of responders indicated that stress, anxiety, and burnout were the big issues on people’s minds. In a follow-up message, our pastor offered a simple Bible answer: “Take a Sabbath Rest!” Introduced on the seventh day of creation, the Sabbath pre-dates both Adam and Eve’s fall into sin and the Law of Moses. “The Sabbath was made for man,” Jesus later explained (Mark 2:27). God gave us a day every week for rest. The Sabbath is an amazing gift! What if we would apply the gift to our weekly routine? Not in a burdensome, legalistic way, but by an intentional decision to cease from all stressful activity for a few hours or an entire day. To divert from our normal schedule, and do something that is personally edifying or relationally nurturing might become one of our most revolutionary endeavors.
My wife has been an amazing asset to our marriage in this area. I tend to be a workaholic. She has helped me relax and enjoy the process of a project and not just worry over its completion. She has helped me build margins. She has helped me divert. She has helped me say “No.” Listening to and learning from her gentle coaching has been one of the richest experiences in our marriage. Much of our inability to endure everyday challenges can be attributed to chronic fatigue that builds up because we have not rested sufficiently and do not have margins in our lives, or because we have not learned how to enjoy the journey of life with its unpredictable rhythms instead of being obsessed with arriving at a destination.
Excerpted from Before You Quit: Everyday Endurance, Moral Courage, and the Quest for Purpose (Moody Publishers, March 2020) by Doug Gehman.