Many women are exhausted physically, emotionally, spiritually, but that’s not God’s design

By Denise George
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

A frightening trend is growing among church women today. Christian women today work too hard and rest too little. They are always multitasking — working, running, moving and trying to beat the clock rushing to meet yet another demand or deadline.

Author John Eldridge describes the exhaustion of today’s Christian women: “Walk into most churches in America, have a look around and ask yourself this question: ‘What is a Christian woman? … Don’t listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You’d have to admit, a Christian woman is … tired.”

Why aren’t Christian women resting?

Some women admit they have no time to rest. There are just not enough hours in the day to take a break. They recognize they have too much to do at home and work; their family needs the extra paycheck from their job. Others admit to “feeling guilty” when they rest. They never want to appear “lazy.”

They believe Christian women must continually give sacrificially to others even at the risk of their own health. They consider taking time for themselves selfish, unspiritual and so unlike the hard-working woman in Proverbs 31.

Today’s Christian women are not just tired physically but are also exhausted mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Unfortunately these women have never learned or understood the biblical principles of rest. God designed bodies, minds and spirits to rest, not to be dragged along by demands and constantly race against the clock. He created bodies and minds to enjoy balance, wellness and wholeness. Women who work too hard, carry too many responsibilities and try to meet too many demands will live in a continual state of unease.

Day after day, year after year of this fast-paced living will cause physical distress. They will become sick and suffer serious health problems. It’s just a matter of time.

God gives busy women permission to rest

God gives His daughters the gift of rest. In the physical sense, rest means ceasing work and allowing one’s body to relax and repair itself. Scripture clearly teaches the value of and need for rest. God’s word is filled with His advice and examples encouraging rest. For instance:

• God Himself rested: Genesis 2:2–3 states that when God had finished the work of creation, He rested from all His work on the seventh day.

• Jesus rested regularly and told His overworked disciples: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

• Jesus offered His tired children permission to rest in Him when He stated: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28–29). He encouraged and promised them: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

• When Elijah suffered severe mental and emotional stress/fear after the dramatic incident at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:16–46), God sat the weary prophet under a tree and put him to sleep. Later God sent a food-carrying angel to Elijah commanding him to “get up and eat” (1 Kings 19:5). Rest and sleep, nourishing food and water proved the healing recipe for Elijah. After a time of rest, his strength renewed and Elijah continued his God-directed journey.

• In His word, God encourages rest through stillness and quiet: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). A still and tranquil heart — far away from noise, conflict, anxiety and distress — comes to know a special restful freedom in Christ, the “peace of God” that the Apostle Paul describes in Philippians 4:7, “… which transcends all understanding … .”

• Jesus gave His own example of rest throughout the Gospels. He regularly rose early in the morning and found a solitary place to rest and pray (Mark 1:35). He often retreated to the mountains, wildernesses and gardens to rest and recuperate from life’s non-stop activities and anxieties.

• Jesus corrected a busy and angry Martha when she criticized her sister, Mary, for sitting at Jesus’ feet and not helping her in the kitchen. “Martha, Martha,” Jesus said. “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42).

EDITOR’S NOTE — Denise George is author of 31 books, including the Bible study book “A Woman’s Right to Rest: 14 Types of Biblical Rest That Will Transform Your Life” (Leafwood Publishers, Abilene Christian University Press, 2012).

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8 ways churches can help women rest

Here are some practical suggestions for pastors, church leaders and congregations to encourage and minister to overworked, highly stressed and overwhelmed women in their congregation:

1. Teach the women in the congregation through preaching events and special programs/classes that God gives them permission to rest. Encourage them to maintain a balanced life.

2. Resist the temptation to place too many church responsibilities on their shoulders, even when they usually respond to your work invitations with an immediate “yes.” (Some women believe that refusing an offered church job is unspiritual, even if her plate is already overflowing.)

3. Never criticize a woman for not taking official church roles or jobs when asked. Know that most women are already doing exhausting full-time ministry in an “unofficial” way in their homes, communities and work places.

4. Create opportunities for women in your church to gather together regularly to study God’s instructions for rest and well-being. Through study, prayer, conversation and laughter, women will naturally minister to each other in these enjoyable settings.

5. Talk with the women in your church. Ask them how the church leadership can minister to them in needed ways.

6. Minister to the women in your congregation by providing child care for church-sponsored events, helping them with heavy care-giving duties and planning special church-sponsored events/retreats to offer occasions to get away and rest.

7. Observe the physical, emotional and mental condition of the women in the church. Are the women overworked and struggling, trying to balance home, work and church responsibilities? If so, lighten their church workload.

8. Help women in your congregation keep a Christ-centered perspective throughout their daily lives, resting in the “bigger picture” of life with eternity as their reward and a future home with the Lord. (Denise George)