By Michael Acock
Michael is an Executive Pastor and Missions Pastor at Christian Fellowship Church in Columbia, Missouri. He has served there for 17 years. He is married to Jill, and together they have three children. He enjoys, running, biking, and reading almost anything. Michael is passionate about people and God’s working in restorative and redemptive ways in their lives. He believes that if we dive into real community with one another we can discover that God is there and is powerfully for us, and has loved us, and will continue to love us.
“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine.” Matthew 11:28-30
Do you feel like your responsibilities are more than you can handle? Does your task list grow overnight? Do you daydream about taking a vacation? Or feel like you just need a day off? I get it. I have those same thoughts daily. Yet, one of the most disappointing realizations I’ve had on vacation is that real rest often seems to elude me. I must fight to find restoration.
The scriptures offer an interesting perspective on this dilemma. Matthew 11:28-30 says “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine.”
This promise begs the question, “Am I joined with Him in my work or am I trying to do it alone?” The answer to this comes not from my logic, but in the space late at night as I wrestle to find sleep, or early in the morning before my day has begun and I experience a tiredness in my soul that steals my energy and my motivation to step into the day.
Jesus beckons me to come to him if I’m heavy with burden because he desires to give me rest. What I’m learning, however, is that eliminating the responsibility and tasks is a quantitative approach to rest that lacks results, while Jesus is inviting me to a qualitative approach – to rest my soul in the middle of my responsibilities and tasks.
In times where I feel weighed down by my responsibilities, I am learning to ask, “What is the real burden here and how can I invite God into it?” Is the stress really the work I’m being asked to do, or is it the relationships and emotions associated with that work? The more effectively I can discern the real burden, the greater ability I have to give it to God and enter real rest. And discerning that burden is soul-level work.
Learning about our souls can be a fascinating and never-ending adventure for sure. Our souls are at work absorbing the relational and emotional input and output of our day-to-day encounters, and tools like the Enneagram can help us learn to understand what’s really going on in there.
Another grid that helps us discern the source of our stress comes from assessing how we’re doing in three key areas: soul capacity, soul pace, and soul influencers. Simply asking questions about these areas can help us separate the activity of our life from the essence of our being so that we can better understand the relationships and emotions that link the two.
Soul capacity: Our soul capacity is the breadth of the relational and emotional strain we can handle. Our soul capacity is tapped when the relationships and emotions surrounding our work feel overwhelming. For instance, managing a team through change will affect our soul capacity. Teams are comprised of people who navigate change with both their intellect and their emotion. When multiple team members have high emotions around their work, then our soul capacity as leaders will begin to fill up. Likewise, engaging a life-giving activity with our team will expand our soul capacity.
Soul pace: For me, soul pace is the engine. Imagine that my vehicle is in neutral and my foot is on the accelerator – I am not going anywhere, but the engine is racing. Our soul pace is the inner revving of our soul when we’re not at work. Sitting alone in silence and solitude, for example, will drive us crazy when the pace of our soul is accelerated. I particularly notice if my soul pace is elevated when I have a Saturday morning to simply sit with a cup of coffee and read, but I never actually sit down to enjoy it. Instead, I escape into watching videos or scrolling social media accounts.
Soul influencers: Soul influencers has to do with the quantity and quality of the inputs we are engaging. Mentors, spiritual directors, friends, and coaches, in addition to scripture, books, and devotions are very positive inputs. They can add a new perspective or reflect the fruit of our soul (joy, peace, anger, frustration etc.) to us. Likewise, unhealthy relationships and addictive behaviors act as negative inputs.
So back to our stress. What is the real burden? Could it be that the reason we need rest isn’t because of what we’re working on, but rather because of a depleted soul capacity, an accelerated soul pace, or a lack of positive soul influence?
Whichever it may be, God is waiting to carry our burden and give us rest. He offers an oasis amid the turmoil if we’ll stop trying to change our circumstances and instead let him in.