I work in health care, and my job has been very busy. Five of my colleagues are either moms or pregnant, so they are being given extra time off—our boss is flexible, and I don’t begrudge them the time to tend to their families. However, I am single, and I am often asked to pick up their time and/or tasks. I really want to love and serve them, but I confess I’m struggling with exhaustion and resentment. What should I do?
Moms and expectant mothers probably need a little extra grace in this season. But so do you. Perhaps you have more flexibility and availability as a single person, which can be stewarded to serve both your team and also your patients. But just as parents must balance their work inside and outside the home, you also must steward your physical, emotional, and spiritual health as well as cultivate your home and relationships.
Before having kids, I often underestimated the amount of rest I needed. I treated my body and schedule like a computer program I could just turn on indefinitely until I crashed or ran out of juice.
When God was forming his people after the exodus, one of the most important things he emphasized was Sabbath. This rest wasn’t just for families or certain professions—it was universally mandated for anyone dwelling among his people. Sabbath was and is a time to worship God, enjoy the gifts of his creation, and spend time with one another. It reveals something unique and beautiful about our God and his desires for his people. We are precious to him, not merely useful to him.
Here are three truths to internalize.
1. Rest invites you to be made whole in him.
Your service and sacrifice on behalf of your patients and coworkers is a tangible way to embody Christ’s self-giving love. But in order to sustain this service, you need time with the Giver of life.
Rest isn’t just for families or certain professions—it was universally mandated for anyone dwelling among the people of God.
The burdens heaped on your shoulders throughout a shift need to be handed over to the One who holds the world in his hands. Allow this lament to bring you to the foot of the cross, where the fullness of love is displayed. Invite the risen Christ to restore you in his presence and empower you with his Spirit to continue loving his world like he does.
2. Rest cultivates hope in a kingdom that will be full of goodness and beauty.
Burnout and compassion fatigue are real. When days are filled with death and suffering, life’s brightness slowly dims. The Enemy longs to draw us into despair. But this is our Father’s world, and he has already won the victory. Our hope is in a God who created all things good and will fully restore every square inch.
True rest restores us to our humanity. This requires us to engage the world with our physical body—to feel the sun on our skin, to create art, to restore order, to take a walk through the neighborhood or on a mountain trail. These can be acts of worship as we enjoy the things he rejoices over. They help us reimagine the world in light of resurrection hope, the hope of new life.
3. Rest makes space for relationship.
A Swedish proverb, echoing the words of Romans 12:15, goes like this: “A joy shared is a joy doubled. A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” When you are running on empty it can feel exhausting to engage relationally, but it’s what you need more than ever before.
Your availability doesn’t have to be limitless in order to be loving.
Inviting trusted friends into your grief and joy, and finding the strength to join them in theirs, is necessary and good. Staying connected to your church family (which may feel harder than ever before) will remind you that your work plays a part in a much larger story. God has formed a people to display his love in the way they care for one another and in turn love the world. Your primary identity is first as a member of God’s beloved family, and then as a health-care worker.
In the last several months, many of our health-care professionals have had to endure long, hard hours that are simply unavoidable. But sometimes the exception becomes the rule and the extra hours become the norm. It sounds like you might be at that point.
In that case, my advice is to talk to your boss and let him or her know you can’t continue to take on as much as you have been. That while you long to step in and help, in order to best care for yourself and your patients, you need more time between shifts. With some wise counsel, decide a max number of weekly shifts and communicate clearly that you can’t take on more. Perhaps you’ll decide you can still work extra hours in this season, but your availability doesn’t have to be limitless in order to be loving. In fact, limits and boundaries can free you to serve without resentment from a pure and generous heart.