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If You Don't Take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will Take You

If you don't take the sabbath the sabbath will take you

It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Psalm 127.2

Most ministry leaders I meet are tired.

I had this thing as a young leader that work was good and sleep was for other people.  I routinely cheated sleep and considered myself heroic for doing it.  Know anyone like that?

Everything was sustainable…until five years ago.  I hit a wall.   A wall that for the first time in my life I couldn’t scale or climb.  I just hit it.  I was exhausted..burnt out or at least burning out.

I spent July and August 2006 so tired that I decided I couldn’t fight it anymore.    What do you do when the only way you’ve known how to live and lead doesn’t work anymore?

Instead of fighting my body, I decided to cooperate with it.  So I slept.  I went to bed early.  I took naps.  And after two months, I essentially caught up.  There was more to my recovery than that, but sleep was a huge factor.

I also learned this: if you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.

Although this sounds very strange to say out loud, but it bothered me to admit that God couldn’t be argued with, that I couldn’t cheat his rules.  Even in his name or for his cause.

For some reason, God envisions a life in which his creation spent at least 1/7 of our time on earth resting.  Resting in him.  In his love.  It seems that God can get along better without our work than we can.

And what I’m learning over the last five years is that I’m a better leader, better husband and dad, and frankly a better person if I cooperate with the way I’m designed than if I fight it, like I did for decades.  My spirit is gentler, my mind sharper and my input more helpful if I show up rested and ready.

I’m still not sure whether I truly take a Sabbath – where I fully disengage for 24 hours a week and truly rest in him.  But I’m cooperating more with my body and spirit than ever before, and rest more regularly.  I’m beginning to delight in God more.

You tired heading into the weekend?

I have a suggestion.  Sleep.  Take a nap right now.  Go to bed on time.  Stay in bed a few extra minutes tomorrow.  Rest.  Take a day off.  Sabbath.

Your body needs it.  And in the process you’ll discover something amazing:  your strength is more limited than you think.  But God’s is endless.  And the next phase of your ministry might be built more on what He can do than on what you can do.

And you’ll feel better in the process.  Tired leaders are tiring leaders.


  1. Bill Merchut on August 5, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Thanks for the gdod word Carey.

    Here is something that came to me after the wall in my life.

    My Refreshment
    Bill Merchut  4-15-2010

    Sitting by the brook.
    Elijah did it in the book.
    We lick our wounds but you tell us to stop.
    We are getting in Your way.
    Give the pain to You
    Along with the doubts, fear and weariness of soul.

    “I will rest you.
    I am the balm you need.
    Stop and enjoy My peace.
    Be still and behold.

    I am God.
    Your God
    Your Shepherd,
    Your Good Shepherd,
    So do not lean on your own assets.
    I have led you to the brook to rest you.

    So you rest and I will watch
    And when the time is full I will raise you up
    With Power from My Throne.”

    • Carey on August 5, 2011 at 10:57 am

      Thanks so much for this Bill. So true.

      Thanks Jim. We sure do!

  2. Jim Watters on August 4, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for the great post Carey, we need all the voices we can gather to speak to this issue. Thanks again Carey, great post. Blessings, Jim

  3. james hooper on July 29, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks Carey. A great reminder for sure.

  4. Dan Ackford on July 29, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I guess napping in church doesn’t count ? you last series born this way was the best .Keep me awake the whole time .The next series I wish makes me wish i could take time off work. But then I’d miss my afternoon nap! Thanks for the good advice!

    • Carey on July 29, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      You’re cracking me up Dan.

  5. Jon Dixon on July 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm


    This summer my church [] is preaching through the 10 Commandments. I had the privilege of preaching on Sabbath last Sunday.

    Honestly, this was one of the more challenging messages I prepared for, and for a lot of the reasons that you mentioned in your article. I am young, I tend to cheat sleep and rest and Sabbath… and I’m learning.

    Thanks for what you wrote.

    • Carey on July 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks for your honesty Jon….sounds like a great series. And the struggle only makes it more authentic. People can relate to honest preaching.

  6. Drew Peterson on July 29, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Thanks for the post, Carey. I needed to hear that this morning. It’s easy to get caught up in ministry and life, and actually forget to rest. Thinking we are doing ourselves a favor in the process.

    • Carey on July 29, 2011 at 9:07 am

      You’re welcome Drew…I’ve totally been there. Still live there if I don’t work on it daily, actually. Hope you have a fantastic weekend – and rest well.

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