Healthy Patterns of Work and Rest

Leslie Basham: Do you spend relaxation time at the end of the day with Facebook or Instagram? Dr. Shona Murray says your mind actually isn’t relaxing.

Shona Murray: I think if you watch the brain scans of that time, you’d be shocked at the speed of the traffic in your brain.

Leslie: Today, she’ll tell you how to truly find rest.

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of A Place of Quiet Rest, for Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, is there anybody listening today who needs some refreshing? Yes. Like, which hour of the day, right? We all do, and some of us really, really need it at this season.

That’s why I’m so excited about this book that Shona and David Murray have written called, Refresh. And the sub-title drew me into it right away: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands.

I’m wrestling with some of these things in a new way, in this season of my life. Seasons change, and now that I’m an old, married woman—having been married a couple of years now—I’m having to make different adjustments in terms of my priorities and my daily habits, and as Robert and I navigate together the rhythm of life and how to live this grace-paced life so we don’t leave each other winded and discouraged and overwhelmed.

So I was really eager, David and Shona, to read this book. I’m so thankful you wrote it. It deals with the issue of depression, but I think any woman in any season of life, whether she’s experiencing depression or not, whether she’s married or single, a teenager, younger or older, can be really benefitted by a lot of the practical wisdom that you share here out of your own journey for how to maintain a grace-paced life when everything is coming at you all the time, making you feel harried and hurried and frantic and frazzled.

I know nobody else listening ever struggles with that, but, there, I just bared my soul.

So, thank you, for baring your souls in this book, for sharing it with us, and now for being with us here on Revive Our Hearts.

David Murray: Well, thank you. I think, as you said, your season of life varies. One of the skills in running is to be sensitive to changes in your body, changes in your environment, changes in the topography of the course, and adjusting accordingly.

That’s one skill, I think, Shona and I have been gradually learning through the years, is to try not to live as a twenty-year-old when you’re an almost fifty-year-old, and to adjust when children start coming and work responsibilities start increasing and church responsibilities start increasing.

All of these things are taking a toll on us. All of these things are draining energy from us, and therefore, adjustments have to be made in other parts of our lives because we’re such finite, limited creatures.

Nancy: And you all learned some of this the hard way, as we often do have to.

David, you’re a pastor and a seminary professor. Shona, you were a medical doctor and had a lot of training and education and experience, but the Lord took you both to some pretty low places in terms of burnout and depression. And if you haven’t heard the past two programs, you might want to go back and listen to those because David and Shona shared pretty candidly out of some of their journey, as they do in this book.

So, you had to hit that place of desperation and despair before you started realizing some of these adjustments that needed to be made in your lives.

Shona: Yes, I did. As I mentioned earlier, I only knew one pace of running. When I was a kid, I used to run a lot, and I used to run cross-country races. I basically was the one who would start fast and finish fast. I did not know any other way of running. Eventually, I could be beaten fair and square. My stategy didn’t work in certain situations.

I took that philosophy into living my adult life. Again, it worked fine in my teens, when I only had myself to worry about. But as multiple responsibilities grew into my adult life, that combination was near fatal. I did not realize that it was going to lead to burnout.

If you adopt a fast-paced life from beginning to end, your life, most likely, will be cut short.

Nancy: Like with your car, if you run it in the red all the time, that car is going to self-destruct.

Shona: Exactly! It is.

Nancy: And some of us are running our bodies that way.

Shona: We’re running our minds that way. We’re running our bodies that way. And it has spiritual consequences as well. We may be serving the Lord morning, noon, and night, motivated by love to the Lord, but doing the same thing.

It’s very important to note that the Lord encouraged the disciples to take rest. He would take them out of service, if you like, and encourage them to rest so that they were better equipped to deal with the next day. He provided them with food when they themselves had forgotten.

Nancy: They forgot to eat.

Shona: Yes. So, I had to learn that the hard way. One of the biggest challenges, though, was accepting that I am finite. I have limitations. I’m not super woman. I’m not super mom. I’m not super doctor. I’m not super pastor’s wife. I am a frail human being, and God has set me with limits.

The fall of man has messed up with my abilities to a very great extent, and that also comes into play in what I’m capable of doing and not doing. And recognizing that and acknowledging that with humility was a big step in my recovery.

It’s also a big part of my daily living now. It helps temper what I decide to do in a day, how I begin my day, how I finish my day, whether I stop to take breaks or not, whether I get to bed on time at night, whether I exercise my body or choose not to, what I eat or don’t eat.

Nancy: And some things, in both your cases, that you have to say “no” to—things you would like to do, things that maybe other people want you to do, and you can’t do all of them.

David: No is the hardest word to say, isn’t it, Nancy?

Nancy: Yes.

David: It’s the shortest—N-O—and yet it is a vital skill to learn. I think there is such a thing as the grace of saying “no.” It’s grace from God to us when we’re unable to see it, and it’s grace to our families and friends who benefit from us saying “no” as well.

Nancy: We’re actually serving others better if we say “no” to the things God doesn’t have on His to-do list for us in this moment or this season.

David: Yes. And that’s the key, isn’t it? To keep God in front of us. As God is continually squeezed out by our own ambition or by other people’s expectations. And it’s to try and keep God big and man small. I think that’s the key to the ability to say “no.” It’s keeping God there so we say “yes” to what He wants us to say “yes” to and say “no” to what He wants us to say “no” to.

Nancy: But then we’ve got to be not motivated by fear, fear of man, guilt—so many of the things that sometimes drive us to say “yes” to things that deep in our heart we know that this isn’t the right time or the season for that, or I don’t have the capacity for that. But we say, “I’ll do that.”

Shona: Women especially because we’re supposedly better at multi-tasking. I’m more prone to fall into that. I can do it because I can think. I can drive. I can fix this problem in the back of the car with my kids. I can plan tomorrow’s party.

Nancy: All at the same time.

Shona: And fix dinner tonight, all at the same time, while maybe bringing something to my husband who’s maybe forgotten something. We look at ourselves sometimes like, “I can fix everything,” or “I will fix everything.”

God has another command in Scripture which we tend to ignore, and it’s this: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).

It’s one of my favorite verses because when I’m frazzled, when I’m stressed, when I’ve got so much on my plate and my to-do list is as long as a week when I supposedly have to get it done today. If I remind myself, “Be still and know that I am God,” that helps me cut out the non-essentials. It helps me look at that and say, “Lord, help me to do what You want me to do today, not what I would like to get done,” because there’s no end to that.

Nancy: Right.

Shona: I’d like my house to be perfectly clean, a perfect meal, laundry done.

David: A perfect husband?

Shona: My husband is perfect anyway. (laughter)

That is a challenge, and I think it seems to be in the workplace, especially in corporate business today. The targets are endless. So you will never reach the point when you’ve done enough. And there again, if you remember, yes, you’re serving your boss, but above all, you’re serving the Lord.

That helps you look at the opportunities to still work every night, working late, and you can say, “Is that going to benefit me physically, emotionally? Is it going to have negative spiritual consequences? Is it going to benefit the kingdom of Christ? Is it going to benefit my employer?”

“Be still and know that I am God” helps you look at that objectively and say, “Okay, perhaps I’ll stay late tonight, but the next two nights I need to make sure I’m home on time because I have other greater priorities.”

And if I’m in bed on time and I’m rested and relaxed, I will actually give my employer more tomorrow that I would if I worked late tonight.

Nancy: Let’s talk about this thing of sleep. You have a whole chapter on sleep. Some people might say, “Well, that’s not very spiritual. What does that have to do with depression and burnout?”

But you talk about how it really affects us, the lack of sleep, which—you’re reading all kinds of studies and research today showing, and we know it from our own lives—these sleep-deprived mamas with little ones, that’s a hard season. We’ve got some listeners there. We’ve got people in all seasons of life—some of us older ones who have a hard time sleeping. And it affects our cognitive ability, our ability to handle pressure.

Shona: Yes.

Nancy: So talk to us about why it’s so important to evaluate where we are in this sleep thing.

Shona: The most important thing to grasp about sleep is that God created us to need sleep. We are made, yes, to work, but we were made to sleep. Jesus slept. He even slept through a storm. He encouraged His disciples to take breaks.

You could say, “Okay, Jesus.” They went out at night, and He prayed on the mountaintop. But He didn’t do that all the time.

Nancy: Right.

Shona: Without sleep, we all know the effects the next day—we’re tired. Relationally, we’re frustrated. We can be angry. We lose our concentration. We forget things. And accidents happen—I’ve noticed that as well—I’m much more accident prone if I’m lacking in sleep.

So even subjectively, most of us realize that a bad night’s sleep has a negative impact on the next day.

David: There’s also the verses in Scripture:

He gives His beloved sleep (Ps. 127:2).

I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety (Ps. 4:8).

God gives sleep. It’s one of His graces, and we refuse it at our peril. It’s like your father or mother coming to you with this wonderful gift that’s going to bless you in every area of life.

Nancy: And we say, “No, thank you.”

David: “No, I don’t need that. No thank you. It's for other people, but not me.”

We do suffer great consequences as a result of it.

I was struck that some of the research—it’s in the book—about the sports personalities who now have sleep coaches as equal team members to nutrition and physio and things like that. Michelle Wie, the American golfer, she sleeps twelve hours a night and sometimes fourteen–fifteen hours before a tournament.

Nancy: Wow!

David: LaBron James, twelve hours a day.

The one person, I remember who had four–five hours of sleep was Tiger Woods.

Nancy: Interesting.

David: Isn’t that interesting. I remember John Piper saying that, for him, staying in the ministry could only be achieved by him getting enough sleep.

Nancy: Yes. This wasn’t an option.

David: That’s right. Don Carson he also talked about the moral and spiritual impact of the lack of sleep. And you see that I found that Bill Clinton’s worst years in office, when he was falling into all sorts of immorality, there were times when he was only sleeping three or four hours a night.

So God gives us this gift, and He says, “It will do you good physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, spiritually, morally—in every way.” We need to embrace it as a grace.

Nancy: And I know there are some seasons or periods when it’s just impossible to get as much sleep as you’d like or think your body needs. And I do think of young moms as sometimes being in that category.

Shona: Yes

Nancy: There’s grace for extenuating circumstances.

Shona: There is. There is grace. And these are unique times. They’re not the normal.

Nancy: But when we make them the norm, then we’re going to get in trouble.

Shona: Yes. We are. I think even what seems abnormal, we can still take steps, even through these times when you’re a young mom with kids. I think it’s important to use children’s nap times to catch up on sleep. It’s so easy to use that time to catch up on housework.

Nancy: Or Facebook.

Shona: Or Facebook, or just . . . but it’s a very critical opportunity to catch up on sleep. And the amazing thing, that sleep, when you’re so needing it, is so super refreshing. So we deprive ourselves if we don’t use that.

David: That’s an area, I think, where I had fallen short in my relationship with Shona. When she crashed, one of the things we started doing was I made sure that I was at home at times when she could have a nap, or I would take charge of the kids for a while and let her have that nap.

I think husbands who are listening to this want to be thinking, How can I help my wife? who is just being continually drained, especially in the young years of child rearing. How can I help give her the grace of sleep?

That’s one of the greatest gifts you can give—to just take these children for an hour or two or send your wife off to bed earlier a couple of nights a week and say, “I’ll clean house.” That’s made a big difference in our life.

Nancy: It’s interesting how, with so many technological advances and aides, compared to a generation two or three ago, we’re getting less sleep today. I do think some of that may be because technology enables us to be wired and plugged in 24/7. And we think, Oh, I’m relaxing with Facebook or Instagram, or other social media or entertainment, but it may be relaxing in an immediate since. But it’s kind of like cotton candy—it tastes good, but it’s really not filling; it’s really not nourishing. Talk to us as a doctor about that.

Shona: I think if you watch the brain scans of that time when you’re interacting with the screen, you’d be shocked at the speed of the traffic in your brain.

Nancy: So you’re really not resting.

Shona: You’re not resting. Instead of slowing down, these pathways . . . I don’t know if you’ve ever seen these time videos of somebody that’s been watching a city for twenty-four hours, and then they speed up the video, and you see these lights flashing, lights like when you’re in a fast lane. That’s what your brain looks like when you’re in front of a computer or in front of your iPhone. So that’s why that opportunity for down time and relaxation is not relaxation if we’re getting into technology.

It’s interesting, too, I think if you go back, say a century. I don’t know when you got electricity in the United States, but I know 100 years ago in the U.K., where we come from, they didn’t have it. When it got dark, you had to stop doing the tasks of the day.

Nancy: Right.

Shona: People were more connected. They sat and they talked. They might read under candlelight or kerosene lamp light. People knitted and . . . but life just stopped in the evening because there was no daylight.

Nancy: Night and day, like God created it. Right?

Shona: Exactly. That was God’s natural order. But what we’ve done is we’ve generated 24/7 light, 24/7 technology. And the problem with that is, unless we make a conscious effort to follow God’s order, we will be swept away within that pattern, with consequences down the line—physical consequences, emotional consequences. But I fear, for myself, too, perhaps spiritual consequences more seriously—just not being still. Not seeing God in the little things because we’re so distracted.

Nancy: I’m here to say, as you have said so beautifully, that all that can happen while you’re doing even ministry work, maybe especially, because there’s a sense of necessity and compulsion, and people need the truth. They need God’s grace, so we’re giving it to them.

I know I can develop the Savior mentality or mindset that says, “What’s the world going to do without me staying up tonight working on this?” And you don’t say that. You don’t consciously think that. But if you step back and do a reality check, you realize, “I’m not going to be of use or good to anybody.”

This is a different season of my life now—I’m in my late fifties. You all are about ten years behind me, and I’m telling you, ten years from now, it’s different. And ten years from now it will be different for me. So, to accept those realities and move within those, it’s submission. It’s humility, and that’s how we get grace.

Shona: Yes.

Nancy: We just have a few minutes left here, and I want to talk about (and I didn’t intentionally just save a few minutes for this) the whole area of exercise. That’s a hard one for me. I go at it, and I try, and then it’s like, “Who has time for this?” But as I’m getting older, I’m realizing that this is not an option. If I want to keep serving, keep loving my husband well, keep loving people well, I have to be moving my body. Talk to us about the importance of physical exercise.

Shona: Well, again, God made us to move. We’re not designed to sit all day. We need to move. And exercise has benefits for our emotions. It benefits our bodies. It makes us fitter. It makes our organs stronger. It also helps relieve the stress that circulates in our bodies through the day when we’re pressurized in multiple ways and you have hormones and chemicals—like adrenalin circulating around your body, but it has no place to go.

The consequence of that is stress becomes emotional and mental and sometimes physical, too, with illness like ulcers, headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease.

Nancy: You’re talking like a doctor.

Shona: Exercise dissipates that, for one thing. In the immediate, it dissipates stress. That’s the immediate benefit. But in the long term, as I mentioned, exercise keeps your organs healthy. It keeps the blood flowing. And all your systems are working better.

It’s been shown that a person who’s sedentary all their life is far more susceptible to coronary artery disease, hypertension, and other disorders—like some forms of diabetes—than somebody who’s active.

Exercise, though, has to be intentional. If it’s going to benefit you emotionally as well as physically, it’s something you have to do deliberately. It has to be intentional. It has to be deliberate.

I’m talking here of exercise as an entity that’s separate from walking around the kitchen all day, or walking to the grocery store, or walking around the office. It’s got to be something that’s done for the pure purpose of the exercise itself. In other words, your focus is the mind and the body and the emotions, and you’re doing this, in a sense as if you were taking a meal. You’re consciously doing this for your body and mind and soul also because it does have spiritual benefits, too.

Nancy: I’m so thankful that last night my husband saw that I was weighed down with a lot of things on my to-do list. I had an unscheduled meeting come up yesterday that went half the day, and it kind of hijacked my day. Then the things I had planned for the day hadn’t gotten done. So we got to the evening, he could just tell that I was feeling stretched and stressed while I was getting ready to read this book on being refreshed and living with overwhelming demands that you talk about. He just read my spirit, and he said, “Let’s go take a walk.”

What was sweet about that, now, it wasn’t intense exercise—I try to do that as well—but we just went out to clear our heads, to talk, to hold hands, to be together, to be present. In the course of that walk, we learned that a home just down the road from us was in the middle of burning down. I mean, there were flames just pouring, cascading—whatever the word is—out of the roof of that house, and a family standing there who had just lost their home they’d only lived in for two months.

So we watched this. It was mesmerizing in a way, but then we saw this family. We walked over and loved on them, encouraged them, just ministered grace to them, prayed with them before we left. God’s grace was already on the scene, and I think they seemed to know the Lord. But these were neighbors I didn’t know. And for that forty-five minutes or so of our walk and being in that situation, my mind was off of myself and off of my laptop and the pressing demands of the day. It was head clearing. It just let me breathe and walk in grace and be an instrument of grace.

And then I could come back to the tasks of the evening that still had to be done, some of them, and approach them with a clear head and a fresh faith. I’m just thankful that Robert had the sense to say, “We need to move. You need to move your body.”

David: Yes.

Nancy: It takes a good husband to say that.

Shona: That’s very important. The thing is, it wasn’t very intense. I think it’s important that we realize exercise it not just going to the gym and lifting iron and sweating buckets and running, preparing for a marathon. That begins to stream into the realms of perfectionism again.

Nancy: Right.

Shona: It’s amazing how we can take that perfectionist mentality even into the very exercise that is supposed to benefit us. So look at exercise as a spectrum which you do, which is age appropriate, which is appropriate for where you are in life.

Nancy: You were telling me that you love to play soccer.

Shona: Exactly. I love playing soccer.

Nancy: But you can’t do it like you used to.

Shona: No, not like I used to. There’s the risk of injury and everything else. But what I can do is I can go to the gym, to the Y, and go to a class that’s tailored for my needs. Walking is a very good exercise. If everyone walked a half an hour, three times a week, that is a huge benefit to your mind, emotions, your body and your soul.

So, again, we’re saying exercise is a vital part of life, but beware of making that . . .

Nancy: An idol.

Shona: Yes, because we can do that even with the good things.

Nancy: And, ultimately, what we want to do with all of this is be able to glorify God.

Shona: Yes.

Nancy: To love Him, to love others well. This isn’t for having a model’s body; trim and fit isn’t the goal. The goal is to be able to love God and others with our mind, heart, soul, and will; to be physically strong enough to do that.

Shona: Yes.

Nancy: Thank you for encouraging us in those very practical ways that are spiritual. There’s no separation on that.

We’re going to pick up with a couple of other specific areas that you target, and if anybody still wants to come back after hearing about sleep and exercise, I think you do want to come back and hear more from Shona and David Murray on the next Revive Our Hearts on how to live a grace-paced life in a world of endless demands, and how to be a refreshed and, therefore, refreshing, woman of God.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with David and Shona Murray. They’ve written a new book called, Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands.

We’d like to send you a copy. Maybe it will help you rethink some priorities and find a greater sense of balance. When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, you’ll be helping us continue bringing a program to you each week day. And as a thank-you gift, we’ll send you this book, Refresh.

Just call 1–800–569–5959, make your donation by phone, and say, “Please send the Refresh book.” Or, visit ReviveOurHearts.com to support the ministry and get your book.

After today’s program, we’d like to know: What’s more important—sleep or exercise? We’ll hear what David and Shona Murray say tomorrow. Get some rest and some exercise, then join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to refresh your heart with the truth of God’s Word. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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