My dad is one of the hardest working people I know. We grew up on a few acres in the mountains of northern California, and he always found plenty for us to do. School was more restful for me than being home. While most kids looked forward to weekends and summers, I didn’t. I knew it meant one thing: work.
I played sports throughout the year because it got me out of working, but there were no sports during the summer. Since I knew I’d be working if I was home, I got a job as quickly as possible because at least then I’d get paid. For one summer, I worked two jobs: bagging groceries at Safeway during the day, followed by waiting tables at a restaurant in the evening. Once, on the way to my second job, I was so exhausted I fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed into the truck in front of me. I remember waking up on a stretcher in the middle of the road with paramedics leaning over me. By God’s grace, I didn’t kill anyone, but I totaled my parents’ new Isuzu Rodeo.
I didn’t enjoy growing up this way. I used to wish I had a “normal” dad who would let me spend my weekends and summers playing. Now I couldn’t be more thankful. Laziness is a temptation all of us face, but because of my upbringing, I have difficulty sitting around. Even when I’m tired, I still feel the need to be productive. At this moment, I’m sitting in my living room typing on my laptop while the rest of the family is sleeping. Katie is going to get up and say, “Why did you get up so early in the morning?” I’ll respond, “I thought of what I wanted to write for the Introduction of my book.”
Working Myself to Death
After college, I served as an Army Officer, an elementary school teacher, and then I went into ministry. When I became the senior pastor of Woodland Christian Church in 2010, I had no idea how much work was involved in shepherding a church. By 2013, the church had grown, and my days (and nights) were packed with activities such as studying, teaching, counseling, making phone calls, responding to emails, administrative responsibilities, visitations, and benevolence issues. I rarely had a day off. Sunday would conclude, and then on Monday morning, I’d begin another exhausting week of trying to get everything completed before the following Sunday rolled around.
The stress took a toll on me. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep because my mind was occupied with the work that needed to be done. I lost thirty pounds and started having anxiety attacks. There was constant pain and tightness in my chest. I’d go to bed and wonder if I’d wake up again in the morning. No one has ever wanted me to be a pastor more than my wife, Katie, but my anxiety worried her. She started encouraging me to go back to teaching. She was afraid she was going to lose her husband, and our kids were going to lose their father.
Trusting God’s Word
Why do I mention all the above? Is it supposed to make you think the following chapters are going to push you to work as hard as you can, and as often as you can? No. Much of this book is committed to the importance of physical and spiritual rest.
Instead, I hope to have some credibility with you while discussing work and rest. I have experienced firsthand the blessings of obedience and the consequences of disobedience in these areas. Let me acknowledge that I’m also more than familiar with laziness. There are many times I don’t feel like working, helping my wife, getting out of bed, or serving people in the church. I need the same encouragement from the Bible as much as everyone else.
This brings me to my last point. I’m asking you to trust God’s Word through my writing. Work and Rest God’s Way is not a collection of my personal thoughts and opinions. Instead, it is filled with Scripture—truth I’ve labored over for my flock and for myself, and truth that has led me to conclude that God knows what is best for us. I look forward to sharing this truth with you in the following chapters.