Practice Unproductivity (part 2)

Our Supposed Self-Sufficiency and Rest

“Only the weak rest.” That’s how we’re tempted to think. We play god. We think we can be everywhere and be everything to everyone as fast and as efficiently as possible.  

We play god. We hate limits! We have military macho (makes me think of the nacho man commercial). We believe we can do everything and if we can’t there’s a problem. A problem with us, we’re weak, or a problem with someone or something else. We think we’re unlimited. We think we can play god. It’s really a form of idolatry. 

This carries over to our work as well. Our relationship with work is way out of whack.[1] We admire workaholics and will sacrifice our marriage and kid(s) to the god of success and achievement.  We are out of step with the reality of our needs and limits.[2] 

And we find our significance in what we do–the fury of what we do–and not who we are as adopted sons and daughters in Christ Jesus. When someone asks me how I’m doing, my standard response is—I’m busy. That’s a pretty standard response for a lot of people. It’s also a batch of honor for a lot of people. Perhaps even the justification of their existence (though no one would say that). We hate limits. We want to be able to do it all. We often find our identity in what we’re capable of.

We hate limits. We want to be able to do it all. Tish Harrison Warren reminds us this isn’t a new thing.

“Resisting limits isn’t new for the human race. From the very beginning we’ve had animosity toward finitude and boundaries. In their rebellion, Adam and eve wanted to be ‘like God.’ Invincible. All-sufficient. Autonomous. Limitless.”[3]

But the truth is, we have limits. We must sleep. We forget the truth of Psalm 3:5: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.” It is the LORD who sustains us! In fact, He upholds the universe by the word of His power. The universe doesn’t stay together thanks to me! No. It’s thanks to God!

These truths are humbling but they are true. They are also comforting. I don’t have to be the Lord, I can’t. I’m not. I need to repent of even trying. And I need to rely on and pray to God for help.

In fact, even sleep is a reminder that we are not completely self-sufficiency. We all must, at some point or another, sleep. “By embracing sleep each day we submit to the humiliation of our creatureliness and fragility.”[4]

Most people, however, do not get the sleep that they need. Why?… Could it be that we take on too much? We think we are “bigger and badder” than we actually are, and it hurts us. “Sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, body temperature, and blood pressure. Without enough of it, we can’t regulate our moods well or recover swiftly from injuries. Sleep may be more essential to us than food; animals will die of sleep deprivation before starvation.”[5]

Of course, there are reasons to have sleepless nights; actually, quite a few reasons. But that shouldn’t be our regular rhythm. Though it has often been mine. I’ve been very out of balance in the past.

My point here is not that we shouldn’t work—we should and hard!—my point is that we also need the biblical balance of rest (See the later post: “Our need for Work and Rest”).

We often mindlessly go through the motions. We do, do, do. But, are we present? Are we aware of God’s many provisions throughout the day?

Do we realize that God is the Sovereign of the universe and any apparent sufficiency is a good gift from Him?

Do we rest in our heavenly Father’s care knowing that we can trust Him?

Do we remember that we don’t have to rule the universe—because we can’t!—and He who is eminently qualified already does?

Do we rest knowing that the LORD will sustain us?

Let’s rest. Let’s trust.

We can. And we must.


[1] Judith Shulevitz, “Bringing Back the Sabbath.”

[2] Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary, 146.

[3] Ibid., 147.

[4] Ibid. 

[5] Michael Finkel, “While we sleep, our mind goes on an amazing journey.” “’It seems as if we are now living in a worldwide test of the negative consequences of sleep deprivation,’ says Robert Stickgold, director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at Harvard Medical School” (Ibid.).

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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