The UCLA study found that very few people had any unstructured time. In only one of the thirty-two families did a father regularly take an evening walk with his family. Five of the families were never in the same room at one time. The conclusion: these busy families are living at such a hectic pace with such demanding schedules that they have very little time or energy for connection.

Busyness is the enemy of connection.

Elijah’s fatigue alarm is blaring but even though he doesn’t seem to hear it, God hears it and takes care of Elijah by helping him rest and reconnect.

First Kings 19:5–6 tells us that Elijah “lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.”

God is so tender and patient with Elijah. He lets him rest. Sometimes when your way isn’t working, the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap. Elijah sleeps, and then he eats and drinks and goes back to sleep. Notice that God doesn’t say, “You’re burning daylight” or “You can sleep when you die.” From the beginning of creation, rest has always been God’s way.

It wasn’t long after my doctor diagnosed me with fatigue that I sat down with my fellow leaders and told them, “I need a break.” Truthfully, they already knew it. In fact, in hindsight, it’s clear they knew it before I did. They could see my way wasn’t working. The pace I was running was not sustainable. It’s probably fair to say I was one of the last people to realize that my fatigue was affecting my connection with God and others. I was too busy to notice it.

I thought a month of rest and recovery from what had been an incredibly draining three and a half years would be plenty. After praying about it, the leaders came back and said that three months would be better. I wanted one month, and now it was three months?&!*%

At first, I resisted that length of time for all kinds of reasons. I’ll give you my top three:

1. What was I going to do for three months? I was sure I would quickly get bored and restless.

2. I was embarrassed. I’m supposed to be the pastor who helps other people learn how to honor a commitment to prioritizing connection with Jesus and others.

3. What would happen while I was taking a break? I was sure all kinds of problems would ensue.

When I told my wife about the three-months recommendation, she said, “Thank God.” And it wasn’t the “thank God” you say when you’ve been driving around a crowded parking lot and suddenly see an empty space. It was the “thank God” someone says when she has been praying for a long time about the unsustainable pace of a loved one’s life. God was answering her prayers. And when I talked to one of my accountability partners, he said, “You are resisting a gift when you should be receiving it with gratitude.” So that’s what I did.

At first, I struggled with the lack of productivity. My therapist said, “You’ll know you’re doing this right when you feel unproductive.” When I prayed and asked Jesus about it, here’s what he said: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28–29 MSG). So that’s what I did. During those three months, I walked more than two hundred miles around our farm.

As I connected more deeply with Jesus, I slowly began to recover my life and learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Kyle Idleman, When Your Way Isn’t Working: Finding Purpose and Contentment through Deep Connection with Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2023), 67–70.

We have just released a 12-week study on the topic: When Your Way Isn’t Working by Kyle Idleman. You can get it on Amazon. It is also available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking.