People respond differently to suffering. Some disengage from work and all activities because they find it difficult to do anything that requires effort or focus. They want space to be alone and think. Others cling to their business in an effort to distract themselves from their pain. They don’t want to think. They want to move on but then are frustrated when they can’t.
During the season of suffering both work and rest are beneficial. If your recovery has stalled, reconsider the value of each and then make adjustments.
Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” We often think work is a necessary evil. But work is a gift from God. In paradise God gave humans work so that they could uniquely reflect His work of creating. Humans image God, and align themselves to paradise, when they work. When we follow God’s lead and work, we are re-creating. (Notice the same prefix and root for recreation.) Without work, we will never feel renewed or refreshed. While suffering, our hearts desperately long for recreated hope. Getting back to work will help you recover. Maybe all you can work is an hour a day. Whatever you can do… do it.
But since humanity’s fall into sin, we must not forget that this good gift of work has been cursed. Genesis 3:17,19 says, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it, all the days of your life…by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.”
Under the curse, work became like silver —precious, but quickly tarnished. If we forget work’s cursed condition, we will either overwork or underwork to our own harm. This is especially true during seasons of suffering.
Overwork contributes to living in denial. If you use work to distract yourself from your pain, it will not help you long term. Work cannot deliver you. Only God can do that. You must set aside time to struggle with God through the pain. Take hope that you are not alone. God’s special name for his people is Israel. Israel literally means: “you have struggled with God and men and have overcome” (see Genesis 32:28). Make time for God, even when you are really upset with Him. For beginners, I recommend meditating on Psalm 77.
Underwork contributes to living in despair. If you abandon the work God has for you and ruminate on your pain, you will not find the rest you seek. It will elude you. Your resting will feel increasingly restless. Nighttime will expand beyond the limits God sets, and wear holes in your day.
Working rightly contributes to hope. When you start working again you will discover that light can pierce the darkness. Like the silver moon that reflects the sun, your work will reflect God’s glory and refreshing light will overcome the dark night of despair. The waves of your suffering cannot pass the boundaries God has set, but the tide can shift lower when engaging in thankful work.
If you are in doubt about the proper boundaries of work and rest, take your cues from nature. The night is for rest. The day is for work. Get out of bed when its time. Take one step, then the next — by faith, not sight. As you do, your pain will not disappear, it will transform into something new and energizing… hope sufficient for that day.