Finding Rest in the Work

Want to stay on top of the food chain? Better get your rest.

Want to stay on top of the food chain? Better get your rest.

I’ve been invited to speak for a few minutes on the topic of rest at an internal leadership meeting later this week. This is a little more challenging than it may seem, because at Florida Hospital, rest is integral to our whole-person philosophy of health and wellness, and the weekly Sabbath day of rest and worship is a key feature of Seventh Day Adventism. So pretty much everyone there will be well versed in the necessity and importance of resting from our labor. But of course, knowing isn’t doing.

How many business leaders actually get the rest they need? It’s pretty common for leaders at all levels to work long hours (or “around the clock” via technology) and use very few vacation days. I think it’s a combination of our personalities; often we’re overachievers, and the importance of our job roles. Job wise, leaders have business-critical responsibilities – that’s what it means to be a leader.

The healthcare leaders to whom I’ll be speaking, whether over a department, campus or other business unit, are all responsible for achieving certain clinical and financial goals. These outcomes matter to patients and to the organization. Although we all need to sleep, as leaders, our business responsibilities are 24/7. None of us will be able to negotiate a 25% reduction in our goals because we plan to take a week’s vacation this month. Rest or no rest, we own our results.

Together, an overachiever-type personality and a weighty, outcomes-based job responsibility can lead to a pretty stressful life. We may feel constant pressure to produce, becoming micromanagers or control freaks trying to guarantee results. We may find ourselves unable to truly relax, stressing out about work even when we’re off. Consequently we work longer and harder and ignore our need for rest. We simply don’t have the luxury.

And we won’t get the luxury either – unless we change our attitude. A mental shift has to come first. In order to rest from our work, we need to be able to rest in our work. We need a little less intensity, less pressure and a lighter feeling to our responsibility. I don’t mean less actual responsibility or a reduced job role, but rather a different feeling in the role. Here’s how we can get it.

First, we need to remember that healthcare is a “team sport.” Lets’ invest in our peer team and the teams we manage to build their capabilities and trust them with our responsibilities. We, as individuals, don’t have to have all the answers as long as the team can produce them. And we don’t have to do all the work ourselves either. We can ask for help from peers and delegate appropriately to subordinates. The better our teams, the more we can rest in the work.

Even more importantly, let’s remember that we are quite small and that God is big. We can trust in God’s provision. Despite our illusions of importance, we’re not in control of much of anything, but God controls everything. And God provides, and he provides generously. Let’s seek God’s will in our work, and rest in his provision. Our labor is important, but it’s not all-important. The more confidence we have in God, the less worry we’ll have about making everything happen ourselves, allowing us to find rest in the work.

I confess to be a work in progress here, and this post and the talk are as much for me as anyone. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that by trusting God and trusting the team, we can find rest in even the weightiest of responsibilities.   (And perhaps we can use all of our vacation days too.)


Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves.
   Psalm 127:1-2


  1. Pete,
    Well said! After all, God took a rest after six days of Creation so who are we to question His example?
    I am going to bed a little early tonight.