Five warning signs that show my husband needs rest

By Shauna Pilgreen

Rest says, “I can’t, but God can.” Rest is a declaration that God is in control and we can lay down our bodies, our time, our work, our ministry in surrender.

But rest doesn’t come easy. And it comes at a cost. We have to set things down in order to pick up rest. We have to lay down our burdens and step into His presence and His peace.

A verse that has been in the forefront of our church planting journey is Psalm 127:1-2 which says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

If we’re building it, if we’re chasing after it, if we’re controlling it, it’s vanity. But, if it’s God, then we can rest.

We have certainly found ourselves in seasons of getting ahead of God and wanting Him to take on our agenda and plans. That’s when exhaustion and fatigue set in because we are attempting that which we are not meant to attempt on our own and in our own strength.

So, how do I identify my husband’s exhaustion and fatigue? I doubt these are unique to my pastor husband, but are probably universal no matter what profession.

Here are five signs to look out for:

  1. When he can’t sleep when it’s time to sleep.
  2. When he’s carrying burdens solo rather than letting me, the staff, mentors and friends shoulder it with him.
  3. When his calendar is full.
  4. When there’s no time for what he enjoys.
  5. When everything becomes a have-to rather than a get-to.

What do we do when we see the signs?

  • We calendar. We calendar space. Dates. Sabbath. Escapes.

Sure, there’s already the necessities on the calendar with work and church and meetings and kid’s activities, but we schedule date nights and hours for Sabbath. We write in that Friday night will be a night at home. Sunday night, after the kids go to bed, we’ll order take out. We look ahead to spring break and book a hotel for a few nights out of the city for our family to get away. This activity of calendaring alone speaks rest.

  • We re-make home a haven and a refuge.

I’ll menu plan so that there’s stability with what’s for dinner. We work together as a family to get the dishes done and house cleaned, so we can sit down and read or play a board game or watch the Warriors. I’ll light a candle and bring out some chocolates. Rest doesn’t have to be expensive and can be homemade.

  • We talk. We talk about what’s not working and what is needed.

Go figure! But talking it out and calling it what it is can bring about change. Leading from the top can be lonely and a spouse can be instrumental in listening and advocating for rest. Ask: What do you need this week? What can I take on for you? What isn’t working? What can you set down? Speaking our needs can be the step in the right direction to getting the rest our souls crave.

  • We go on walks.

His preference is much longer walks than I like, but nevertheless, we breath in the fresh air. A change of scenery can speak rest in and of itself. Fresh air can be medicine for an anxious mind and a weary heart. So get outside. Exercise. This will be a good excuse for going to bed earlier tonight.

  • We pray together.

As we pull the covers up to our necks at night, one of us starts the prayer. Typically him. We ask that He breathes His peace upon us and that He gives to His beloved sleep. We cast our cares upon Him. I’ll give us each a touch of lavender oil and turn on our sound machine. Because surrendering to rest is hard. Releasing control is denying flesh. And we do our best to lock in 7-8 hours of sleep. We have learned in our years of ministry that we can last longer when we are fully rested and recharged.

Sometimes the signs that your husband needs rest goes beyond what you can do for him. It might be that he needs to seek counsel from a physician or therapist. And this is a step in the right direction. Because the enemy wants nothing more than to keep pastor’s worn out and weary and bought into the lie that he can do it all. Taking care of himself is crucial for his family, his marriage, the church and his very soul.

Published March 23, 2017

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Shauna Pilgreen

Shauna is married to Ben Pilgreen, pastor of Epic Church in San Francisco, CA. They have busy 3 boys and are in process of adopting a precious girl from India. Shauna loves exploring her city, engaging in her community, and encouraging women. Join her on her blog at where she shares how their family lives out the Gospel in the place they call home.