Christopher Cook - Get Unstuck. Reclaim Your Purpose. Win Today.

Get Unstuck. Reclaim Your Purpose. Win Today.

Shutdown: Why It’s the Best Thing You Need Right Now

In our fast-paced culture, our identity is all-too-often connected to our performance. It's the simple case of "do good, get good. Do bad, get bad."

I’ll just say it: Our personal identity is all-too-often connected to our performance.

Last month, I caught a nasty flu at the worst conceivable time in my calendar and was forced to rest. In short, I was completely shutdown for the better part of a week. My podcast was just days from premiering, I had a speaking opportunity, as well as two really important meetings to tackle. Guess how many of those important events took place?

You guessed it…zero.

The negative thoughts fired away: You let them down. You missed your shot. You’re going to have to wait a year before this opportunity comes around again.

At that point, not only was I achy and feverish, a lead blanket of depression ambushed me while I was down. My thoughts bled condemnation and lies from the shrapnel stuck in my mind: I let them down. I missed my shot. I’m going to have to wait a year before this opportunity comes around again.

Much-Needed Clarity

After what felt like an unrelenting beating, I came-up for air and gained some much needed relief and perspective. In a weakened state, I bought a lie; a lie about my identity that became so real that rational thoughts were indistinguishable from the garbage I had allowed to pile-up. The second point of clarity exposed insecurity in me that my identity was still somehow connected to good performance.

I’m sure you’ve been there before. We all have. In fact, I think we men place even more pressure upon ourselves to hit numbers, compete, and perform well in order to feel like a real man worthy of winning the favor of our lady and our colleagues. Am I right?

My point is that in our fast-paced, “have it your way” culture, our identity is too often connected to our performance. It’s the simple case of “do good, get good. Do bad, get bad.” Even worse, making a mistake often mutates into the cancerous lie that you are a mistake.

The Cold Sweats of Condemnation

Think with me: when’s the last time you felt the cold sweats of condemnation on the job or in a meaningful relationship?

Maybe you missed a project deadline. Maybe you said something stupid. Maybe your erratic behavior let a friend down again.

While none of those scenarios are good, they shouldn’t ground you from getting on with life after having cleaned-up whatever mess was made.

You know as well as I do that we humans have a tendency to lock ourselves in our own prison of isolation, insecurity, and believed lies when we fail to take stock in our thought life and cease our striving for approval and identity from people and pats on the back.

Paradoxically Speaking

It’s those “cold sweats” (whether metaphorical or actual) that we should be paying more attention to because they are a clear-cut indicator that we are striving and working in our own strength, often from a place of insecurity. Speaking of striving, most of us miss one of the primary targets we’re ever supposed to strive to attain: rest. You heard me. Rest. The writer of Hebrews punctuates this notion:

“Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], that no one may fall or perish by the same kind of unbelief and disobedience [into which those in the wilderness fell].” (Hebrews‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭AMP‬‬)

It seems like a paradox: work hard, run after, and labor to rest. In my case, I needed physical rest. But for most of us, there’s a deeper rest we miss in the course of daily living: the rest that comes when we abandon perfectionism, self-reliance, and a strong-will, all of which are counterfeits of excellence and authentic resilience.

Sniffing Out the Counterfeit

Pumping life to these counterfeits, I believe, is the spirit of unbelief. From personal experience, unbelief has crept into my life as subtly as a slow-drip from a leaky pipe when I don’t deal with past disappointment and instead choose to take future matters into my own hands so that I have control of the outcome. Essentially, the spirit of unbelief puts God at the center where He is powerless, so we have to strive and prove our worth through works.

But that’s a dead end waiting to happen.

Truth be told, our self-reliance and strong will is self-centered. And in the process of sipping that juice, we fall prey to the traps of busyness, perfectionism, and condemnation.

If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, allow me to throw you a lifeline. I believe the following six practical steps will pull you up and out just like they did for me:

  1. Stop worrying. Listen, I know how dumb that sounds. That’s like me telling you to stop thinking about elephants. You’re thinking about elephants, aren’t you? The point is that worrying is wasted energy. It’s like spinning your wheels. What is worry going to accomplish? Nothing! Part of learning to rest requires you to believe that you’re not smart enough to effectively solve your own problems outside of God’s help.
  2. Trust again. When we’ve experienced a lot of past disappointment or have been hurt, it’s hard to trust. Who wants to put themselves in the position to fail again? Not me. But that guardedness is a faulty protection mechanism that keeps us from God’s best. Psalm 37:2 says, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.” Safety and prosperity first requires trust.
  3. Refocus and reprioritize. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” No explanation necessary.
  4. Drop the heavy load. Why do we insist on doing everything ourselves? Probably because we’re scared of being letdown and disappointed. So we compensate by pushing ourselves to the point of exhaustion and by trusting in our own strength to make anything of value actually last. Back to my story, if I hadn’t gotten sick, I would’ve performed “well” and received the approval I needed to feel worthwhile and accomplished. And that’s sad. Psalm 37:5 makes the point for me: “Commit your way to the Lord [roll each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.”
  5. Stop striving. Just stop! Like worry, striving is exhausting and totally futile. Besides, you and I might be good…but we’re not that good. Psalm 37:7 says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”
  6. Put away the anger. Anger is a secondary emotion, which means behind anger is something else, like fear, insecurity, worry, etc. Assess your emotional state, take ownership over it, and redirect your energy in a positive manner. Unbridled anger only leads to harm.

There are your marching orders. Now go do it! Tell me about your results in the comment section below.

  • Dennis Marshall

    Bravo Chris. I have been praying for you to see that. The Lord showed me that about you a few years ago. Now I am using what I learned as well over the last 12 years to help others. Thank you brother.