Recently I wrote about my experience with a failed adoption. In that post, I talked about how that situation revealed to me several areas that the Lord needed to work in my life. One of those areas is my ability to rest and relax.
As a type-A personality, I’m naturally a very driven person. As someone who leans towards being a workaholic, I find it often hard to rest. It’s not that I don’t sleep well, I do, but I find it hard to break away sometimes from my work. Or when I’m relaxing, I’m thinking about that article, review, the magazine, podcast, or some other ministry; I’m involved in. Over this past Fall, the Lord began to work on me on this. I realized this past November; I needed a break. I needed extended time to pray, reflect, and for the Lord to work on me.
As this process has occurred, I’ve been taking more time to relax, rest, and read. And one of the results of this is that I’m sleeping better than I ever have, I feel more at peace, and don’t feel the need to push past being tired just to get things done.
One day recently I took the entire day off to pray, rest, read, and just be silent. Most seminaries offer classes on spiritual formation where you learn about more about spiritual growth and the like. The most spiritual thing we can often do is to rest. If you are anything like me, you desperately need it.
The other day I was talking with a friend and this friend was telling me how he was hurting. He had been informed that yet another person was leaving his church. I encouraged him to take a day to pray, rest, read, and be silent. He said he would. I told him how I did this the other day and it helped tremendously. It’s a practice that I hope to put into practice regularly. You and I desperately need intentional times of rest, reading, and silence.
While I think each person should have a day of rest for me, my own practice likely looks different than most people’s. It means I turn off my computer, put away my phone, read, rest, try not to talk very much, and focus on praying.
Now that I’ve been regularly resting relaxing and having a weekly time of solitude the Lord has been addressing many other issues in my life. See often we can get so busy with our various ministries or activities that we never take the time to stop. We never pause to see our great need of God’s grace. Stopping and taking a day to rest is not only a command to honor the Lord of the Sabbath, but it’s designed so we will “be still and know I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Whatever your particular view of the Sabbath is, as Christians, we are still to take taking one day out of seven to rest and focus wholly on the Lord. In a society that is moving faster than ever and with the increase of use of social media and other such mediums like it, Christians desperately need to be still and know the Lord.
If you are in the ministry of any kind, you know that it can eat you up and spit you out. You know that you give and give with no end in send. To continue going, you need to set aside one day a week to rest, be still, meditate on God’s Word, and be silent before the Lord. Perhaps even you need a true vacation where you don’t take any books or ministry work with you. Perhaps you also may need an extended sabbatical so you can have time and space to reflect and for the Lord to do His work in you.
This extended season for me has been deeply needed. The Lord has done a lot of heart surgery in my life. There have been things that needed to be addressed such as attitudes towards others, family relationships, and other issues. These things would have never been addressed, and the healing process would never have begun without this extended time of rest and reflection.
Some people think that they need to press on in ministry and never stop. They are convinced that this is the most spiritual thing to do. Let me advise you as someone whose been doing this a long time that this is not the most spiritual thing you can do. As someone who has suffered from burnout multiple times now I can tell you, that isn’t a journey you want to take. The road back from burnout is difficult and painful.
I say this out of love and experience—either you will take one day in seven to rest and honor the Lord of the Sabbath or the Lord will cause you to take a break. He’ll do that through sickness, circumstances, or through some other means. The Lord is jealous and zealous for His people. He will have all of them. Either He is Lord of all of your life or Lord of none.
I’ve been a Christian now since I was five years which means I’ve been walking with the Lord now for thirty years. The older I get (and I’m not that old either) I realize my need for rest. I recognize that I have limitations. And that isn’t because I can’t work past my limits, but rather because I’ve done so for a very long time. I’m recognizing as I’m maturing more in age and wisdom that recognizing my limitations isn’t bad; it’s actually for my good. Too many people are pressing on past their limitations. They are ignoring the signs their body is giving them to help them recognize that all is not well.
I’m convinced that this season of rest was a gift of God’s grace to me. In fact, I have recognized in this season that if I continue to push through my limits and fail to rest truly, I will continue to feel the need to push past everything. Eventually, I’ll completely be dried up and have nothing left to give. There were some days during this season of rest that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to write or minister again. There were times when it would have been easier to step aside than face the pain head on with God’s grace and help from others. God doesn’t call us to quit. We push on because of God’s preserving grace.
You may not be convinced of your need for rest and solitude, and that’s okay. Whether you recognize it or not, you need it. For me, I’m thankful for this season for so many reasons. I no longer feel the need to push past my limits. I feel more at peace because I’m genuinely resting in the Lord. I no longer feel the need to push myself so hard because I know that’s not the Lord’s will. That isn’t to say that God doesn’t want us to work hard I’m not arguing against working hard for the glory of the Lord. I’m talking about the sinful tendencies we have of workaholism.
Too many of us who are in ministry are overworking ourselves to death. We use our work for the Lord as a form of avoidance for dealing with the issues of our lives. Instead of dealing with our stuff, we cram more and more into our lives. It’s no surprise then that so many are burning out and leaving the ministry. It’s no wonder why we are seeing many prominent Christian leaders disqualifying themselves. Our great need is first to rest in the Lord and yes, to strive by grace after Him. Even our striving hard after God is because of His grace. We need more of His grace not less. We need more time of meditating on God’s Word and reflecting on what His Word is teaching us.
As I’ve been resting more in the Lord, I’ve also come to realize that it’s not only great theology people need. They need to see how that theology is being worked into my life. I’m hoping as time goes along that my articles will increasingly reflect not only good theology but also how that theology is being worked into my life. I want people to see Christ being formed in me by His grace through the work of the Holy Spirit.
In conclusion, let me encourage you. You may not have a time set aside to rest. Find it! You and I need to find rest. We need to minister from a cup that overflows with God’s grace. We need to stop ministering from a place of drought and minister from the overflow of our walk with God. This means that we need to be growing ourselves before the Lord. We need to focus first on our spiritual growth before we care about the growth of others. We’re called to be Christians ourselves first, followers of Jesus, and then ministers of the gospel to others. So let’s focus not just on ourselves for ourselves sake. Instead, we focus on ourselves growing in grace so we can minister to others authentically and in love for the sake of the gospel and the expansion of the Kingdom of God. As we do this, we will see our need for rest and solitude before the Lord which will help us to continue to grow in God’s grace and continue to minister His gospel effectively in an increasingly intolerant and hostile world.