Three Thoughts on Rest

One of the complaints I hear most often from people is, “I’m tired.” “How are you?” I’ll ask. They’ll respond, “So tired.”

I get that. I’m tired too, at least some of the time. With a church, a wife, and four kids. . . not to mention the dog (oh, the dog!), I have to be very deliberate about getting my rest.

Contrary to popular opinion, rest is a good thing. My grandmother used to fall asleep in her armchair every afternoon, but then later would deny it. She’d say, “I wasn’t sleeping. I just closed my eyes for a minute.” She WAS sleeping, but naps to her were a sign of weakness.

Our bodies need rest. Rest is a gift. It reminds us that we are not God and it forces us to relinquish control of our lives, if only for a few minutes.

The Bible talks a lot about rest. Here are just a few thoughts:

1.  Sabbath. One of the Ten Commandments is to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy. Easier said than done, I realize, but even God himself rested on the seventh day in Genesis. If God needs a rest, so do we. If you’re not routinely taking a day for the Lord and the people in your life, you’re not only disobeying God, but you’re asking for trouble. Tired people do stupid things. Just ask any toddler.

The Sabbath isn’t for shopping or yard work or cleaning house. Those things can wait. The Sabbath is for resting, enjoying the Lord, and loving the people in your life. Take it! Make it holy. Set it apart. Stay up late the night before and get things done if you have to. After that, just rest. Your future depends on it. I do my very best to take off one full day a week for rest, renewal, and relaxation and I invite my family and staff to do the same.

2. Year of Jubilee. The Israelites took a rest every seven years. Slaves were freed. Debts were forgiven. Even traditional farming came to a screeching halt for an entire year. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

In our culture, we talk about the seven-year itch. Something happens at that seven year mark. Marriages grow cold. Jobs become boring. And while you can’t very likely take a whole year off, it is smart to take longer seasons of rest periodically. Without those periods, you run the risk of things falling apart. Life become routine and the eye starts to wander.

My wife and I go away at least once a year. Most of the time it’s local. Sometimes it’s farther away. It doesn’t matter. God shows up every time and renews our marriage. In the summers, I’m fortunate enough to take several weeks away from the daily grind of church work. That’s not always an easy thing for me to do, but I do it anyway. It’s a discipline. Those weeks off give space for God to do what he needs to do in me so I can go forward as a better pastor, husband, and dad.

3. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. God made rest for our benefit more than his. Life can weigh us down and sometimes the only cure to a difficult situation, I’ve found, is rest. Don’t turn the Sabbath into a burden—something else to do. No, enjoy the Sabbath as a gift from God. He knows what you need. So, quit fighting him and let him give it to you.

Bottom line, if you’re tired, REST. Rest in the Lord. There’s no shame in taking a nap or just sitting around the house reading a book or even watching an uplifting movie. Drop the kids at mom and dad’s house. Breathe a little. Stop and smell the roses. Pray. That may be just what the doctor ordered.