Restlessness in the Face of Rest

We talk to a lot of church leaders about rest and creating healthy boundaries.  I read an article recently that said when the hours church members expected their pastors to be spending in various job-related activities were summed, the expectations added up to over 100 hours a week.

Church leaders and support staff are not the only ones susceptible to packed schedules.  As a culture, our schedules have grown so busy that we dream about vacations and retirement because of the promise of rest.  There are even studies showing that vacations can have a positive impact on work efficacy and production. However, God modeled more frequent rest periods than once a year or after a celebrated career concludes.

He rested after creating the universe complete with time, land, water, plants, animals, and mankind.  He instructed us to observe a Sabbath, and He appointed festivals; another way of refocusing and laying aside day-to-day life to be renewed.

When Mark was running his own public accounting practice and we were involved in bi-vocational ministry, we would find it necessary to leave for a time of vacation and renewal at the beach after the conclusion of tax season.  We discovered that it took us a few days to unwind and let go of the “normal” pace and simply be still. We also have made a distinction between types travel, dividing it into two categories: trips and vacations. Trips typically involve a schedule and meeting with various people or attending conferences.  Vacations on the other hand, allow us to simply be and occur in places of nature that are restorative to us.  

The Problem

The problem is that some of us have forgotten how to rest or have figured out a way to warp play into something with productive value, turning it into work.  We have come to believe, erroneously, that the harder we work, the more valuable we are. We have been duped into believing that rest is equivalent to laziness.  While idleness can be selfish and destructive, purposeful restorative time helps us stay balanced and less prone to be triggered by negative circumstances.

Overworking ourselves can lead us to making poor decisions simply because we need a reset or time with community.  If we fail to rest adequately, our body may impose a period of rest due to illness. One can only push the body so far before the alarm starts blaring and shut down procedures begin.

The Solution

Similar to the differences between energy-fillers and drainers for extroverts and introverts, what might be restful and restorative to you might not be so for me.  Resting for some is doing a puzzle, lying on the beach, baking, rafting, playing an instrument, etc. Others need to interact on some level with nature rather than indulging in an activity of solitude.  Still others may be more literal and actually sleep!

The Bible is replete with examples of rest.  Here are a few passages to jump start further study.

God rested after creation.  Genesis 2:2-3

God set aside the Sabbath as holy and a day of rest.  Exodus 20:8-11, Exodus 23:12

Elijah needed food, sleep, and a special encounter with the Lord.  1 Kings 19

The Lord created the Sabbath for man as a refocus/reset. Mark 2:27

Jesus instructed His followers to come away and rest.  Mark 6:31-32

God created us, and He designed us with a need for rest.  During these “down” times of lessened intellectual, emotional, or physical activity, we can better process information.  Getting the recommended amount of sleep and taking time to get away are good for us.

If you are tired, today is a good time to take stock.  How are you doing in the area of setting aside time to rest?  How do you honor the Sabbath? How do you prefer to rest? How do you arrange your day/week/month/year for adequate rest to operate from an overflow rather than fumes?

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