I’ve realized something lately: our culture does not value rest. The pace of the 2016 world will only increase, and it’s all we can do to keep up with it. We drag our worn-out selves to yet another get-together with friends, another big event, another long meeting. So when someone proclaims that they are about to take a time for rest, this concept just can’t be processed.
Rest? What is that? Here are a few whisperings I’ve heard under Culture’s breath about rest:
It means that something must be wrong in your life. Perhaps you’ve recently discovered that you’re seriously ill. Want me to make you a casserole?
She’s giving up on hope for living. We should all be concerned.
I can recommend a sleeping pill if you can’t sleep at night.
So you’re going to take a nap, or maybe go to bed early?
Gotta push through if you’re gonna get anywhere in this world.
I think you can just drink more coffee, and that problem will just go away.
Well-meaning friends firmly planted in Adulthood juggle a cranky toddler or four, a budding career, and house payments. I’ve also seen exhaustion in students too: captain of a team, AP student, volunteers on weekends to build scholarship resumes, working a part-time job, involved at church, and addicted to a series or two on Netflix. These students can never miss showing for an event and are always wearing a bright smile. They are asked to mentor younger students and teach them the ways to balance life as a busy student. These are the young people who are responsible and can always take on more. Yet they know exhaustion too well.
The expectation among the successful is to keep busy, regardless of the cost. It’s said that a busy young person is a young person kept out of trouble. The anticipated benefits shall surely outweigh any consequences. Sometimes we compare ourselves to busy individuals and find our own lives lacking, and we wonder, how do they do it all? A busy life looks to be fulfilling and perhaps life-giving. So we binge-over commit, hoping this will bring our guilty consciences to peace. We’re missing something, and surely this is it.
What we’ve done is just slap more and more bandages on the problem, hoping that will fix it. What we don’t do, however, is allow the wound time and space to heal. That’s what rest does. There is no prize for proudly hobbling down the halls at school or work right after breaking a foot. It isn’t healthy to grin and bear the pain of an infected wound. No, we seem to be really good at complicating the problem.
Is the problem that we’re too busy? That we need rest? No, I think those are symptoms.
The problem is a lack of trust. Maybe faith the size of a mustard seed can grow into a big beautiful tree one day, but won’t that take forever? Surely there’s a nice mature tree at the local nursery that can be ours in five easy steps, or even better, we can have a fake one, like a Christmas tree! “A big, shiny aluminum tree…maybe painted pink!” as the cast of A Charlie Brown Christmas encouraged Charlie Brown to select. We can pull it out of the closet and decorate it with pretty lights whenever we need it. Faith is such a simple thing that it requires minimal effort, right?
God built rest into life. Winter is for resting – it’s too cold to do much, and the days are shorter and often cloudy. We’ve had a few “blankets of snow” cover the ground in a cold, moist shimmer. God rested on the seventh day after creation, giving us the example of doing the same. He also scattered holy days (holidays) throughout the Israelite’s calendar so they could stop and remember.
A few months ago, Katrina said yes to God calling her into something new that began with a period of rest, but it meant giving up most everything in her life. She confesses that the first weeks were extremely difficult. When one unexpectedly finds a lot of time on their hands, it is natural to want to fill it up immediately. But God showed her how mentally, spiritually, and even physically the busyness of life had been draining her. What may look like “just sitting at home” is a crucial time for gaining strength and growing faith.
Rest is a highly participatory activity. It involves intentionally laying aside normal, everyday life and trusting that it will be ok when we return. It involves listening instead of providing all of the words, obtaining a posture of vulnerability instead of readying to fight a good fight, being still instead of running.
Rest is about trust.
Last weekend, the VIP ladies met for a retreat. We spoke at no conference and advertised no upcoming event: we took a weekend to rest. It was our goal to seek out the Lord’s direction upon our lives and upon VIP for the next year. We slept in, wore pajamas and comfy clothes most of the time, snacked, and breathed. I had more invitations to do stuff that weekend than I typically have in a month, but I knew that resting was critical right now. I needed the extra sleep, and it is so good to spend time with these ladies into whom God is breathing a fresh message. When one intentionally draws away from the busy pace of life and sits down to listen to God, He will speak.
Rest is about trust.
Time spent resting is not wasted time. Let it be a time of reviving and transforming your trust in God. Leave your current worries and let tomorrow worry about itself. Set your mind on the goal of knowing Jesus better. Turn off the TV – unplug it or hide the remote if you need to – and log off social media (I know: your friends and crush won’t get it, but they’ll live). Find ways to relax – a bubble bath, cup of hot chocolate, a walk in nature, or soothing music. Open your Bible and spend long sessions just drinking deep of His Word. Pick up that musical instrument again you once tried to learn and let it make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Turn on some worship music and focus on the words. Splurge a little on a fancy journal and pen and start writing out your thoughts to God. You can even take the next page to imagine what God would write if He wrote back to you. Spend time visiting with someone who encourages you – someone with more years of wisdom than you if possible.
Rest is a season in life; it doesn’t go on forever. Sometimes you may find yourself overwhelmed with the busyness of life and not be able to give anything up. This is why it’s crucial to rest when God calls you to rest. Elijah was not expecting to need a period of rest after the Mt. Carmel encounter with those who worshiped the false god Baal, but it suddenly became very necessary for God to strengthen him for a journey fleeing for his life (see story in 1 Kings 18-19). It is not “normal behavior” to take a break from life and do these things over an extended period of time. Yes, these are great to work into your daily life – daily life also requires a time for rest and reflection. But what faith it takes to move beyond the morning devotional time and carve out a block of time despite how busy you’ve become where you simply seek out God!
And it’s ok if your faith looks like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree with a few pitiful little branches and dying needles that fall off every time you pick it up. Faith needs nurturing by putting your trust in God. It has to be watered regularly and given plenty of light. It is awkward at first to pick up that little faith-tree every time it needs to be used. But keep it out of the basement storage closet and God will present you with opportunities where it is needed. Give Him time to rest you and strengthen you, and then watch what He does in your life.
Can we dare to live our lives by faith?