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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Rhythms of Rest


Jeremiah and I have just returned from a much needed three day personal retreat. We spent our time resting our bodies, renewing our souls, and reconnecting with God. I cannot tell you how good and healthy and necessary this is. The past several months have felt very much like a whirlwind running from church events to doctors appointments to camp planning meetings to family events and other work and personal obligations. Thinking about all of these things as I type them is exhausting. These are all good things. I want to fill my time with good things, things that make a difference and have an impact. I love filling my schedule with things to do.

Our culture, especially in the Midwest, is great at promoting and glorifying a “busy” life. We praise people for their productivity, hard work and full schedules. I have often been complimented for this. One friend once told me, “You get many miles out of life.” I think it is important to use time wisely and be productive, especially in our Kingdom work. However, I fear we have put way too much emphasis on this side of the spectrum and have neglected the equally important opposite end of the spectrum, rest.

From the very beginning it is clear that we were created to rest. God creates Adam and Eve on the sixth day of the Creation poem. They are created in God’s image and their first full day of existence is spent experiencing rest with God on day seven. We read over and over again in the first chapter of Genesis the phrase “evening and morning.” It is backwards from how we think about time. The Bible describes the idea of day as starting with the evening. What do you do in the evening? Rest! This pattern seems to indicate that our work comes from out rest, not the other way around.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, this is not how we think. We work hard all day so we can leave work to go home and rest. We work long hours to earn extra money so we can retire early and rest. I think this perspective of work is very dangerous. It is backwards from what God has laid out for us. He commands us to rest and Jesus models this and teaches us that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) God invites us to rest with Him, to trust that He is enough, to trust that our value and identity is in God alone and not our work.

I have found when I make rest the priority, my work is better. I’m more effective in ministering to others. I am more present with other people. I have a better attitude about those things I don’t really like doing. In these times my work has come from my rest. I have answered God’s invitation to rest and I can better do the work He has called me to do. But when I make the work the priority, things get messy. I struggle to concentrate. I miss things. I have a bad attitude. My work is sloppy. I’ve rejected God’s invitation and I make the work about me or something else other than God. And eventually I crash because I’ve been living outside of the rhythm in which I was created to live.

Think of it like the pendulum on a clock. It swings back and forth in a steady rhythm. When the pendulum swings properly the clock functions properly and keeps the right time. When that pendulum gets off balance, the clock doesn’t keep the proper time. It runs fast or slow. The rhythm of rest and work in our lives is just like that pendulum. When the rhythm is off we aren’t living the way God created us to live.

We have to intentionally manage our time to include daily rest (good sleep and time spent with God), weekly rest (Sabbath, a full day of rest), monthly rest (a day or two set aside for extra rest and renewal), and yearly rest (a vacation or retreat). This will not just happen. Perhaps you have heard the saying, “If you don’t manage your time, it will manage you.” God did not intend us to live like that. What do your rhythms of rest look like? Does your work flow out of your rest or is your work dictating your rest? Brothers and sister, we must be obedient in this. God is offering us an invitation to rest in Him and trust in Him. How will you answer that invitation?

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