By the end of last semester, I felt like I really needed some time to rest. I have found that since joining the area team, it is more and more difficult to rest. I think there are two main reasons for it.
- the complexity of serving cross-culturally. As we strive to meet different needs and address a variety of situations, my mind constantly keeps working on how to resolve them.
- most of the work is done by technology. You can use technology anywhere and anytime across different time zones. You can easily find yourself working all the time. And there are always good reasons to work some more
So this summer we made plans to take some good vacations; to do whatever helps us rest. For us, that is the beach, so we spent most of our vacation time along a quiet coastline. I had prepared some books and also bookmarked some of the articles I wanted to read. But at the end of vacation, I had read only one book and read none of the articles. And I still felt tired.
The planned vacation was over and I was not ready. You have heard the expression “you need a vacation to recover from a vacation.” That’s how I felt.
Rest is not just time away
It became clear that just scheduling time to rest does not guarantee that you will rest. Sleep experts say it doesn’t matter how much sleep you get. What matters is the depth of that sleep. You can sleep more than 8 hours and still wake up tired. To be refreshed in the morning, you need to experience depth of sleep.
With rest it is the same. You need to experience depth of rest.
The week following our vacation, I had planned a trip to Israel. I flew back on the Sabbath. On the way to the airport, I asked the taxi driver if it was normal now to work on Sabbath. “My family needs to eat,” he said and then added jokingly, “and by the way, I don’t need rest.”
As I was trying to connect with him in conversation, I teased him, “according to the Torah, even God rested.”
He replied, “God does not need to rest, he does not need to sleep…”
How does God rest?
This made me think about God’s rest. Indeed God does not need to rest, but what does Genesis mean when it says God rested. This verse does not say God ceased all activity on the seventh day; instead, He only “rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” On this day, God no longer performs the labor of the preceding six days in which He created all things by His word. However, He continues to uphold all things.
After each day of work during the week of creation, God says it was good. He was satisfied with His work and that led to rest. This captured my attention. As I learn to point to what God is doing around me and in me; this is what actually gives rest! Reflecting on these things leads to satisfaction of what God has done and is doing.
The key to deep rest
And part of reflection is being reminded of who He is, that He is in control, that he is sovereign and powerful to change and intervene in the most complex situations. So I sat down and instead of listing things that were not going well, I listed things I perceive God is doing. Things in my ministry and things in me and in my marriage. And that sense of what God is doing as I listed His deeds -this very act- actually led to rest. Thankfulness and praise is what brings depth of rest!
The verse I read today from Philippians 4 really summarizes this:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
What has helped you rest this summer? What kind of thoughts or activities energize and help you feel ready to begin another ministry year?