Perhaps you’ve noticed it on your favorite website: a little alert telling you that certain parts of the domain will be inaccessible for a while for maintenance. Without regular maintenance, things break down. That’s why we take our cars in for an oil change. That’s why we visit the dentist regularly. And that’s why people who offer tune tune-ups, repairs, and renovations stay in business!
Without regular maintenance you might wear out too. Teaching is hard work. You need to balance your effort and energy with adequate time for rest. God says, “Catch your breath! Take a break. Come apart and be with me a while.”
In his book Rest, Siang-Yang Tan describes four areas of our lives in which we need to experience rest: physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual. Busy people need to take care of their bodies, getting enough food, sleep, exercise, and leisure. We need to rest our minds so we can experience emotional peace, quiet, contentment, and serenity. We need to find relational harmony with others, including fellowship and deep friendships. Most of all, we need to find rest from guilt, doubt, and emptiness by living in faith from day to day.
It’s a matter of obedience. God gave us a command — not a suggestion — to observe Sabbath rest. Sabbath is not a synonym for the pursuit of leisure or amusement, but rather a time of genuine refreshment for body, mind, and spirit. It is time when God’s children rest from their work and drop their stresses at God’s feet.
It’s a matter of necessity. Scripture teaches that God created a rhythm in our lives — periods of work followed by times of rest. The same rhythm exists in creation: night leads to day, seasons unfold one after the other, tides flow in and out, plants become dormant only to burst into new life after a period of rest. God instituted the Sabbath, the year of Jubilee, and celebrations and festivals because he knew we needed times of rest in order to survive and grow. Rest is a necessity for those who give of themselves to others.
It’s a matter of joy. Doing nothing gets a bad rap these days. For most people, action and accomplishment are far superior to inactivity or waiting. Our culture’s anthem seems to be “Hurry, hurry, hurry — rush, rush, rush — more, more, more.” And the result — which we see in increasing numbers of stress-related illnesses and psychological problems — is loss of joy. God has an antidote: Rest and recapture your joy. “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 116:11).
But how can I rest when there is so much work to do, you may wonder. Try this:
- Follow Jesus’ example. He did not ask permission when he withdrew to a quiet place to pray. Although there were still people begging to be taught and healed and disciples to be led, Jesus spent time praying or having dinner with friends or fishing for the fun of it.
- Set aside moments each day to take minibreaks. A walk around the block can turn into a retreat if you ask God to walk with you. Be aware of God’s presence beside you.
- Simplify. Our affluent and media-saturated world is filled with distractions that often waste our time and sap our energies. If it’s not necessary, if it’s not enriching your life, maybe it’s time to get rid of it. Ask God to show you what’s standing between you and rest in him.
Perhaps you have been teaching Sunday school for years and years and years without a break. Perhaps you are neglecting your own family to take care of the church’s children. Perhaps your body, your emotions, your relationships, and your soul are suffering from want of rest. To you God says, “Take a break. I’m telling you, just do it. You need to rest. It will be good for you. Trust me.”