“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
I don’t rest well. I mean I don’t wake up in the middle of the night or anything. But my mind is always working, and I feel guilty if my body isn’t keeping up with it. There is constant pressure to serve in more ways, to meet more needs, to help more people, and to do all of it well. Honestly, as an awkwardly recovering perfectionist, I have contributed to this pressure on myself: “What if the dishes don’t get done? There are two meetings this afternoon, I still have to finish this project, and dang it, I need to get that thing turned in!”
God cares about my productivity, okay? He’s the author of, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23). But more than that, He cares about my heart. Jesus waits patiently (oh, so patiently) for me to quit scurrying around my life of such important service to Him and to finally remember what is more important: not working for Him, but being with Him. As much as He’s the God of Colossians 3:23, He’s the God of Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11, Exodus 33:14, Proverbs 19:23, Psalm 116:7, Mark 6:31, and Matthew 11:28-30.
As I have moved among the people of our church and gotten a feel for the rhythm of our collective heartbeat, I have noticed a frantic pace of life, an increasing sense of exhaustion. Jesus people are doing Jesus things without being poured back into by Jesus. Sure, we go to church and maybe small group, but is that being poured into by Jesus? For me, rest doesn’t usually happen in a large group setting—it’s more of a quiet ‘come away and light a candle and spend time with Me not thinking about your to-do list’ kind of environment. If we aren’t cultivating rest in our personal lives, then when we come together on Sundays, we’ll just be a bunch of hurried, harried, and heart-worn people.
Repeat after me: it is holy to rest. It is holy to rest. No shame, no guilt, no excuses. (Now I’m assuming all of your basic responsibilities are pretty much taken care of. If your kids haven’t bathed in two weeks and your boss wouldn’t recognize you because it’s been so long since she’s seen you show up, you might want to start gravitating more toward Martha than Mary.) Jesus never asked or expected us to go at a breakneck pace forever and ever amen. There are actually lots of accounts in the gospels where He would sneak away and spend alone time with God. While it’s not really practical (or legal, in some cases) to secretly cut out by yourself at daybreak and go spend hours on a mountain somewhere, you can still create a habit of rest in the middle of the chaos. Here are some tips:
- Schedule breathing time in your calendar each week: actually plug it in as a meeting. Feel like you don’t have time to breathe? Ward off media for a few days and see how many hours magically appear. (Works every time for me.)
- Plan a date with God at least once a month. Do whatever it takes to clear out a morning, an afternoon, or an evening here and there to get by yourself and sit at Jesus’ feet. Sing, pray, read Scripture, or just listen.
- Encourage media-free chunks of time during the week. Constant noise from the TV, radio, and computer don’t really cultivate an atmosphere of respite. I’m not saying go Amish; just figure out what boundaries work for your home and establish those.
- In that strain, consider what unnecessary stressors are in your life. Maybe it’s a toxic relationship, a bad diet, or even just a messy room. Work your way through eliminating as many of those sources of chaos as you can.
- If reading the Bible isn’t part of your routine, pick a devotional to start your day out with. It’s amazing how setting your mind on Jesus first thing in the morning can change the tone of your whole life.
- Take a good look at your proverbial plate—is it full? Overflowing? Think through what, if anything (and there’s usually something), you could give away or get rid of. Ask the Lord to realign your priorities with what He actually wants you to do. You might be expending an enormous amount of energy doing something He never even asked of you. It’s healthy to weed out your schedule occasionally to make room for being where Jesus has you.
- Memorize verses about rest. I used a few in this post, but believe me, there are more—collect every pertinent Scripture you can on the topic and hide them in your heart.
- Lastly, just breathe. Breathe deeply of the overwhelming grace Jesus bought for you, of the wild and abundant life He longs to share with you. Then relax: God is still on His throne, whether the dishes get done or not.