Do you ever get tired? Do you ever feel stressed, stretched by life or emotionally drained? Do you ever feel like you need a little rest?
I feel confident that most people would answer yes to these questions. I am often prone toward feeling this way as well.
According to MasterCard's clever commercial featuring children trying to convince their parents to take "one more day" of vacation, over 400 million vacation days go unused every year. On a fairly regular basis, I see an article on a news site or linked from social media that tells us we live in an overworked nation. For example, here is an article that tells us that "The U.S. is the Most Overworked Developed Nation in the World."
People speak of their busy lives with pride. We wear busyness like a badge of honor. I do not believe that is how God wants us to live. I do not believe that God desires his people to overwork themselves and live under the constant stress and worry of a full schedule and never ending to-do lists. Do not misread what I am saying. God wants us to work hard. God does want us to set goals and pursue great things for His ever expanding glory. But God also wants us to rest. If we do not rest, we may end up like a $100,000 car that is out of fuel on the side of the freeway. It doesn't matter how beautiful or grand or breathtaking our work may be, if we do not have the fuel to sustain it, then it is like a beautiful hunk of metal on the side of the road with nowhere to go.
We need rest, but we are not alone in our need for rest. We have good company.
Mark's gospel records a series of events in the life of Jesus that display the value and necessity of rest. Leading up to Mark 6, Jesus and his disciples have been engaged in some intense ministry. Jesus has begun his ministry, caste out demons, healed people, proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom, confronted religious leaders and sent out the twelve apostles to do the same. Jesus tells his apostles, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile (Mark 6:31 ESV)." Jesus, recognizing their need to rest and invites his disciples away to a desolate place. Unfortunately, this does not happen. They are followed by a great crowd, and having compassion on the crowds, "because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mk 6:34)," Jesus teaches them and then feeds them.
After Jesus performs the miracle of feeding the five thousand, he sends his disciples across the sea and dismisses the crowd. Jesus had set out to rest, but his rest was interrupted. While his rest may have been high-jacked, it was still a priority. Therefore, "after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray (Mk 6:46)." Jesus still wanted to take some time to rest and commune with the Father, so Jesus made it happen.
Jesus prioritized rest. He was flexible when it didn't work the way he initially hoped. He still made it happen though, because rest was important to Jesus.
6 ways to intentionally pursue rest
1. Admit you need rest
The first step to pursue intentional rest is to simply admit your need. If you think that you are special and do not need it, you will never prioritize rest. Remember, even our savior needed to rest at times. Do not be so prideful to assume that you are immune to this natural human need. Your inability to admit your need for rest will catch up with you eventually. You will be like a Ferrari on the side of the road. Looking good, with no fuel to get you where you wanted to go. It will require some humility to admit your need, but we have a God who loves to give grace to the humble (James 4:6).
2. Invest in rest (don't just avoid life)
If you are going to take time to rest, be sure to invest in your rest. Your time is precious. The value of your time is one of the reasons so few people want to allocate this precious commodity toward rest. If you are going to take the time to give yourself some R&R, then do something that is actually refreshing. It is extremely common for people to do activities that simply help them avoid life, rather than those that bring new energy to their lives. For example, playing video games, watching a movie, scanning our Facebook feeds or any number of other activities may be considered rest for some people. Unfortunately, these activities don't often give us new energy or true rest, they merely help us avoid the stress and worry of life for a couple hours. But when we finish these activities, the same stress is ready to confront us again. Think about what activities give you energy and refreshment, and allocate your resting time toward those activities.
3. Create regular rhythms
Creating natural rhythms in life that help you rest is important. When something becomes a natural part of your rhythm, it is more likely to actually happen. These activities might include a daily time of prayer and reading your Bible, a daily walk with your family, a weekly Sabbath day to rest from the weeks work, or a monthly planning/retreat day to pull back from your normal tasks to plan and pray. I have eveb read about some people who take a daily power nap. Each person requires something different. For example, you may have read the "daily walk with your family" and thought to yourself, "that isn't rest!" It may not be physical rest, but for my family and me, it creates mental rest. When my wife and I put our kids in the stroller and go on a walk together, we have an opportunity to clear our minds, talk about important things and grow closer as a family. It is something I would consider rest. What about you? What sort of natural rhythms would create opportunities for regular rest in your life?
4. Plan it into your schedule
This is related to #3, but comes at it from a different angle. The previous way is more about creating regular habits, patterns and rhythms that create rest. Here, I am taking it one step further and telling you to actually plan rest into your schedule. Make an appointment slot on your calendar for restful and refreshing activities. Plan a vacation, and guard the dates you choose. Plan a power nap, and ensure that it happens. There is too much in life that wants to encroach on our schedules. Therefore, if you do not plan rest into your schedule, it will not happen.
5. Be flexible when it doesn't work out
In the life of Jesus, we see him flex when his rest didn't work out. He tried to get away for some rest with his disciples, but the crowds followed them. Jesus responded to the situation and flexed on his rest in order to prioritize the opportunities God had placed before him. Don't get so rigid with the rest you have planned that you miss an opportunity God might provide. This doesn't mean that we sacrifice our rest. Jesus may have flexed on the rest he wanted, but once the miracle of feeding the five thousand was over, he still hiked up on the mountain to pray.
6. Get enough sleep
Sleep is important. The more life I live, the more I am convinced of the value of sleep. If I don't get enough sleep, my mental faculty is diminished, I am a more crabby person and I feel my intimacy with the Lord decrease. Part of resting well is getting enough sleep. It is imperative.
...and an opportunity to respond
Let me provide a quick disclaimer. I am not always intentional to rest well. In fact, I often do quite poor at resting well. I am writing this to myself as much as anyone. If you have any thoughts on how to rest well, please share them in the comments below. It will be helpful for both me and your fellow readers.