When was the last time you had a good rest?
”When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago” (Nietzsche).
By Colleen Derr
That may be a crazy question to pose at this point of the calendar because the assumption is that you have had an opportunity to enjoy a vacation some time in the past few months that carries with it the additional assumption that vacation = rest. But when was the last time you had a vacation that didn’t create a great deal of work in either the leaving or the returning? Or when was the last time you had a vacation that was spent truly focused on rest?
My favorite vacation is going to the beach with my family. I love the beach and I love hanging out with my family. Our week at the beach consists of eating, sleeping, and sitting in my sand chair close enough to feel the waves, and reading a good novel (or three). Add a little conversation and story telling over coffee and you get a glimpse of our beach family vacation. We don’t accomplish much – we don’t do much – we don’t have much of an agenda. But it isn’t really restful. We still have our laptops and cell phones, so we check email and Facebook. We have a television so we watch the news. Someone needs to buy the food, cook the food, and clean up. We have laundry to do and let’s face it even people I love the most get on my nerves when cooped up together for a week in a close space. Even the best vacations are not necessarily a source of rest.
A 2013 New York Times article suggested that 20% of people are “in a state of near permanent exhaustion” – that sounds terrible! Why are we all so exhausted and what can we do about it?
God knew we needed rest. He created a day for rest, ordained it as a day of rest, and then commanded His people to keep it as a day of rest.
“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the Lord” (Ex. 31:15, NLT).
That sounds like a great idea, but what if I serve in ministry? You may say: “I’m a pastor or children’s director and Sunday is the day I “work” – carrying out the ministry to our children, youth, and families”. Or perhaps your vocation is not ministry but Sunday is the day you serve in ministry, five days of vocational work and Sunday is the day of ministry fulfillment and commitment. “How am I supposed to observe a day of rest when I’m working out my call to minister, pastor, serve?”
Ministry is demanding because the needs are great, and it is difficult to take a break from the work of the ministry because there already isn’t enough time to fulfill the task of the ministry and meet those needs. But, your brain, body, and spirit need rest. Rest from the routine, rest from the stress, and rest from the physical and emotional fatigue that accompany ministry. If you are a vocational minister, you need to set aside a day from the other six that is because Sunday is not a day of rest from your vocation. Recognize it as a holy day consecrated to the Lord and keep it holy by keeping it as a day of rest. If Sunday ministry is in addition to your vocation, explore how it can still be a day of rest and remain the Sabbath for you as you are actively serving the Kingdom.
Observing the Sabbath does more than just revive us physically and emotionally, however, it also offers opportunity to engage in deeper spiritual moments. Walter Brueggemann suggested that Sabbath is a “pause” that refreshes physically and emotionally and a “pause that transforms” spiritually (p. 45)! Life is busy and there are typically less moments in the day than demands. If we were honest we would admit that it is often hard to cram into our schedules time alone with God where we focus on who He is and who He wants us to be. A break from the routine of our days with a day of physical and emotional rest must also include spiritual rest and an expanded opportunity to be quiet, be still, and enjoy His presence.
Observing the Sabbath is an act of obedience and surrender. Our culture compels us to always be in pursuit – even in vocational ministry. We are compelled to be in pursuit of achievement and attainment of positions and products: higher numbers, greater returns, better events, tighter programming. “The celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative” (Brueggemann, 2014, p. xiii). A resistance to the pursuit of achievement and attainment of positions, things, and accomplishments and an alternative point of view away from pursuing and achieving on our own to one that is “situated on the receiving end of the gifts of God”.
So how do we do this – how do we practice Sabbath when we are vocational ministers or ministry is our other vocation in addition to what we do for a living the other five days of a week?
- It requires an awareness of your need for rest.
o How tired are you?
o Do you find yourself “weary in doing good”?
- It requires intentionality in your pursuit of rest.
o What day will you set aside for rest?
- It requires obedience to God’s call for rest and surrender.
o Are you willing to let go and stop the pursuit for one day?
- It requires diligence to keep it.
o What are you willing to say no to for that day?
Do you trust God enough to rest?
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)
 “Chronic Fatigue in Depth Report” retrieved September 14, 2014 from nytimes.com.
 Brueggemann, W. (2014). Sabbath as resistance: Saying NO to the culture of NOW. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.