July is often a time many ministry leaders rest. For years it has been a time when I have taken some extra time to slow down, read more, vacation with my girls, and not go to the office as much. Whether you rest in July or not, you do need to rest. Rest is not an option; it is a command. When the Lord instituted the Sabbath in the Old Testament, He was declaring that His people must rest. Their resting was commanded so they would remember His rescue of them, that they were slaves in Egypt but the Lord brought them out of there “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:15). In the same way, as we rest, we are able to reflect on His goodness to us as He has rescued us from the captivity of our sin and foolishness.
Yet we struggle to rest. Even on vacation, we can be restless. Why?
1. We foolishly think we can get more done.
We can struggle to rest because we fear we will miss opportunities if we stop working, that things will pass us by, and that our productivity will suffer. Research, however, continues to prove that rest makes us more effective, not less so.
2. We are prone to achieve, not receive.
Rest is hard for us because when we rest, we are in a posture of receiving, not achieving. The rhythm of rest is important in the Christian life because our faith is a receiving faith, not an achieving faith. Everything we have is from Him, including our forgiveness.
3. We are afraid of silence.
Silence and stillness is becoming more and more foreign in our world of constant connectivity. It can feel awkward. But silence and stillness is often where we are reminded that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
4. We are restless.
Augustine beautifully wrote that our hearts find no rest until they rest in the Lord because He made us for Himself. If we don’t continually rest in Him, we can resist rest even when we schedule it on the calendar.
5. We fail to trust God.
Many have been credited with saying, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap,” and it is true. Resting is spiritual because it is trusting that He will work on our behalf. D.A. Carson wrote, “Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep ‒ not pray all night, but sleep.”
Ultimately it is the Lord who gives you rest, not your calendar. But it is good to take time off, relax, reflect on His mercy and grace, and trust Him to work on your behalf while you rest.