I’ve had an interesting relationship with rest throughout my time in ministry. I’ve heard, as I’m sure you have, people talk about both the importance of rest and the need for ministry to take place in nothing short of 50+ hour work weeks. I interpreted this message as, “run until you can’t run anymore, then crash into rest.” As a result, true rest has been elusive to me. Right off the bat, I want you to know I haven’t figured out the healthiest way to find rest, but I’m learning. And the work to figure it out is worth doing. As we are all in this calling together, here are some things that I’m learning along the way:
Rest isn’t meant to be crashed into.
Rest is meant to be part of the normal rhythms of life. There’s scriptural evidence of this as our Creator rests on the seventh day and as the Israelite people are commanded to take Sabbath each week. Now, I understand that sounds a lot easier than it is as you take a glance at your packed ministry schedule that often times invades your evenings and “days off.” That’s the same trap of thinking that I fell into. Run, crash, rinse and repeat, because I told myself that I just couldn’t find the time to rest.
I think this is why God, who is perfect, had to set the example for us and commanded the Israelites to follow. While we may, at times, drift toward laziness, we don’t naturally drift towards rest. It may sound oxymoronic, but you need to work to find rest. It takes work to say “no” and to take extra time to organize your calendar to the point where rest can be found. It takes work to be comfortable in your calling and Christ-given identity enough to realize that you don’t have to be “always on” as a pastor. It is work worth doing.
Rest doesn’t always mean doing nothing.
Sometimes rest for me looks like playing video games, sometimes it looks like sitting in a duck blind, and at other times, it looks like hitting the pavement for a good long run. It can also mean being with family in some activity that they love or inviting them to take part in something that I love.
These are all gifts from God in my life, and I believe He has these kinds of gifts for you as well. I’ve found, personally, that active rest is more healthy for me than inactive rest because it gets my mind working in a different way or gets me with people in a different way. I’ve learned that one of the greatest purposes of rest is to get the stress and energy of work out of my body. Sitting and doing nothing doesn’t accomplish that. Additionally, the Bible also speaks to the idea of “idle hands (Prv. 16)”
True rest doesn’t happen on its own.
True rest is found in a connection with Jesus. Matthew 11:28 is a helpful passage that explains rest comes from Christ. Yes, Jesus takes our burden of sin and we receive rest and relief from that burden in this context, but I don’t believe the meaning of the passage stops there.
You can have hobbies, down time, and burn stress and energy, but unless there is a connection with Jesus, true rest will still be elusive for us. As we walk through life, new burdens cling to us through ministry, work, family, and a myriad of other things. The pattern that we fall into as pastors is trusting Jesus to take our burden of sin, while relying on ourselves to handle the rest of our burdens. Jesus is saying, “continue to come to me all of you who are weary and burdened (which we will be normally because of life) and I will give you rest.”
I do hope that you can find some moments and strategies to help you find rest, but mostly, I hope that you continue to bring your weariness and burdens to Jesus, learning to find rest.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Students. Ben is passionate about investing in student ministry leaders like you. You can find more encouragement from Ben on his YouTube Channel, Student Ministry That Matters.