Through certain seasons in the Church Year, church workers often find themselves burning the (Advent) candle at both ends. Coming in early, working through meals, staying late — they’re all too common. And what happens once we find ourselves on the other side? Often there’s a crash, maybe some burnout, and a general lingering weariness.
Taking time to rest as God designed and calls us to do is an important rhythm, especially during busy seasons. The same is true once we’re through the busy seasons. Jesus reminds us to rest in Mark 2:27: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Our God is a God of restoration, from restoring our relationship with Him, through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, to the seemingly small things.
So, practically speaking, how do we embrace rest when the work of the church seems continuous and runs at an especially feverish pace?
1. Remember who is in control: It’s not us. Yes, we have responsibilities and important work to carry out, but God will continue to work regardless of the status of our to-do list. He’s been doing it since before time began. Following His invitation to rest isn’t going to stop that.
Plus, God is the one who sets the example for us all. He built rest into the fabric of creation on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2–3). He invites us to come to Him for rest in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
2. Start small: Does a whole day of rest sound intimidating or overwhelming? Start building that resting muscle with an hour or two. Go home for lunch or take thirty minutes to walk around the neighborhood or read something for fun. Find rest and refreshment in something unrelated to work and see how things keep ticking when you’re away.
3. Schedule it: Putting rest on the calendar is a visual reminder of how important rest is. Then you can visualize the unaccounted time. It will let you know that time cannot be filled with other to-dos and events (which tend to creep into blank space). When I know work is not an option, I find myself planning or preparing to be unavailable for those tasks.
4. Track your time to see how you spend it: This is particularly helpful if you’re concerned about taking time to rest and, consequently, concerned about not having time to get things done. When I take an honest accounting of my time, I find there are a lot of distractions and less time getting important things done than I imagined. Seeing a clear picture of the time I have to complete tasks helps me take work hours (or minutes) more seriously, thereby taking rest more seriously. It’s also interesting to note that studies show those who intentionally take time to rest are more productive. While God’s Word is our primary guide, it’s always fun to see when the world catches up with supporting data.
5. Discover a new avenue for rest: Is there a hobby or activity you’ve been interested in but never taken or found the time to pursue? Consider exploring it, not to increase your knowledge or productivity, but to enjoy it as a gift God has given you.
6. Find accountability and encouragement. Recruit a friend, family member, or colleague to check in and ask if and how you’re resting at a regular interval. The intention here is not to become pharisaical but to provide a gentle reminder.
7. Plan for rest following busy seasons: Looking toward the light at what can seem like an endless tunnel, plan for rest in a way that works for you and your family once you’re through a busy season. Whether staying home or taking time away, unplug, embrace a less-frenzied pace, and delight in the beauty of the unencumbered time God has placed before you.
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