We live in a busy world where too many of us don’t take the time to stop and reflect on what is happening in our lives, our families, and our world. Leaders are too often people of action, but rarely men and women of rest and reflection. The result is often stress, depression, and burnout.
As leaders, we too often leaders focus on external things like vision casting, strategic planning, busy work, countless meetings, all at the neglect of our own souls. Even doing good things like ministry and mission can be a distraction if we don’t allow time for rest. We also see this illustrated in the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and heard his word, but Martha was distracted with much serving. Jesus said that Mary had chosen the best thing because she sat at his feet and was not distracted.
An Invitation to Come and Rest
After the disciples returned from a busy missionary journey, Jesus told them to “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). They had been busy and Jesus knew that they needed rest for their weary souls. Spiritual burnout occurs when we don’t give ourselves time to rest from our daily routine.
Resting in the Lord is the only way that we can continue to have an effective Christian life because our being must come before our doing. Times of rest and retreat enable us to listen to the still, small voice of God.
Several years ago, I went through a difficult season wherein I felt spiritually exhausted and close to burning out in ministry. Like Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring, I felt “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” My faith had not adequately prepared me for this experience. During this season of life, God helped me slow down and recover my faith by embracing spiritual rest and retreat. Jesus invites each one of us to come and find our rest in him. Think on the following words from Matthew’s Gospel:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew11:28-30, The Message)
Never before has there been such a need to rediscover the power of rest. It is essential that we allow time during each day for spiritual rest and solitude from all of the busy distractions of our complex world. If we are not careful, the multitude of distractions of this world will keep us from finding rest for our souls.
Our souls need to have scriptural rest in the same way that our physical bodies need rest; otherwise, we will experience spiritual burnout. God promises rest to his people. The biblical word for rest literally means a resting place, a quiet place, peace, trust, and reliance.
Rest is the reason why God commanded us to keep the Sabbath. Jesus said that the Sabbath was created so that man may have rest. As we shall see, rest and mission are not antithetical to one another, but instead are essentially symbiotic. Today, I want to invite you to accept Jesus’ invitation to stop and rest.
Join me next week as Keri Ladouceur interview Jud Wilhite to talk about the balance of work and rest and avoiding burnout. REGISTER HERE.
Dr. Winfield Bevins is Director of Church Planting at Asbury Seminary, Co-founder Missional Formation Coaching, and co-author of Healthy Rhythms for Leaders which is coming out in March with Exponential. You can connect with him on Twitter @winfieldbevins.