Last month I was scheduled to present a workshop at Fairhaven Church on “Using the Summer for Rest and Renewal.” Unfortunately, a narrow margin in my travel schedule and an airline delay conspired to keep me in Chicago overnight and caused me to cancel the workshop. I was disappointed, not only because I had prepared well, but because I really believe this topic is transformative for Christians who desire to nurture and deepen their relationship with God. I emailed the materials out to those who were registered, used a small portion in a staff meeting, but otherwise have been left to simply use it in my own life. Maybe that’s a better place to land after all.
This month, my wife and I have committed to experiencing July as 31 days of spiritual rest and renewal. I’ve been thinking a lot about Sabbath-living, having focused on it in my recent Selah studies and having read Mark Buchanan’s book, The Rest of God, while on vacation early this spring. Spiritual rest and renewal is thoroughly biblical both from an Old and a New Testament perspective. Our soul longs for rest. Our innermost being longs for rest from producing, reaching, creating and achieving. Without it, we become mechanical and distanced from the immanency and graciousness of God that makes life and ministry satisfying.
Consider these statements from the Psalms about our soul’s need for rest:
- Psalm 116:7 Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me.
- Psalm 131:2 Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
- Psalm 62:1 Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.
- Psalm 62:5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
As you read these verses, what stands out to you? What within them speaks to your own heart?
Three more wonderful passages highlight the rest that is available and modeled for the one who trusts in God:
- Psalm 23:1-2 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
- Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
- Luke 5:15-16 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
As Kay and I lean into this month, we’re looking at these kinds of rest:
Physically Refreshing Rest
- our bodies need the refreshment of a change of pace and a change of scenery
- the change of place should be a setting that gently expands our ability to be aware of resting and rejoicing in God’s grace
- …for us, that’s nature. We’re scheduling time for relaxing in the park, walks in the woods, being near water, away from the clamor and noise of regular life.
Emotionally Refreshing Rest
- emotional rest is found in whatever calmly calls forth our awareness of beauty and goodness
- being refreshed by what’s lovely (nature, art) or imaginative (good fiction, poetry, films)
- expressing personal creativity (hobbies, crafts)
- …for me that’s woodworking and gardening
- …for Kay, that’s reading and bike-riding
Intellectually Refreshing Rest
- resting our minds from what usually occupies them
- nourishing our minds on hopeful material that reminds us of how God wants life to be
Relationally Refreshing Rest
- time for refreshment in essential relationships; being together!
- Body of Christ (cf Acts 2:42-47) being with God’s people living real life with those on a similar journey – picnics, barbecues, etc.
- …for us that’s scheduling time for people outside our normal circle of relationships, stretching us to engage with and appreciate the wonderful diversity of God’s people
What do we rest from?
- Anxiety of limited trust. Rest is learning to live in the peace that comes as we entrust ourselves to a gracious God who does all things well.
- Guilt and frustration that comes because we know things aren’t right in us. Things will never be “right” in us this side of eternity. Rest is experiencing the freedom of God’s merciful forgiveness.
- Compulsive drive to either (or both) appease or impress a demanding God, or satisfy the self’s false need for approval and validation.
- Resistance of living as if my way is a better way. Rest comes as I finally decide that God’s ways are wiser than mine and entrust myself to His perfect will.
Here are several of the spiritual disciplines we hope to practice this month:
- Soul Care
- Trusting rest (prayers of entrusting to God before sleeping)
- Gracious community
- Celebration of creation
Our willingness to embrace rest and renewal equips and empowers us physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and socially – that is, wholly – to live the life God has prepared for us. What would an intentional period of spiritual rest and renewal this summer look like for you?
*some material adapted from Susan Currie’s Selah class notes on the Resting Rhythm