Practicing A Four-Letter Word
“The answer is on the Danube.” A friend encouraged me with these words as I explained my husband’s and my plans for a summer vacation along the Danube River. I laughed at her statement. She repeated with more emphasis, “The answer is on the Danube.” As it turned out, she was right. Let me explain.
My husband and I just finished an extremely intense, challenging, and difficult season of our lives. That season had included many accomplishments and successes, but it had also included sickness, medical expenses, heartache, and loss. And it had been three years since he and I had “run away” together for a bit of respite.
What was the answer that I discovered on the Danube? Rest.
R-E-S-T. It’s a four-letter word, but I treat it like it’s a bad four-letter word that should not be uttered nor practiced, and I think am not alone.
- Dr. Sandra Glahn, seminary professor and former editor of DTS Magazine, writes, “We had planned to cover this topic [of rest] in the magazine months ago, but as I asked questions of many Christian leaders, I heard repeatedly, “I have nothing to offer on this subject. Send me that issue when you print it. I need it.” (Read more here.)
- Tiffany Stein, Ministry Coordinator at Irving Bible Church, authentically admits that an individual said of her, “I’ve never met someone as busy as you. Every weekend it seems like you’re running from activity to project to event.” Translation: “When do you slow down and rest? Why do you choose to live your life that way, always ‘working?’” (Read more here.)
- Dr. Bill Lawrence, Senior Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, instructs, “The problem with many of us is that we’re not even thinking of rest. We’re thinking of success. The thing that makes so many of us restless is the stress of success. Now that’s not rest. That’s really hard—and often futile—work.” (Read more here.)
Some time ago I claimed I was going to surrender my invisible superhero cape, and with it, my superhero complex, so that I could learn better how to rest. But as it turned out, I just hid my cape. I did not throw it away. I just stashed it away for future use and over the last year, had started wearing it again regularly. And my friend had graciously hinted at that fact with her statement, “The answer is on the Danube.”
If rest is so difficult to practice, especially for leaders, why do we even bother? Why do we not just give up on the idea of rest?
- God made us to need rest; in fact, he mandated it (Deut. 5:13–14; Matt. 11:29).
- God himself practiced rest, even during his big performance and busy season of creation (Gen. 2:2–3).
- Our Savior, God incarnate, had only three short years to accomplish his ministry, yet even he took time away to rest and pray (Matt. 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:31; 6:46).
- As Jesus’ ministry increased to a frenetic pace and more and more people wanted a piece of him, he withdrew from the crowds more frequently (Luke 5:15–17).
Our physical bodies need rest. Our emotions need rest. Our souls need rest.
I could give a top ten list on how to accomplish this trifecta of rest, but as I have difficulty following my own list, I won’t do that this time. Instead, I direct us to the Psalms.
- “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He takes me to lush pastures, he leads me to refreshing water. He restores my strength…” (Ps. 23:1–3).
- “But you, LORD are a shield that protects me; you are my glory and the one who restores me. To the LORD I cried out, and he answered me from his holy hill. I rested and slept…” (Ps. 3:3–5).
- “O LORD, restore our well-being, just as the streams in the arid south are replenished.” (Ps. 126:4)
The Psalmist makes it clear that the LORD is the “one who restores” and gives rest. I do not have to travel to the Danube River to find it (although that trip was amazing).
What are your plans for summer? With most schools, programs, and events on a two to three-month break, have you included time to rest? Or have you filled your summer schedule to overflow with anything and everything but rest? God mandated it, practiced it, demonstrated it, and will give it…if we allow it.
Take-away: Breathe deep, ask God for his help, and then take an eraser or the delete button to that schedule of yours. You will discover that rest is not a bad four-letter word after all.
(By the way, that’s my cat, Mr. Pepper, in the photo above. He’s an expert on rest.)