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Work, Worry, and Great Rest

Work, Worry, and Great Rest
 

Work, Worry, and Hurtful Comments.

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“So, you’re a youth pastor, huh? What do you do all day?”

“You must be pretty good at XBOX by now, right?”

“What exactly does the church pay you to do?”

If you’ve spent any time in full-time youth ministry, I’m sure you’ve heard one of these (or at least some variation). I remember the first time a church member dropped one of these on me. My first reaction was to get defensive. I felt the need to defend myself, my job, my ministry. In reality, this person’s innocent albeit somewhat ignorant comment made me feel incredibly insecure. Was I doing enough? Should I be doing more?

As the years went on, I got better at deflecting these kinds of comments. I’d smile and nod. I’d remind the person of our next ministry event that I was busy preparing and offer them opportunity for them to volunteer (that usually got then to change the subject fairly quickly). But if I’m honest, that little twinge of doubt always stuck with me. Maybe they had a point?

That little twinge of doubt can often lead to a temptation. The temptation to prove our worth through our work, to take on one more responsibility to justify our  position, to say, “yes” to one more night out so that our work can be seen.

That temptation makes it very hard to every truly rest. We want to rest. We know we need to rest, but there’s this little fear inside that if we do rest, someone might think we’re the lazy youth pastor stereotype after all. Someone might come barging into my house, see me resting on the couch and yell, “Ah hah, gotcha!”

It’s ridiculous, I know, but if I’m honest I’ve had that thought from time to time.

How about you? Do work, worry, and hurtful comments tempt you to prove your worth through your work?

Rest as Stewardship

I’ve been thinking a lot about rest lately. Summer is a downtime in academics, and I find myself getting asked a similar question. “What do you do all summer?” It feels like déjà vu. Am I using this season well? Do I have a good answer that might meet others expectations? The old temptation is there.

As I’ve been thinking, reading, and reflecting on this theme of “rest, work, and worry”, there have been a couple themes that seem to keep coming up.

One of the key ideas that I’ve encountered is the idea of rest as stewardship.

God has entrusted us with a body that has limits. He’s also called us to a mission that we can only do when we fully depend on Him. If I’m going to be faithful to God and what He’s asking me to do, I need to take care of the tools that He’s given me to do it – my heart, mind, soul, and strength.

If I refuse to take time to rest, if I ignore the principle of Sabbath, I’m ultimately denying my humanity and its limitations, but more importantly, I’m being a poor steward of what God has entrusted to me.

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As Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

The big idea in this verse is one of “time stewardship.” But I’ve always heard the phrase “making the most of every opportunity” as an argument to do more doing, to be more productive, to burn the midnight oil and make one more sacrifice. It’s as if we assume that stewardship of time means to maximize our immediate productivity.

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It strikes me, however, that this understanding might be rather unwise and shortsighted. We burnout when we don’t rest. Our effectiveness is diminished when we don’t rest. We lose our humanity when we don’t rest. Perhaps, “making the most of every opportunity” at times means that we steward our time by resting, renewing, and recognizing our limits.

After all, it’s not just our physical body that needs rest. Our soul longs for an internal rest as well. A rest that is offered by Jesus (Mt. 11:28-29) and as Tim Keller suggests, “One of the great blessings of gospel is that He gives you rest that no one else will” (Source).

If we are going to be faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted to us, we must find times to regularly and meaningfully rest.

Great Rest

sabbath-2So how do we rest well? Let me share some thoughts from some people far wiser on the subject than me…

In an interview with Donald Miller for the Converge Series, writer Lauren Winner suggested that healthy Sabbath rest within a Jewish framework consisted of two basic tenants: “Don’t do work and do things that are enjoyable, that is things that bring joy from God’s good creation.” I like the simplicity of that. Refrain from your regular work and instead engage in joyful things that recognize and experience the goodness of God’s creation.

Said another way, Leland Ryken in his book Redeeming the Time suggests the following: “When we rest we should make free choices to do something that we enjoy.” Moreover, “when we rest, our time should be infused and surrounded with gratitude and praise towards God.”

Finally, Tim Keller offers some great practical advice in his article entitled “Wisdom and Rest”. He suggests 5 principles to begin incorporating into your life:

  1. Take some time for sheer inactivity.
  2. Take some time for avocational activity. He defines “avocational” as something that is sheer pleasure to you and divides it into three kinds of rest – contemplative, recreational, and aesthetic.
  3. Consider whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. They recharge and find rest very differently.
  4. Don’t necessarily count family time as Sabbath time.
  5. Honor both micro- and macro-rhythms in your season of rest.

So wrapping up, let me leave you with a few questions to consider:

  • How has your rest been lately?
  • How easy is it to “turn off”, separate from ministry, and enter meaningful rest?
  • Are the expectations or insinuations of others tempting you to cheat rest?

 

Aaron Brown
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Aaron Brown is an Assistant Professor of Student Ministry at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA. He attended Biola University and Talbot School of Theology. Before coming to LBC, he was the Sr. High Director at Living Word Community Church in Red Lion, PA. Aaron serves as the Project's editor and web guy.
  1. Isaac Ketner07-11-13

    Thanks Aaron! Great reminder! It seems that I have seasons in my life that are easier to be mindful of taking time to rest, and others that are so busy that it does not even cross my mind. Thanks for the refresher!