The Myth of Rest

Today’s guest post is written by co-worker and friend, Rachel Weaver. Rachel serves as the Senior Recruitment and Retention Specialist at HOPE International. She is also the co-author of a new children’s series, Called & Courageous Girls, which tells the stories of brave women of the Bible and inspires young girls and boys alike to use their God-given gifts to rise to their full potential. In this guest post, Rachel shares about the myth of rest in the Church. Enjoy!

There’s a lot of talk right now about rest, especially in the Christian community. Rest as a discipline. Rest as a necessary way to replenish our souls. Rest as a prerequisite to serving well. It’s possible to feel tired just reading all the articles about rest!

What does it look like to truly rest well?

For most of my life, I sang on worship teams, performed in nursing homes, and played special music in church. During college, I majored in music for a semester and practiced for hours, spending more time in the music building than any other place on campus. I served hard. In doing so, I failed to develop deep friendships and not surprisingly, quickly burned out. There was no joy. So I did an about-face: I gave up worship teams, changed my major, and halted any progress in developing the gift I had been given.

But in experiencing this burnout, I over-adjusted. As a result, I lost years of opportunity to serve.

From our church to our community to our world, the opportunities to serve are abundant. Overwhelming. There are entire books dedicated to the lack of service in our churches alone! Specifically, researchers indicate that upwards of 80% of church-goers fail to volunteer. When we think about the wide variety of gifts and skills that God has given us, why are there still so many open spots on worship teams, welcoming committees, outreach experiences, and in child care?

What would our churches look like if we learned how to serve well for the long-term?

What would our communities look like if we looked for the needs around us and actively responded to those needs not just for a season, but for a lifetime?

What would our world look like if we daily took on the heart posture of Jesus in expecting not to be served, but to serve?

Service is not supposed to be easy. In fact, if you’ve served in any capacity, you can identify with the reality of burnout. The result can be diminished relationships with those we love the most, physical and mental exhaustion, and even apathy towards the things that drew us to serve in the first place.

This is the exact opposite of what service is meant to be. At its core, service should be invigorating and life-giving as we use the unique gifts God has given us to magnify Christ and bless the world around us.

What can Scripture tell us about serving? For starters, the Bible references “serving God” roughly 50 times. It references “rest” about 24 times. Might we take note of the fact that service is mentioned twice as much as rest? We know that God rested on the seventh day. But he worked for six. I don’t have a math degree, but that’s 6:1. What is the lesson there?

Keep serving when you’re weary.

In Galatians 6:9, Paul writes, “Let us not become weary in doing good. For at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Don’t get me wrong: If we’re too busy serving to invest in our families or deep friendships, something needs to change. And let’s be honest: I’m the first person you’ll find taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon.

But true rest isn’t found in lavish vacations (though fun), expensive spa trips (though relaxing), or adrenaline-filled experiences (though exciting). As much as I hate to admit it, true rest won’t even come from those Sunday afternoon naps.

Rest is not a siloed event. It’s not a category that we check off our list of things to do. Rest is a manner of being. Rest for our souls comes from deep intimacy with the One who gave His life in service, not in serving less. Our rest can’t come at the expense of a world that needs us.

Isaiah 40:29 says, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” A few verses later we read, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

God is the renewer of our strength! Isaiah goes on to say that, “they will run and not grow weary,” and for those of us who hate to run, “they will walk and not be faint.” Though our own strength may fail us, we will continue to serve well in God’s strength.

When you feel weary, consider asking yourself these questions:

  1. Where am I seeking rest? Am I finding my true rest in my Savior?
  2. What vices are tempting me as a replacement for true rest?
  3. Where do I find energy and in what areas am I thriving? Can I focus more on service opportunities using these gifts?

Be encouraged, sons and daughters of the King! “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.

Rachel Spier Weaver is a co-author of Called and Courageous Girls, a series of books about brave women in the Bible for children. The newest book, A Fearless Leader: A Bible Story about Deborah, just released! Rachel has a master’s degree in counseling and earned her undergraduate degree from Messiah College. She spent nearly a decade working in higher education and has spent the last eight years serving at HOPE International.

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