Pastor and teacher Tommy Nelson experienced clinical depression related to a nonstop schedule. Reflecting on that time in his life, he said, “I didn’t know that you could get totally, completely burned out doing what you loved.” Despite the fulfillment his multiple ministries brought him, a lack of rest led him to become incapacitated. Over time, however, his situation improved as God renewed him through means such as counseling, encouragement, and relaxation.
Weather forecasters predicted a hurricane would tear through the town where my friend and her young daughter lived. Hours before the storm arrived, my friend posted a picture of her toddler asleep on a bed of pillows in the bathtub—the safest place in their house. Brown curls framed her serene face; dark lashes fringed her closed eyelids. Completely at peace despite the plummeting barometer and accelerating wind, she was able to sleep because she felt secure.
Dr. Richard Swenson in his book Margin writes, “We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. . . . Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn’t He lead people beside the still waters anymore? Who plundered those wide-open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back? There are no fallow lands for our emotions to lie down and rest in.”
Following World War I, there was no more accomplished golfer than Bobby Jones. In 1930, he achieved the Grand Slam by winning the US Open, British Open, US Amateur, and British Amateur championships—all in the same year! The golfing world was stunned, however, when shortly following those victories Jones decided to retire from golf. He didn’t decide to hang up the spikes because his skills had diminished in any way. Instead, the talented athlete made his decision because he had accomplished the greatest feat in golf at the time and had nothing left to prove. He simply chose to give his golf career a rest.
After months of intense stress at my job, as well as a busy season with family and ministry, I was exhausted—and more than just physically. Reflecting on the prior six months, I realized that, although I had tried to be consistent in my work ethic, I didn’t consistently take time to rest. Responsibility is an important part of life, but disorder sets in when responsibilities become the chain holding us captive to self-reliance.
When an international scholar visited a seminary in the US, he was surprised to see an American colleague gardening on Sunday. For him, that activity wasn’t appropriate for the day of rest he observed on Sunday, whereas his colleague found the experience of planting, sowing, and digging to be restful, providing enjoyment and a bit of mental relief. Although the two men interpreted the Sabbath principle differently, they both agreed on the importance of seeking to rest each week.
The term Pax Romana conveys the idea that undisturbed peace reigned throughout the Roman Empire for more than 200 years. Ironically, the very basis of the Pax Romana boast (one united, stable empire) was often the obstacle to true peace. With a large territory that was subject to riots and rebellion, Rome was known to devastate conquered nations in the name of enforcing pax. All who opposed the empire paid dearly for it; as the first-century historian Tacitus wrote, “They create desolation and call it peace.”
Tonight as I sit here writing, one of our family dogs lays curled up on the ottoman at my feet. I’m his favorite of all our family members, though—in truth—it probably has something to do with my keeping his food bowl full! Seymour loves to be outside, but his preferred activity is to rest all seventy-five pounds of his sweet self on my lap. On especially busy days, he remains near me, patiently waiting until I sit down.
What keeps you awake at night? Lately, I’ve been losing sleep as I’ve worried about work. I worry about how to meet deadlines, respond to emails that could lead to soured relationships if not handled wisely, and more. I toss and turn on my bed, trying to work out various solutions in my mind. But the more I try to mentally solve the issues, the more sleep eludes. Eventually, I begin fretting about not getting enough rest to handle the challenges of the next day!
During a particularly tense period at work, I found that the stress was making it difficult to concentrate. My mind was constantly racing, and I struggled to focus even on Bible study and prayer. I had to learn to deliberately separate and guard my heart from prevailing winds—wherever they came from.
A woodcut illustration in a German book from 1512 depicts a woman tossing out a baby along with wastewater from a bucket. This is the first known use of the idiom, “Throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Some say this phrase came from the idea of a family sharing bathwater (from oldest to youngest) until, finally, the last one—the baby—could barely be seen in the dirty water. Whether this story is true or not, we can be grateful for the invention of modern plumbing!
When I was a young child, I thought that thunder and lightning were separate phenomena that just happened to occur at the same time. It was only years later that a science teacher explained to me that lightning and thunder are directly connected to one another—that the rapid heating and cooling of the air during a lightning strike causes a massive atmospheric boom which we hear as thunder. In other words, you would never have thunder if lightning didn’t strike first.
One morning, I was surprised to see my mail carrier lugging his heavy bag. I asked him why he was delivering mail on Sunday, and he curtly responded with a single word: “Amazon.” The online retailer had started offering Sunday delivery, so it was no longer a day of rest for postal workers.
If you were given an extra day each week, how would you use it? To read books, volunteer with a charity, perhaps catch up on sleep? In truth, I’d probably spend that extra day working. While I enjoy what I do, I don’t think that’s the healthiest of confessions.
My wife and I used to live in a small flat on the sixth floor of an apartment block. We loved its balcony views and simplicity. And there was no yard work to do! But our little home had its problems, one in particular—a limited power supply.