"I have the habit of attention to such excess, that my senses get no rest—but suffer from a constant strain."—Henry David Thoreau
"And he said, 'My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'" —Exodus 33:14
Fitness experts tell us that regimens of physical training with no built-in breathers can counteract all of an athlete's hard work. Too little rest can make a man crabby; render him more susceptible to injury; induce adrenal fatigue, thereby increasing the production of the fat-storing hormone cortisol; hamper his sleep cycle (which then introduces another whole set of health problems); compromise his immune system; and mess with his performance level (and I don't mean just on the track, court, or playing field). Our efforts to serve God well and grow spiritually also must be punctuated by periods of rest. I'm not advocating laziness, but I also do not suggest that we emulate the guy who never sits down. Too often, we worship the god of activity rather than the God who gives us rest. In short, there are times in life that call for a little self-care.
One | You may need rest
Do not, and I repeat do not, wait to rest until you begin to observe the tell-tale signs that you need it. By then, you're overdue. I'm talking about things like physical fatigue, loss of passion for spiritual activity, feeling far from God, lack of the desire to serve—you get the picture. Indeed, when we are ambushed by a symptom or two, we should not hesitate to step back for a bit. But even better, we ought to anticipate our need for rest and make it a regular part of our routine. We do so at the invitation of Jesus Himself, as quoted in Matthew's gospel:
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."—Matthew 11:28
Two | You may need relaxation
Meditation on God's Word is good for us all. Picture yourself stretched out on a poolside lounge relaxing with a good book. Why not make it The Good Book?
Any time we find a quiet place of solitude to lose ourselves in Scripture can be incredibly refreshing. We hear a lot about having a daily "quiet time" with God, and some of us have made that a habit, but just because it's become a bit of a cliché in Christian circles doesn't mean it should be dismissed out of hand. I highly recommend it. It's cliché because it works!
But there are myriad other worthwhile ways to relax as well. Putter in the garage, engage in a hobby, read the funny pages, doze on the couch—take a little time and do it. You may be so busy that you have to actually schedule it, but that's okay. Just make sure you don't neglect it.
Three | You may need recreation
Sometimes it is good just to play. And I do mean play.
There's some overlap with relaxation, I suppose, but I think of playing as something that requires a little more energy. Board games or card games with friends or family are great—even if they do sort of straddle the fence between relaxing and playing. If you're a dad, roughhouse with the kids. Play golf, or tennis, or softball. Go fishing or hiking. Take the family to a theme park—or to the splash pad just around the corner. I bet you could brainstorm a list of 20 fun ways to play in about as many seconds.
Rest, relaxation, recreation—all are forms of the kind of break from the routine we need for maximum physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The fitness experts are right. Rest is biblical. And it's essential. God set a precedent:
"And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done."—Genesis 2:2
And Jesus encourages it:
"And He said to them (His disciples), 'Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves."—Mark 6:31-32
So what should be our response? Get some rest!
Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God's Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men's Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.
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