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One day I tried to do something radical with my afternoon: simply rest. It was a Sunday – the Sabbath, a time that God has set aside for rest. But the pressures of life’s demands were still surrounding me on that day when I hoped to just go to church and then rest afterward at home.
First there was some church volunteer work I’d committed to previously: writing a summary of our pastor’s sermon to accompany the video on the church website. The summary wasn’t actually due until the next day, but I figured that I’d do the best job on it while the sermon was still fresh in my mind. Then my son reminded me that he had run out of his favorite sports jerseys to wear, and the pleading expression on his face made me feel guilty about even thinking about skipping laundry chores. Next was our weekly small group meeting with friends from our church. They all expected me to be there for our Bible study discussion. After that, my daughter needed to me to drive her to and from her youth group meeting.
A voice inside my soul – the Holy Spirit – reminded me of how tired I was, and how much I should rest. But I chose to ignore that advice and plunge into my activities, because I felt too guilty about disappointing other people to listen.
The results were disastrous! It took me much longer to write the sermon summary than it would if I hadn’t been tired, and the results still weren’t very good. I stained some clothes by mixing dark and light clothes while doing the laundry in a rush. At small group, I was distracted by all I had to do and ended up making a grocery list in my mind rather than participating in conversations about the Bible passage. While driving to youth group, I yelled at my daughter over a minor irritation – and I was late picking her up after youth group ended.
Guilt about resting had driven me to do everything that other people thought I should do that day. They were all good things, but they weren’t God things. God would have been just as pleased with me if I’d chosen to rest that Sunday than if I’d run myself ragged with activities.
During his time on Earth, Jesus Christ had more important work to do than anyone else in history, since he was here to save the world. Jesus experienced tremendous pressure from others during his ministry, with large crowds literally following him when he was out in public.
But Jesus made rest a top priority – and he didn’t seem to ever feel guilty about resting. Instead, Jesus rested with confidence, whenever he needed to do so. Jesus promises in Matthew 11:28 to help us rest, as well, inviting us to, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Here are 5 guilt-free ways to get away and rest:
1. Live to please God alone. You can’t please everyone, so choose the most important one to please: God. Keep in mind that everyone has an agenda when they ask or expect you to do something – but their agendas represent what’s best for them, not necessarily for you. You can always trust that what God calls you to do is what’s truly best for you. Ultimately, you’ll be accountable to God alone at the end of your life, regardless of other people’s opinions.
2. Remember that renewing yourself through rest empowers you to do everything else well. Resting doesn’t diminish your ability to be productive; it enhances your productivity. While it’s true that you do have to get away from your activities when resting, you’ll do a much better job serving God and other people in any work you do if you’ve had enough rest beforehand.
3. Be confident. Derive your sense of confidence from your relationship with God – as someone whom God loves completely and unconditionally – rather than from trying to impress others with how important you are because of how busy you are. When you’re confident in who you are rather than in what you do, you’ll be free to rest.
4. Look at your life from an eternal perspective when setting your priorities. Just as Jesus had only 33 years on Earth to accomplish his mission, we each only have a set amount of time to fulfill God’s purposes for our own lives. But that knowledge shouldn’t lead you to panic and skip rest. Instead, it should free you to rest, trusting that God will give you all the time you need to accomplish what’s truly important, so you can let go of everything that’s not really important. Pray for the ability to see your life from an eternal perspective so you can set the right priorities. Focus mainly on what you sense God leading you to do, and drop other activities out of your schedule to make time for rest.
5. Rest like Jesus rested. Make Jesus himself your role model for learning how to rest well. When Jesus rested, he did so in ways that were simple (because they’re easy to incorporate into daily life) yet profound (because they have great power to renew the body, mind, and spirit). Some of the main ways Jesus rested were by: praying in quiet and solitude, walking in nature, eating healthy food, reading (scriptures and other wholesome material), and enjoying music. You can do the same!
Just as God himself rested when creating the world, he calls you to rest to renew your soul. Part of Hebrews 4:10-11 urges, “for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest.” Rest isn’t just one more thing to check off your to-do list; it’s a holy calling!
SEE ALSO: Finding Real Peace and Rest this Summer
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, produces a site about angels and miracles for About.com. She is author of the young adult inspirational novel Dream Factory (which is set during Hollywood's golden age) and writes about the power of thoughts on her “Renewing Your Mind” blog.
Publication date: July 2, 2015