In May of 2017, I graduated with my Masters of Arts in Family Ministries degree. It was a blessed time to be together with fellow students who, like me, had toiled through all the classes while balancing family life and ministry.
God had called me to that course two years prior. A professor had called me up and told me about the program and felt led to ask me to join. I had recently committed to coaching basketball at the high school (and would also be coaching volleyball), and my kids were 14 at the time and would be 16 when the program was over. Needless to say, I did not sense that same “calling” on me that he had. The timing was wrong, the degree was not what I was planning on pursuing, and life was simply far too busy to add such an intense undertaking as graduate work. However, I told the professor that I would pray about it.
What a dangerous thing to say!!!
Well, a month or two went by and time was drawing nearer for the beginning of the semester and guess what? I had yet to seriously pray about the course (I am human Friends!)!
So on the way home from a family vacation, I set aside time to pray, expecting to know the answer.
I was in for a surprise!!!
The Lord pointed out to me a need in our community and church, and He also pointed out to me a lack in my own ability. Humbled, He then showed how the professor was correct in that this was His will.
Over the next two years of coaching, teaching (I was still leading a high school class), preaching, and trying to still be a good dad and husband (praise the Lord for a wonderful and supportive wife!), I worked towards growing as much as possible through a graduate degree program.
There were times when I awoke in a panic, certain that I had missed some assignment or task. I would go to the computer, check due dates and schedules, and then go back to bed realizing the panic was misplaced and I was still on track (try to sleep after that!).
With a supportive family, a caring and encouraging church, and a whole lot of divine intervention, I was able to make it to graduation a changed man.
One of the most important things that sustained me through it all was the conviction that I (and we as people) were not made to constantly do, but that we needed time to intentionally rest and just be.
Rest is programmed into the Bible throughout the text and I believe it is something we often miss.
Yes, the Israelites had their Sabbath days that they were required to observe, but they often micromanaged it so much that it became a thing of labor to accomplish (if they tried at all).
Christians today generally go one of two ways in regard to rest. Either they go about man-made laws to try and enforce it, or they disregard rest completely and all but label it an unnecessary time.
Rather than discourse about the right or wrong way to rest and dive into all the passages surrounding the idea of Sabbath, I think it is better to simply ask “are you tired?” and “do you long for genuine rest?”.
I am guessing that many of you would say “yes”, if not “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? OF COURSE I NEED REST!”.
Jesus was questioned once (many times actually) about the sabbath and why His disciples didn’t follow all the extra rules around it. His answer was simple, yet provides what we need to hear…
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27-28 NIV
Change the terms “the Sabbath” into “Rest”.
Rest was made for man, not man for rest. The Son of Man is Lord of rest.
Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but I hope it opens us up to an understanding. Mainly this…
When God made you, He wanted you to take time to rest in the joy of His presence. (read that three times slowly please)
This was so important to His creation, that He made a commandant (one of the ten!) about it and many extra to keep it in focus.
God cares about you, your health, your mental and emotional state, and knows that at regular times the best thing for you is to rest in the joy of His presence.
Now you should know that I am not one to tell you how to do this and enforce countless rules about it, but I know that you need to find a rhythm to life that includes space to be with the Lord of peace. That could be a morning set apart on the couch with His Word. It could be a gentle walk in the cool of the evening or morning (and He walks with me and He talks with me!), or it could be many other things. But what it needs to be is a time where you delight in being loved and valued by the Creator of the universe right where you are.
Take time to pray about this, but just as important, take time to realize that God loves you so much that He wants to connect with and restore you out of His love and strength.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30 NIV