Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Resting Versus Escape

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. ~ Philippians 4:8 NLT

I was talking about rest with a Jewish believer in Christ who mentioned that he observed a Friday evening to Saturday evening Sabbath rest each week. He told me that rest should draw us nearer to God, so he set this time aside for that purpose.

My life would radically change if I set aside 24 hours each week to rest and connect with Jesus. I reflected on some of the ways I tend to unwind after the hustle and bustle of the holidays or even just at the end of a long week. Rather than engaging in restful activities to draw me close to the Lord, I often turn to modes of escape. It can be easy to give ourselves permission to indulge our flesh after the intensity of holiday preparation and celebration. After all, we baked all those cookies, wrapped all those presents, attended all those gatherings, and put up all those decorations. Don’t we deserve a break? God desires that we get some needed rest, but too many times I’m drawn to things that don’t leave me feeling restored and closer to the Lord. At the end of a Law and Order marathon and several bowls of ice cream, I don’t typically experience a healthier mind and body.

So in the aftermath of the holidays, we must ask ourselves this question: What restful activities will bring us closer to God and be restorative to our souls? The answer to this question for me includes things such as:

  • Sleep. When I am deprived of bodily rest, I get cranky and short-tempered. I open myself up to temptation when I am tired. Sleeping makes me feel closer to God and more pleasant in general.
  • Walking. Taking a walk in a park or nature preserve brings me closer to the Lord as I breathe in fresh air and observe God’s creation. It can be tough to do this depending on the weather, but even ten minutes outside can do wonders for the spirit.
  • Reading. Whether it’s Scripture, a good novel, or a marriage, parenting, or self-help book, reading is relaxing for me.
  • Writing. Not everyone enjoys pouring his or her heart out on paper, but journaling is a way that I can reflect on my feelings and concerns and helps me process what God is teaching me.

Your list might be totally different. Organizing a closet, gathering with people, or playing a game might help you rest. Taking time for reflective activities will be a key for us to learn to rest in a way that connects us with God rather than providing a temporary escape. We can use Philippians 4:8 as a good test for our leisure activities. We can ask if this restful endeavor helps us to focus on things that are:

  • true
  • honorable
  • right
  • pure
  • lovely
  • admirable
  • excellent
  • worthy of praise

When we find things that fit these criteria, we usually walk away feeling restored and rested. Media and junk food might make us feel good initially, but they will not ultimately leave us with the connection with God that we desire. While we may not be able to devote a full 24 hours to resting every week, we can carve out restorative time on a regular basis.

Lord, help me to learn to rest rather than escape after stressful activities. I want to surrender even my leisure time to You. Guide me to engage in restful activities that help me grow closer to You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Excerpt taken from Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose. Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Spoelstra. Published by Abingdon Press.

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