If you haven’t learned this yet, ministry is hard. This is a very common reality for ministers from all different walks of life and from every denomination. It taxes you and your family. It feels as though you can never give enough, serve enough, or do enough. And then you die.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you don’t take care of you and your family, no one else will.
So for the next four weeks I will be publishing a series of blogs on what I call the “Four R’s of Ministerial Self-Care.” Take care to spend time reflecting on each and how your life would be enriched through it’s addition.
Today, we start with the first “R” – Rest.
Are you getting enough rest? Are you taking time to rest? What do your rest patterns look like? What do you need to do to rest? Is scheduled rest a part of your weekly calendar?
Mark 6:30-32 (NLT) – The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.
Rest is of vital importance to every human being. A 2013 New York Times article concluded that the more time you take to rest the more efficient and successful you are. Ten hours of sleep increases some workers efficiency by as much as 9%. Scheduled naps dramatically improve cognitive and memory function. And that for every additional 10 hours (barely over a day) of vacation time a worker takes a year, their efficiency increases by 8%. That’s pretty compelling considering the average American leaves 9.2 vacation days unused every year.
But we don’t need research to tell us these things because God already has. It is a mandate from God that we rest and take a break. God thought rest was so important that he put it on the same list of “must-do’s” as “Do Not Murder.”
Exodus 20:8-10 (NLT) – “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work.
That is a direct quote from the 10 Commandments.
The problem that most of us have around resting is three-fold: 1) Passion, 2) Control, and 3) Guilt.
We have a passion for the lost and lost people and want them to know God, so we don’t rest until they have. We have a passion for our church people and want them to be ministered to and cared for and so we don’t allow ourselves opportunities to rest and recharge because we don’t want them to ever feel neglected. So our passion keeps us from resting.
We are also pastors, which mean that we tie with Police Officers as the highest ranking professions for “Need for Control” on the MMPI Personality Inventory. Can I get a witness? Yeah, we are control freaks! It’s part of what makes us good at what we do and equal parts of what breaks us down. We think we have to be aware and have our hands in everything for it to be right, so we never take breaks and trust that God will handle anything.
And finally we are guilty. We’ve been taught terrible theology like, “I’d rather burn out than burn up.” Well God doesn’t want you to do either, which is why he wants us to rest! But our theology condemns us. Our theology of this should be, “all I do, I do through the power of the Holy Spirit. And if God says for me to rest then I will rest and trust the Holy Spirit’s work.”
So we must rest. We need it and God expects it. So how do we do it?
We do it like this: divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually.
Every day we have a time of rest. Maybe its 15 minutes, maybe it’s an hour, but its time where nothing is expected of us other than we recharge and rest. This can be your prayer time as long as in your mind prayer isn’t work for you. The important thing is to every day disconnect with the responsibilities of life and allow your brain and spirit to quiet.
Every week we need to withdraw for one 24-hour period. This has to be calendared. The day may change every week but it must happen. Many of us think, “I can’t afford to do that.” Friend, you can’t afford not to. It is a matter of personal health that the Holy Spirit will not spare you from the negative side effects of because we are acting in disobedience. It is also a matter of spiritual health. It forces you and those who would use your time to depend on Jesus.
Every year you must take time away. During that time I highly recommend you leave your phones at home and stay off the Internet. Focus your attention on your spouse, yourself, your kids, and God. If you can’t afford to go away, give yourself a stay-cation. Make yourself unavailable. Let everyone know who else they can call if they need something and then give your contact information to one or two people who will guard it with their lives.