Trust God Enough to Take a Day Off

I began learning about rest by not resting. There are countless reasons I could list for why we should rest, why we need to rest, how rest is beneficial, but what is impressed on me most of all lately is that, truly, rest is an act of faith. But I didn’t see that at first.

I assumed that, moving to a country whose mottos include “hakuna matata” and “pole pole” (no worries and slowly), our lives on the field would not be quite so busy. When we arrived I learned rest isn’t something people do here. It’s true that nothing happens quickly. However, there is constantly work to be done. It just takes a long time to do things.

My husband and I arrived on the field without a team and with a 2-year old and an infant. He had to do all the official work for the organization. I had to figure out being a mom and running a household in this country totally on my own, not to mention helping my 2-year old through a traumatic transition and working out how to balance having two kids instead of one.

We had to hit the ground running, in a mad rush to fully furnish our house just so that we could live. That rush set the standard for the rest of the year, my husband working almost every single day to establish a new organization from scratch.

Christmas Day, we had been in the country almost 10 months, and we were packing for our first trip back to the US. I was looking forward to finally having my husband home for a day. Nothing is open on Christmas; he had to have a day off! Then, late in the morning, we received a phone call that a friend’s brother had died. The friend was alone because the rest of the family had gone to their country home for the holiday. They couldn’t come back to the city; the buses were overflowing with passengers. My husband went to sit with our friend. I had a breakdown.

As I fumed that afternoon, I realized that I didn’t begrudge my husband going to visit a grieving friend. It was the past 10 months of restlessness that got to me. Our lifestyle had to change. Late that night, when he got home, I told my husband how this pace of life was ruining me, that when we got back from our trip next year we would have to schedule real days off, or I wasn’t going to survive. It sounded overly dramatic, but I believe it was true. The days without rest were wearing on him, too. We were fully on the same page.

During that first year, I noticed the physical and mental consequences of not resting. I didn’t realize the spiritual ones until I began practicing regular rest.

Rest is, first of all, an act of faith. We are made in God’s image, but we have limitations that he doesn’t. He doesn’t sleep (Psalm 121:4). We would die without sleep.

When Jesus came to earth, he took on flesh. He took on human limitations, though he is divine. The gospels often mention Jesus getting away to spend time in prayer and also to rest. He invited his disciples “to a desolate place (to) rest awhile” (Mark 10:31). He sets an example for how to live with our physical limitations.

My husband needed to rest not only to restore his body, but to trust that God was establishing this organization and that God would continue doing his work on my husband’s days off. I needed to rest in order to actively trust God with my family’s needs. I couldn’t do it all, and I shouldn’t.

Failure or refusal to rest not only wearies our minds and bodies, but spiritually, it sets us up for self-centered idolatry – our attention focused on what we need to do, rather what God is doing. Regular rest sets us up to trust God to keep things going while we are off the clock.

It has been four years since that Christmas. I don’t always succeed in resting well. I am sure there is much for me still to learn and practice. I have learned one thing.

Rest is an act of faith. There is work I need to do. There are things I need to do to take care of my family. But my role in these things is not so urgent that I can’t rest one day a week. God is the one holding it all together, and he can certainly get along without me. I just need to trust him to do that!

What keeps you from rest? What do you need to trust God with so that you can take a day off?

14 Comments

    1. Rachel March 30, 2017

      Thanks for sharing that post! This–> “I can’t stop because people need me,” feels so true at times, but goes a step too far, sneakily following a logical line of thinking. God is meeting people’s needs using me (true…), thus they need me (not true).

      1. Monica April 4, 2017

        This thinking, “I can’t stop, I can’t say NO, because people need me, are at my door, and have real needs…” resulted in my own burnout (although I denied it for a long time) and physical breakdown. I’m grateful for a husband that ‘made’ us come home for retreat/rest/renewal, because I learned new rhythms of work and rest that brought life instead of exhaustion. I don’t ever want to think/act in that way again:)

  1. Malia March 30, 2017

    Rachel, this is excellent and so needed! I especially appreciated this sentence: “Failure or refusal to rest not only wearies our minds and bodies, but spiritually, it sets us up for self-centered idolatry – our attention focused on what we need to do, rather than what God is doing.” I hadn’t seen it this way before, keeping my focus (yet again) on myself even in rest. You’re right–taking time off should be with the comforting knowledge that God is at work constantly. Our rest is a reminder of our dependence, and it’s also a gift from Him.

    Thank you for writing this. I will be sharing it–with everyone!

    1. Rachel March 30, 2017

      Thanks. 🙂 At first, depending on God –relinquishing our control– may not seem like such a gift. But, yes, it is.

  2. Spring March 30, 2017

    I love this Rachel! I totally agree with everything taking a lot longer. I try to explain this to my friends in the states and they just don’t understand. Funny thing is as a family, we have made a rest day less of a priority being home than on the field. I am really contimplating what that has meant for us this year. Thank you for your insights

    1. Rachel March 30, 2017

      Oh man, being back home is such a different ballgame! Before coming over here, I never took a day of rest. M-F was for work, and the weekends were for housekeeping and running errands. Now when we go back, it’s a struggle for me because we have no regular schedule. We only stay for a couple of months at a time, and they are so packed with events. I have to schedule in days off as events in our calendar or they just don’t happen.

  3. Deb March 30, 2017

    “Rest is an act of faith.” Wow, that’s such a powerful statement! I learned how important rest is after experiencing burnout a few years ago. I now ‘preach’ it to many friends, including my Kenyan friends.

    1. Rachel March 30, 2017

      That’s great! Do they take your advice?

      1. Deb March 30, 2017

        Sadly, they do not 🙁
        But I’ll begin challenging them to consider it from the perspective of it being a lack of faith.

        1. Rachel March 30, 2017

          That’s kind of what I would expect, though. If we turn down any kind of invitation in the name of rest, I always let my husband (who is Kenyan) do it, and he usually gives a secondary explanation as well because just needing to rest sounds crazy, and they may take offense because they don’t understand the concept.

  4. Janet Camilleri April 1, 2017

    I heard a psychologist on the radio recently, and he said “Sleep is not a luxury. When we don’t get enough sleep/rest, we are setting ourselves up for negative outcomes”. It really stayed with me, probably because my hubby always feels like rest/sleep is a “waste of time”!

    1. Rachel April 1, 2017

      What a great quote! That is so true.

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