You are probably among the most active people in church. Especially if you’re a leader in the youth or young adult’s ministry. But do you love God and His people enough to rest?
I know I didn’t, for years.
Growing up, it was droned in me and my friends that the Sabbath is given to us for God. No work, no study, no running the 100m Olympic race even if it’s your pet event. For some of us, this meant no movies (because of profanity, violence, and sex), sports (it’s a selfish pursuit), and Facebook (others may post ungodly material or thoughts).
We were taught to dedicate ourselves to God and God’s people on Sunday, because the Sabbath is holy and God is holy.
And so, we spent entire Sundays in church. Here’s where it begins to look familiar.
We usher people in for the morning service, lead kids worship, tell them bible stories, pack up, talk to two new people during tea fellowship, run off for adults’ bible class, grab a quick lunch, attend choir practice, plan the next church camp, discuss plans for an Easter musical, attend sunset service… Finally, we sink into our beds.
Sunday after Sunday, we repeat this routine.
Then fatigue sets in and we lose the joy of serving.
We gripe about being overworked, then feel guilty for being so negative because it’s church! Surely it cannot be wrong to pack our Sundays in worship, ministry, in relieving others of their burdens and pain?
But our enthusiasm turns to reluctance. We start to compare, find fault with others.
We grow bitter that others get to take leave from ministry because of exams. Or because they’re newly married. Some quote Deuteronomy 24:5 as justification for marriage leave from ministry for a year. Then babies come along and well, a year’s break just turned into 7 years. So we struggle with weariness and resentment. We feel inadequate to serve.
That, my brother and sister, is when we need to hit the pause button.
We have simply swapped a hectic weekday for an equally hectic (or more hectic) Sunday.
But we need to rest, just as Jesus did. Jesus slipped out and prayed before starting public ministry.Luke 4:5-15
Before he made major decisions (Luke 6:12-16)
Before and after ministering to people (Mark 1:35-38, Luke 5:16, Matthew 14:22-33)
Before trying times (Matthew 26:36-46)
Although Jesus was fully God and fully man, He took time out to draw strength from His father. Jesus took time to eat with his disciples, tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10). He even slept (Matthew 8:24).
We too need these times of refreshing, and prayer retreats are one way to get a concentrated dose.
Our prayer retreats may not look like Jesus’. (40 days in the wilderness is a bit much, tbh.) Mine had creature comforts like an MP3 player, a McGriddle, and shade from a pavillion in the botanic gardens. Yours could be up in a mountain sanctuary, by the beach, or at a cafe with good coffee.
What matters more is the essence, as it’s our personal time with God. We need to unplug from the world – so no Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram #prayerretreat, TV. No distractions.
Those few hours will be worth it, I promise. After a prayer retreat, my friend was compelled to reach out to hurting, depressed, and anxious people. Another decided on which church to attend. And yet another found a new focus, allowing him to concentrate on a couple of ministries instead of being everywhere. I myself came away from my last one with a list of people who could help me (then an overwhelmed 24 year old), with the craziness of leading and conducting two choirs.
We may not immediately feel the same fire that we had at the start. But prayer retreats and timeouts remind us that God is gracious. They teach us to rely on God’s strength, and walk by faith. They demonstrate how our joy rests in Jesus – and cannot be taken away, even if we feel down.
That is when we understand the Sabbath, and enjoy it – and God – for what it is.
A fellow single leader