4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Rest

Written By Karen Kwek

A lifelong scribbler, Karen enjoys the company of friends, a great cup of tea and seeing the gospel transform hearts and lives. She worked as a book editor until she and her husband traded peace and quiet for parenthood. It seemed a good idea at the time.

It happened to me again: a long weekend promised an extra day of rest, but after the break, I was dragging myself out of bed and not relishing the start of the work week.

Had I rested? Sure, the days had been full of non-work activities: a walk in the park, quiet time, visiting an aunt, grocery shopping, dinner with friends, and late-night Netflix! So why did I still feel tired after it all?

Do you, too, feel paradoxically in need of more rest after taking time off to recharge? Why do our modern lifestyles so often deprive us of true rest, and what is the Bible’s idea of rest? After searching for some answers to my dilemma, here are a few reminders I’ve come up with:

 

1. Recognize that leisure is not always rest

We tend to think of rest as anything that is non-work—from doing nothing, to indulging in our favorite interests. The truth is, however, that although our leisure activities may be a break from the work we usually do, these activities could either be physically tiring in themselves, or we could be pursuing them in a way that leaves us physically, mentally or spiritually drained rather than refreshed.

For instance, as much as an overseas holiday can be a refreshing break from work, travel can involve its own kinds of stress, from countering jet lag to negotiating culture shock, unexpected setbacks, young clamoring children, or a hectic itinerary.

Also, modern entertainment options can leave our bodies untaxed but our minds over-stimulated. With Internet streaming, digital news, social networking, e-commerce services and so much more, all readily accessible, we scroll, click, tap, swipe and hit “play” compulsively. Whether we realize it or not, information overload saps our mental energy. Our time is sucked away, and our minds become glutted with information and vulnerable to the world’s shifting values, trends, and opinions.

No wonder, then, that our leisure choices aren’t truly restful. But what does real restfulness look like?

 

 2. Understand the kind of rest that God calls us to

In the Old Testament, God commanded the people of Israel to observe a “Sabbath day of rest.” It was a day of rest from work, but it was not simply physical inactivity; it was also a rest to the Lord (Exodus 20:10). By resting, the Israelites remembered and celebrated that God had rescued them from Egypt, and that they belong to Him. Indeed, rest was a reminder that God had set His people apart (Deuteronomy 5:15).

Moreover, the Israelites understood that they were on a journey toward a land God had promised them, a “resting place,” where they would be safe from enemies and where they would live with God (Deuteronomy 12:10). Every Sabbath, they should cease from work—the everyday activities that put food on the table and clothes on people’s back—to look forward to the promised rest and trust in God’s present provision.

During the time of the New Testament, however, the Pharisees and teachers of the law had misunderstood the nature of true rest. They had reduced the Sabbath to myriad prohibitions that relied on their own standards of righteousness instead of trusting in God. Yet, Jesus stakes His claim as Lord of the Sabbath and announces the arrival of “something greater than the temple” (Matthew 12:6-8). God was now dwelling with humankind in the flesh!

Jesus, the Lord of rest, calls us to stop looking for meaning in our own sufficiency or in bogus standards of security. Instead, He offers us rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30). True rest is about where we put our trust day to day. Ultimately, true rest is nothing less than the eternal rest of salvation.

Hebrews 4:3 makes this clear: “Now we who have believed enter that rest”—the rest which God had spoken to Israel of. For us, today, the way to eternal rest is believing that Jesus has paid for our sin on the cross. His burden is light because He carries it all; there is nothing we can contribute to our salvation.

 

3. Seek the things that nourish us, inside and out

As Christians we probably know all this, but we may not have connected it to the way that we rest. How often, for instance, is our rest really about remembering and relying on God’s saving and sustaining power, and rejoicing in His presence? How would rest look like if we were intentional about spending time with God?

As I begin to rethink my own days of rest, I wouldn’t necessarily throw out travel, exercise, friends, or Netflix—we enjoy good things with a heart of thanksgiving. Perhaps I’d guard against physical and mental exhaustion by planning for recovery time after an adventure holiday, or by unwinding to light music instead of checking out my favorite YouTube channels before bed.

But more than that, I’d like to be recharged by the things that truly nourish my soul and anchor me in the peace of God:

  • Reading and remembering God’s Word – “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.” (Psalm 19:7);
  • Talking to God – “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5b–7);
  • Confessing sins and asking for forgiveness – “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord …” (Acts 3:19);
  • Praising and thanking God – “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” (Psalm 13:5–6);
  • Having fellowship that strengthens our faith – “In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.” (2 Corinthians 7:13).

It is no coincidence, by the way, that church should be about all these things. Perhaps we might prioritize our weekly gatherings, and find ourselves truly and mutually refreshed there!

 

4. Go to bed; get enough sleep

Lastly, although rest is more than physical, it is not less than that. We are embodied souls, and so physical exhaustion or ill health can take a toll on our mental and spiritual wellbeing. I don’t want to minimize Satan or sin’s role when we respond with a lack of thoughtfulness or love, but not getting enough bodily rest does contribute to attitudes and behaviors that don’t please God: short-temperedness, impatience, rash decision-making, selfishness, and so on.

These scenarios, for instance, show me that I am in dire need of more sleep: when I’m a different (and worse) person before my morning caffeinated brew, when I am kept awake by anxious thoughts, when I frantically desire a 48-hour day just to get more things done, when stress makes me more prone to anger or over-hasty judgments, when I feel grumpy if someone asks for my time . . .

In fact, at the end of a diligent day’s work, refusing to stop and go to bed can reveal that, deep down, we don’t really trust that God is in control. We may subconsciously be seeking security in our to-do lists, purpose in our productivity, refreshment in our entertainment, or sustenance in our caffeine hits. In the long-term, none of these things will bring us the rest our bodies and brains need. The God who designed us for a 24-hour day knows what He is doing, so we can rest assured, and awaken refreshed for the next day.

 

Friends, what will you do differently in your rest? I wish you times of refreshing and pleasant dreams. In the words of the psalmist, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)

When I Realized My Heart Was Divided

Being a mum to a toddler and a baby means you rarely have any time for yourself, much less for devotions, sermons, Christian literature, and the like. Or so I thought.

Three nights in a row, I stayed up until wee hours of the morning to finish a drama series a friend recommended. On the morning of the fourth, my husband woke up to a very grumpy wife, and my kids woke up to a snappy mother. I had finished the drama, receiving mild satisfaction from a romantic ending. But there was no coffee for my husband that morning, and the children had to walk on eggshells because every little thing they did annoyed me in my tiredness.

Later that afternoon, while putting the baby to sleep, the words of Psalm 86, hung up in a frame in the kids’ room, hit me like a bullet train. Verse 11 reads,

Teach me your way, LORD,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.

These words are part of baby Nathan’s life verse. We chose it because he was born with a hole in his heart, and so we pray this verse over him every day. For the hole to close naturally, for it not to affect his health or physical growth, as well as for his spiritual life—that he grows up fearing the Lord with his whole heart and being. We do this religiously day after day, in part because of the fear we have about possible heart surgery, but more so because this is something only God can do.

As I read those words over and over again with my baby in my arms, guilt swept over me. Why is it that I could be so driven to pray over a physical hole in the heart, but found it so easy to overlook my own emotionally divided heart?

For three whole nights, I willingly relinquished my wife and mum duties to pursue a fictitious drama. At the same time, however, I lament to girlfriends how motherhood has made consistent, committed spiritual disciplines so hard. No time to read the Bible, but time enough to scroll through social media. No time to sit through a sermon, but happily watching one episode after another of a drama which has zero bearing on my immediate life or eternal destiny.

Loving God wholeheartedly should easily translate into loving my husband better and being more patient with my young children. Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, does not at all contradict my daily duties of cooking, cleaning, writing, and working. But the temporal obsession with a drama did. It distracted me from my responsibilities as a wife, as a mother, as a worker accountable to God. Most importantly, it took my eyes off Christ, my first love.

The world screams for our attention in every possible way, perhaps now more than ever before. Pop-up ads on our web browsers, prompters on our social media feed, and promotions constantly clogging up our emails. While the secular world tells us to “tap here”, “read more” and so on, no internet phishing or social media profiling can know us better than the One who created us for His specific purposes and glory. No wonder Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. It is only in Him that we can find true fulfillment and eternal satisfaction.

Thankfully, through this episode, I am learning to guard my time with the Lord more intentionally. I have removed Facebook and drama apps from my phone, so as to avoid being lured in. I also set an alarm on my phone to remind me each day to read God’s word. My toddler helps remind me to have daily devotion and prayer times every night. My husband often spends the evening working on sermon preparations and Bible studies until late, and this inspires me to do the same. I also try to set aside an early morning each week to hear a sermon online, since I have to be with Nathan during church hours. It has only been a month of success thus far, but I pray these will continue. Not only for my sake, but so that my children will seek to do the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I have not given up entirely on “pleasures”. Instead, I am seeking to honor God by pursuing them in moderation and with greater variety. Watching dramas, but also reading, exercising, listening to music, and so on. Rather than allowing myself to be sucked into that same black hole again, I have enlisted the help of godly girlfriends to keep me accountable. I have asked them to check in on me now and then, recognizing that I cannot and will not be able to triumph on my own.

Now, each time I pray for Nathan’s heart condition, I remember also to pray for mine—one that is quick to wander, one that is oh-so-susceptible to temptation. That the Lord would also give me an undivided heart! Because it is only by the Holy Spirit’s aid that I can love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

3 Misconceptions I Had About Worship

Written By Daniel Hamlin, USA

I looked over to see my mom trying to hold back her laughter. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it at some point—that extremely difficult task of not laughing when everything in us wants to. It usually happens at the most inappropriate times and in the most inappropriate places. This was the case for my mom. We were in church and the worship band was on stage leading the congregation in song, while my mom stood next to me trying not to burst out laughing. I looked at her, trying to figure out what I had missed that was causing her such amusement. She gathered herself and we kept singing. After church I asked my mom what had made her laugh in the middle of worship.

She said, “You.”

I answered in surprise, “Me? What did I do?”

“Daniel,” she said, beginning to laugh again, “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone miss every note in a song before.”

My lack of musical talent was no surprise to me, and so we both had a good laugh about it. (I should mention that my mom and I have a great relationship, one in which we can tease each other and not be offended, knowing we both have nothing but love and support for each other).

Thankfully (for my sake at least), God’s acceptance of our worship is not based on how well we sing. Worship is much more than song. Jesus stated, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Over the years I’ve found that in order for me to worship in truth, the Lord has had to remove some major misconceptions I held regarding worship. It’s been a gradual process, mostly involving prayer and time spent in God’s Word. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject of worship, but I hope what I share about my own journey will help you if you’ve struggled with similar issues as well.

 

Misconception #1: Worship Is Only for Religious People

I used to think that the only people who participated in worship were religious people, or people of faith. I viewed worship as solely a religious or spiritual act. But I now believe everyone worships, whether they realize it or not. We all worship something or someone; we were created to (Psalm 86:9-10).

We worship whatever we value most in life. For some, this might be a job, a loved one, an object of some sort, or oneself. Worshipping such things may have nothing to do with religion or faith, but it remains worship. When we place more value on these things than on God, we are worshipping them.

Sadly, I’ve worshipped many things in my life. I’ve worshipped myself, my passions, my time, my relationships—any number of things that are not bad in themselves, except when we give them higher value than we give God. Instead of worshipping the blessings that God has given me, I should be worshipping the God who gave them.

When I find that I’ve usurped Christ’s rightful place in my life by valuing something or someone else, I ask Him with repentant humility to retake the throne of my heart. He graciously accepts repentance and invites me into deeper relationship with Him.

 

Misconception #2: Only Religious Activities Are Worship

Worship isn’t simply singing in church, prayer, or thanksgiving. These are all forms of worship, but they are not the only ones. One of my biggest misconceptions about worship was that I only participated in worship when I was involved in some religious activity.

But the truth is, our whole lives are an act of worship (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 10:31).

In the Old Testament, King Saul made the mistake of thinking religious activities meant worship. But God responded by pointing out that religious activities are no measurement of a person’s worship, because true worship starts in the heart and reveals itself in our daily lives: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).

This points me to a greater awareness of the importance of being in fellowship with Christ. I’ve realized that true worship is a relationship with God, rather than feigned obedience to a set of rules. Whether we are eating, working, studying, on vacation, doing laundry, we are worshipping whether we realize it or not. We either live life with Jesus reigning in our hearts, or we live life with something or someone else holding that place. I am learning to ask myself, do I love God in my work, my study, my daily life?

 

Misconception #3: Worship Is for God’s Benefit

Perhaps the biggest misconception I had about worship was that it was somehow for God’s benefit, as if He somehow needed our worship. The truth is quite the opposite: worship benefits us, not God.

David declares, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear  you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in You” (Psalm 31:19). God is pleased with our worship, but He doesn’t need it. He is all-sufficient, self-existent, eternal, not created. He is not in need of anything, but He is the source of all life and all joy (Psalm 16:11).

God created us in order that we might know Him and experience His life and joy, and worship is the doorway into that life and joy. The Psalmist says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere . . . For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:10-11). God is eager to bless us and give us peace; when we worship we open the doors to His peace and blessing. This isn’t to say that we will never see trouble in this life because we worship God, but He does promise He will be a stronghold in the day of trouble to those who trust in Him (Nahum 1:7).

 

God cherishes our worship. He understands it can be difficult for humans to worship what we cannot see, and perhaps that’s why our worship moves Him so deeply. I know there is still much I need to learn regarding worship, but I’m thankful the Lord has righted these misconceptions I once held. I now have a greater understanding and a deeper relationship with God than before. And maybe someday, perhaps when I’m in Heaven, when I’m singing in heartfelt worship, I’ll even be able to sing the right notes. But until then, I’m grateful to know that I can worship God with my every act, and that God loves my worship regardless of my singing abilities.

3 Tips for Those Overwhelmed by Brokenness

Written By Rebecca Krämer, Germany

The room was loud and busy . . . packed with over 150 students gathered for Bible school. My instinct was to observe. In situations like this, my keen senses allow me to see beyond the organized chaos and eager shouts—so as I looked around the room, I saw 150 individuals trying to fit in, desperate to be seen and heard. I saw brokenness, loneliness, and students not knowing what they’re worth.

As a result of being in tune to the needs around me, my genuine desire to do my job and love the students well quickly turned into an unhealthy (and unrealistic) desire to solve every problem and be a champion for all of their needs.

I find myself in this type of situation a lot. When I see needs, I hope to meet them. I want to see people walk in freedom through my efforts. This impossible expectation, however, often leads me down a painful road of disappointments because my attempts don’t produce the change I expect—I simply cannot fix all of the problems I see.

This is a reality that we all must face. As we become aware of the brokenness around us, we have to learn how to respond in a way that doesn’t exhaust us and that serves others well. As with any gift we have, we must shape and train it so we can use it in a God-honoring way.

On my path of learning to manage my emotional sensitivity, there were three specific truths which nourished me. I hope they will also encourage you to harness your own gift and learn to exercise it productively!

 

1. Embrace it for what it is—a gift!

Although emotional sensitivity can sometimes be perceived as a weakness or an over-dedication to feelings, I’ve learned that it isn’t helpful to brush it aside as a weakness, or to ignore it. In fact, I find comfort in seeing how often Scripture records Jesus being moved with compassion (Matthew 9:36, Matthew 14:14, Matthew 15:32, Matthew 20:34, Luke 7:13). I’ve learned to embrace that God has gifted me with perception and when I am moved by the needs of those around me, it reminds me that my heart is beating and I still care about people and ultimately, about the world being a better place.

If handled properly, emotional sensitivity can actually be a great help to walking alongside people and loving them well! By openly welcoming our gift to the table, we can give thanks for it, and then evaluate how to handle it in a healthy, God-honoring way.

 

2. Take time to pray

One of the pitfalls of my emotional sensitivity is trying to do too much. There are so many people around me who are hurting that I can quickly get overwhelmed. But I am encouraged to remember that even Jesus took calm moments away from the crowds (Mark 1:35). I believe these times helped Jesus to re-center and focus on doing what His father wanted Him to do (John 5:19). This is a helpful reminder that I must take quiet time to reflect on what God wants me to do with my gift of sensitivity.

To protect from overexerting myself, I have found that it helps to listen and observe needs, but to not react in the moment. While it can still be uncomfortable to not intervene in a situation when we feel like we could help, it’s important to realize that we simply cannot go after every single hurting person or situation. First, we must take time to pray to determine if and how we should act on any given need.

 

3. Remember that I’m not the Savior

In the past, I invested a lot of time into listening and counseling people instead of bringing them directly to Jesus in prayer. I gave them advice on what to do instead of letting them seek Jesus and discover it themselves.

I found that acting to fill the needs around me sometimes caused people to look to me rather than Jesus for help. In order to know what my responsibility is, I need new glasses of discernment. My feelings are not always trustworthy, but the voice of the Holy Spirit is. The Spirit of truth guides us into all truth (John 16:13). Often, I need to listen to a silent whisper rather than a loud emotional prompting.

Ultimately, I can be assured that God cares for those in need, and He can work in mighty ways to save them. It’s not up to me to save them, and it’s definitely not only up to those of us who have the gift of emotional sensitivity! We must focus instead on obeying when God leads us to help, and rest in knowing He is doing His work.

 

These three lessons helped me to take care of my gift of emotional sensitivity.

As I’ve reined in and learned to train my responses to my emotional sensitivity, it means I no longer jump at any and every opportunity that comes my way. Instead, I’m trying to be more prayerful and intentional with where I invest my time and effort.

Since I’ve started putting these three tips into action, I’ve also seen a lot of good come from it. So, when I find myself in a situation like I did at that Bible school, I’m more equipped to not be consumed by the overwhelming needs around me, but rather love the students better while maintaining my emotional health in the process. I’m now better able to keep a good balance between investing in a student’s life, but also directing them towards God and trusting Him to work in their lives in His perfect timing! Ultimately, a life-long commitment to Jesus is worth much more than a short-term emotionally charged conviction.