July has arrived already and our thoughts, certainly for our young people, will turn to the holidays. Mark and I are very excited to be attending our first Boys Brigade camp in Wales! But even if you are not going away, it is good at this time of year to consider a period of rest and reflection. By and large, as a society we do not readily value rest and reflection. Despite the fact that we now have the electronic aid of dish washers, washing machines etc. to do our domestic tasks for us, the internet to shop for us and emails to communicate with people for us, we still don’t seem to have enough hours in the day. I admit to sometimes struggling to find the time to sit down, pray and take time out of the ‘busyness’ of life to simply reflect.
In God’s eyes rest and reflection has value, worth and purpose and this was evidenced in the life of Jesus. As Luke tells us in chapter 5:15-16,
“The news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
It’s interesting that Jesus withdrew from the crowds just when he was most in demand. There were thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people waiting for Jesus to heal them, to teach them, to bless them, primed, ready. The opportunity and need were great. And yet, Jesus was nowhere to be found. Why? Well because Jesus understood that in order to accomplish the purpose for which God had sent Him, he had to remain spiritually strong. And that required regular times of prayer and meditation, regular times of rest and recuperation. Likewise in Mark’s gospel 6:30-32 we read “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ’Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”
Jesus did not demand, nor desire, that his followers worked to the point of exhaustion and burn-out. Jesus understood that they needed periods of rest in order to remain strong, just as we do.
One of the two most important functions of rest is to allow us the time to listen to God. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of daily life we don’t hear the still, small voice of God. We lose the joy and the inspiration of simply being in his presence. I recently spent 2 days on a retreat in Harwarden. During the stay I was actually given time to go away with the instruction to stand alone in an open space and meditate on God. And boy did I find it hard, with my butterfly brain flitting between what was happening at home and lists of jobs to attend to. But I also heard God speak to me in the conversations I had with friends during mealtimes, through walking in the park looking with awe and wonder at the beautiful surroundings, and through studying scripture and coming together in prayer.
Secondly, rest is important to remind us of who we are, to reaffirm our humanity as men and women made in the image of God. God does not value us simply by the sum of what we accomplish. We have value because God is our Father, and because in Christ we are his children. Rest helps us to maintain our perspective on our place in the grand scheme of things. It reminds us that we are totally dependent on God. In Isaiah 30:15, we read, “This is what the Sovereign Lord , the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”
So as we embark upon the holiday season, I pray that at home or away, we will have the opportunity to enjoy precious time doing nothing but appreciating the glory of God and what he has done for us. And on camp I’m going to savour the opportunity to spend precious time with our young people and their families and leaders, as we take time out for relaxation, some rest (perhaps!!), but definitely fun and fellowship in the presence of God.
May God continue to bless us all,