We’ve been providing care, counsel, and prayer to pastors and other servants of Christ for a number of years. One of the most important things we do is help them to rest in God.
Every pastor and ministry leader I (Bill) know — starting with the one that looks back at me in the mirror! — needs more of the rest of the soul that Jesus offers us in his embrace (Matthew 11:28-30). Probably this is true for you as well.
How easy it is to be so busy with God’s work and caring for people that you neglect your own intimacy with Christ and miss out on the soul rest that you need! And when you are not resting in Christ, you will not be able to share his love effectively with others.
I want to share with you a meditation that will give you perspective and inspire you to learn to live in Jesus’ easy yoke so you can share it with others. It’s called “Rest” and it’s written by William C. Martin for the pastor, but it applies to all ministry leaders and Christ-followers:
If you fill your calendar with important appointments
you will have no time for God.
If you fill your spare time with essential reading
you will starve your soul.
If you fill your mind with worry
about budgets and offerings,
the pains in your chest and the ache in your shoulders
will betray you.
If you try to conform to the expectations
of those around you
you will forever be their slave.
Work a modest day
then step back and rest.
This will keep you close to God.
Before God’s rest gets in our soul, it’ll be in our daily schedules. So Martin concludes his thought on rest with this observation:
“One of the first things I look at when I begin spiritual direction with a pastor is his or her daily planner. It reveals volumes about that pastor’s spiritual condition, values, fears, and ambitions. It tells me who their bosses are, who their lover is, and how much value they place on their soul. If you’re working more than 50 hours a week, you’re not doing it for God, no matter how eloquent your rationalizations.
Take a long, prayerful, meditative look at your calendar. Who are you trying to impress? God? Give me a break. The congregation? Possibly. Yourself? Bingo!
Now cut some big chunks out of each week for family, rest, meditation, prayer, and flower sniffing. When you’ve done that we’ll talk more about the path to God.”
(William C. Martin, The Art of Pastoring: Contemplative Reflections; Martin’s writing is inspired by the Tao Te Ching, a 6th Century pre-Christian classic by Chinese sage, Lao Tzu. It’s written in the style Jesus spoke in, using images, parables, and paradoxes.)
My favorite way of understanding our need to rest in God is to get into Jesus’ easy yoke. It’s about an attitude that we carry into our work and our stress as I explain in my book, Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke: Rhythms of Grace to De-Stress and Live Empowered.
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: “Leading From a Rested Soul.” Leading from a rested soul is good for you! When we overwork ourselves to the point of exhaustion, it not only harms us but it leaves a mark on those around us. Bill knows this well as a ‘workaholic in recovery’ who over the years has learned to live in Jesus’ easy yoke. Bill & Kristi reflect on how overwork negatively affects their relationship, and their ability to care for others. Conversely, they share how rest in Jesus brings peace and removes striving. Listen in to discover how to find a deep and satisfying rest in God that overflows naturally in your care for others.
Listen to a past Soul Talk’s episode: “Burnout is Optional.”