A Plan to Rest Over Break

With Christmas and NewYears quickly approaching many of us look forward to a few days off work. There’s probably a laundry-list of house projects to finish, a TV show or two (or more) to catch up on, a fun afternoon out with the kids, or an evening out with friends. Our off-days turn into on-days and before we know it we’re back at work, hardly rested at all.

To our chagrin, we need rest. God made us limited creatures. To emphasize the point he took a day off work after creating. He calls this a “sabbath.” Unfortunately, we aren’t very good at taking sabbaths. We waste the time we set aside to rest on what we imagine is restful, but in fact is draining. Binging on Breaking Bad might sound like a break, but it can’t restore your soul. To truly rest we need soul restoration.

Don’t misunderstand me. Resting isn’t merely a good idea, it’s a command. Moses wrote, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you”(Deut 5:12). Why must we rest? “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deut 5:15). We should rest, because resting helps us to worship our savior. Resting is reflecting on God’s work in our life, his salvation, his grace, his mercy, his love.

We feel weary from work, marriage, friendship, and parenting. We think we just need to relax. Moses says, we need to worship. Our bodies may be weary, but so are our souls. As Christians, we come soul-weary to Jesus. He called himself “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt 12:8). He is bold to promise, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Yes, the house needs work. Yes, you and the wife need a date. Yes, a night in with popcorn and a movie is relaxing. No, none of these can restore your soul. Come to Jesus, and Jesus only. He gives rest.

So what could finding real soul rest look like over break? Here’s one idea: Take a morning prayer retreat. 

When? Before the moment arrives, begin by praying. Ask God to prepare you heart. Ask him to meet you. On the day, try waking up early. A little exercise helps the mind engage. Trade mornings watching the kids. Plan a time with your spouse or friends for everyone to retreat. Try and set aside at least 2-3 hours.

Where? It’s cold, so outside isn’t an option. Find a (relatively) quiet, and peaceful place. Perhaps the library, a book store, or a coffee shop. Go somewhere you won’t be interrupted by familiar faces. The goal is to seek God, not distraction.

What? First, shut off the phone. No work e-mail. No twitter. No facebook. Second, open up God’s word. In countless places, God promises that his word has the power to restore dry, weary souls (Is. 55; Ek. 37:1-14). Try the following plan:

1. Begin with adoration. Pray through Psalm 65. Reflect that you’re entering into the presence of the most high, the lord, the creator, the holy one, the king of kings.

2. Ask God to stir your heart with desire for him. Read Psalm 42; meditate on it; write down your reflections; respond in prayer.

3. Confess your sins to God. Read Psalm 32. Or use the following prayer,reading slowly, reflecting, and responding as you do so:

Paradoxes (The Valley of Vision)O Changeless God,
Under the conviction of Thy Spirit I learn that
the more I do, the worse I am,
the more I know, the less I know,
the more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,
the more I love, the more there is to love.
O wretched man that I am!
O Lord, I have a wild heart,
and cannot stand before Thee;
I am like a bird before a man.
How little I love Thy truth and ways!
I neglect prayer,
by thinking I have prayed enough and earnestly,
by knowing Thou hast saved my soul.
Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be
an evangelical hypocrite,
who sins more safely because grace abounds,
who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood
cleanseth them,
who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell,
for he is saved,
who loves evangelical preaching, churches,
Christians, but lives unholily.
My mind is a bucket without a bottom,
with no spiritual understanding,
no desire for the Lord’s Day,
ever learning but never reaching the truth,
always at the gospel-well but never holding water.
My conscience is without conviction or contrition,
with nothing to repent of.
My will is without power of decision or resolution.
My heart is without affection, and full of leaks.
My memory has no retention, so I forget easily the lessons learned,
and Thy truths seep away.
Give me a broken heart that yet carries home
the water of Grace.

4. Seek assurance of God’s presence, love and salvation. Read Ephesians 1:3-14. Reflect on Christ’s work on your behalf. Thank God and worship him in prayer.

5. Let God know your needs. Pray through Psalm 62. Ask him for help, energy and encouragement. Pray for family, friends, and co-workers.

5. Read a good Christian book. A.W. Tozer’s, The Pursuit of God, is a short, readable classic, filled with with spiritual encouragement.

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