Retreat – “… 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.” – Luke 5:15-16.
Talking about rest is often like speaking another language, in the world that we live in. As people, the workplace, and even work itself, become more and more accessible through technology, the expectations to always be ‘switched on’ seem only to grow. We check our emails, arrange appointments, delegate tasks, not only while we’re “at work” now, but even from our bed, as our eyes beg to finally shut at the end of what has already been a long day. It is becoming more and more common to just be perpetually tired.
For those of us living and functioning in such a society, there is good news; very good news, in fact… we were never supposed to live this way! Isn’t that liberating? Doesn’t that explain so much about the difficulty we have? To fight the human (and divine!) need to rest is literally to drive ourselves further and further into the grave – not just physically, but also socially, emotionally, mentally – and especially spiritually.
Resting takes effort, though, doesn’t it – what a paradox. Even Jesus fought very hard for His rest. There is no question about His compassion for people. It’s not that He didn’t want to help 100% of the time; it’s that He couldn’t. Jesus couldn’t. The fact that Jesus slept on a tiny boat in the middle of a heavy storm (Matthew 8:23-37) is one indication, of many, of how much He needed rest of every kind.
Today, much of Canberra Baptist Church is away resting; taking a moment out of our year to catch our breath, at our yearly church family camp at Lake Tabourie. ‘Retreating,’ as many call this practice of taking time out, is an incredibly wise and spiritual discipline that flies in the face of the world I described above. In my experience, it is often while ‘retreating’ that God is able to finally get through to us.
God, it is said, worked six days and rested on the seventh. In other words, it wasn’t enough for God just to work. He worked for a reason; so He could enjoy everything He had done on that seventh day. It parallels to the work of Christ Himself; “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2.
It is not enough to go through life and just work. Perhaps you have been working hard lately; and maybe even for those you love dearly. Perhaps you have felt duty-bound to force your eyes to remain open, just thirty seconds longer… perhaps you have felt the pressure of assignments, and readings, and tasks, heaping up on you like a backpack full of stones. God’s message to you is not to work harder; but exactly the opposite… “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28.