The Discipline of Rest


I know you’re not very good at rest. Most leaders I know aren’t. Even when we’re not “working”, we’re always thinking and planning, or checking our phone for that “maybe it’s important” email or text.

But rest is a key part of a healthy spiritual life. The pace we run at has dramatic implications on the impact of our lives; it also reveals deeper character issues and motivations in ourselves that we don’t always realize.

About two years ago, an employee gave me a book titled, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer. I didn’t know it at the time, but the book’s message was exactly what I needed to learn – just not in the original way I thought.

One passage that really hit home for me said:

“Ultimately, nothing in this life, apart from God, can satisfy our desires. Tragically, we continue to chase after our desires ad infinitum. The result? A chronic state of restlessness or, worse, angst, anger, anxiety, disillusionment, depression—all of which lead to a life of hurry, a life of busyness, overload, shopping, materialism, careerism, a life of more…which in turn makes us even more restless. And the cycle spirals out of control.”

As I read through Comer’s book, I realized why I was restless.

I didn’t trust God.

I felt a responsibility to make things happen, to work hard, to always be “on”, to be ready.I didn’t trust that if I rested and took time away – whether one day a week or an extended vacation – things would be okay, and that God would provide.

If I’m honest, I would say that I lived with faith, but my actions proved I believed I was the one truly providing.

I knew I needed to change and to practice what I teach, so over the past few years I’ve made it one of my goals to take a Sabbath day every week. I take mine from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I shut my computer down. I put away my phone. I spend my time with God, my wife, kids, and friends. I don’t think about work at all but rather do the things that give me joy and perspective.

It’s now like an event on Fridays that I look forward to. It feels like a reward at the end of each week I’m running towards. I’m not always perfect and there are times I (or my wife, or my kids) have to catch myself from slipping back into bad habits, but it’s amazing how refreshing this day is.

This past summer, I decided to one-up myself and took a 3-month sabbatical. I had 14 years of catching up to do.

My team at Crew backfilled for me and gave me permission to take it. I felt very guilty and out of place at first. Emails and meeting requests quickly slowed down, and I found myself with a lot more time than I’d grown used to. I now know what retirement feels like – I hated it.

But I found the best remedy for feeling out of place was to plan my time.

I went on a spiritual retreat with my wife at the beginning. I read 5 books that included Canoeing the Mountains; Marriage in the Middle; A Church called TOV; Buy then Build; and The Worldly Philosophers. I worked on some passion projects that filled me up. Played and vacationed with the kids. Completed some house projects that needed to get done. Worked out almost every day. And all during this time, the agency continued to run smoothly. I was not as needed as I originally thought.

The discipline of rest in our society is not easy to practice; but it’s critical. During my Sabbatical, I discovered that the type of rest I needed wasn’t extra sleep; my mind needed a break. I came back feeling refreshed, fired up with new ideas, and ready to run hard again.

What do you need to do in order to take time to rest your mind? Do you have trust that if you take this time, your business and responsibilities will be ok? Can you plan and structure your responsibilities or business so you can rest your mind?

Let me leave you with this thought from John Mark Comer:

“That’s why Sabbath is an expression of faith. Faith that there is a Creator and he’s good. We are his creation. This is his world. We live under his roof, drink his water, eat his food, breathe his oxygen. So on the Sabbath, we don’t just take a day off from work; we take a day off from toil. We give him all our fear and anxiety and stress and worry. We let go. We stop ruling and subduing, and we just be. We “remember” our place in the universe. So that we never forget…There is a God, and I’m not him.”

Impact Challenge this week:

Professional: If you don’t have the practice of a Sabbath day, I challenge you to start this week. If you do, keep it up and encourage others in this discipline.

Personal: Schedule some playtime with your partner or kids this week. Enjoy the good weather while you can.

Spiritual: Take some time to listen this week to what God might be saying to you. Do you need rest? Do you need to trust Him more in certain areas of your life? Do you need some playtime?

Rest up so you can keep having impact!