By and large Americans don't value rest and relaxation, and fail to realize how much God can impart into their spirit while taking time to rest. On the contrary, we brag about how busy we are, as if the hectic pace of our lives is proof that we're important and significant. We feel guilty when we're not working, and we think less of those who don't keep their noses to the grindstone.
Let's take vacations for example; in Europe, the standard is five or six weeks of time off per year. Sound good? Well in France, the whole country basically shuts down for the entire month of August, and everyone heads to the beach or the mountains.
Based on my research, the only industrialized country in the world that takes less time off from work than we do is Japan. They work so hard that one of the most pressing health issues there is "karoshi," or "death by overwork."
Americans live to work and tend to be fairly materialistic, measuring success in terms of wealth and possessions.
God is very interested in the topic of rest. To Him, rest is not just wasted time, time when we could be doing something useful and productive. Rest, properly understood, has value, worth and purpose. In fact, it's essential to our physical and spiritual well-being.
My purpose in writing this column is to help you examine the balance of work and rest in your life, and not only the amount, but the quality of your rest, to see if it's what you need; what you were designed for. More importantly, whether the balance of work and rest you're experiencing is pleasing to God.
First, the Bible tells us that Jesus himself rests. Anything that He does is by definition a good thing. No one would accuse Him of being lazy or unproductive. Did you know that Jesus taught his disciples that it was important for them to take a vacation? Jesus' disciples traveled from town to town telling others about God and His love for them. They traveled on a daily basis preaching, teaching, and healing the sick. They worked so hard that they often didn't even have time to stop and eat or sleep. They became very tired.
When Jesus saw how tired they were, he said to them, "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.'" Mark 6:31 NIV.
The Bible then says, "So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place." I think it is important to notice a couple of things about what the Bible says.
First, Jesus said, "Come with me." When we take a vacation, we need to remember to take Jesus with us. Some people never give Jesus a thought when they go on vacation. We should include Jesus in all that we do, even when we are on vacation.
Second, the Bible says the disciples went away to a quiet place. Their main purpose was to rest and renew their strength. Some people plan a vacation that is so full of activities that when they come home, they are more tired than when they left!
I'm writing this column from Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Most of my family is here from around the country. It has been so peaceful that I could hardly remember that I had a little work to do for a couple of my clients.
I hope that you have a great summer vacation. Remember to take Jesus with you, and remember to set aside some time for rest and relaxation. Then come back home refreshed and renewed!