By Vanessa Luu, Crosswalk.com
It can be difficult to work "rest" into your life, especially during the holiday seasons, but it can be done and will prove beneficial. Like anything new, you might struggle with the transition (mentally more than physically), but that's okay. God will help you through it.
God created rest for you. He always intended for you to have rest periods, and He modeled it in the Old and New Testaments. I'm confident you know you need rest, but you resist it anyway. So let me state this plainly: the only thing keeping you from adequate rest this holiday season is you. Accepting that you are getting in the way of your rest might be harsh, but play along with me and imagine how much better this holiday season would be if you incorporated rest.
You might enjoy the changing colors, crisp cool air, and adequate rest when you step outside your door. Maybe the flavors in your favorite fall drink would prompt you to gratitude and warmth with every sip. Without feeling frazzled by the hustle and bustle of Christmas, you may enjoy the lights and cozy nights and count them as gifts from the Father. You may even enjoy the blessing of your children instead of being short with them because you have too much to do.
When we rest in the Lord, we clear the distractions that block His peace. And we all crave the peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Here are some things you can do to practice rest this holiday season:
1. Let God Write Your Lists
Sit before Him with a notepad and pen, and let Him speak and direct you. Before creating any shopping list for food or gifts, be still before the Lord. Close your eyes (if it helps), and ask God what or who He wants on your list.
When shopping for people, consult God before you buy a thing. Ask how you can bless someone. There's no sense in draining your bank account (which is stressful). You may be spending money you don't need to spend.
I probably don’t need to remind you that our Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions aren’t found in the Bible. We associate Christmas with the birth of Jesus, but this holiday was never a part of the Bible, and the only gifts brought on that majestic night were to baby Jesus. I don’t share this to make you feel bad but to bring the holidays into perspective. Nothing is more important than time spent with our Creator. We focus on the lessons of loving others, standing up for the oppressed, and feeding the poor, but God knows if you spent more time with Him, you’d do all those things with minimal effort (and more energy) because you’d have His divine guidance and provision, protecting you from exhaustion.
2. Take 15-20 Minutes Each Day to Breathe and Be
Don't multitask with anything else. Find a quiet spot in your house or yard and breathe in the presence of the Lord. Offer silent or audible prayers and trust that everything God wants to do will get done, with or without you.
Often, we think that it's up to us to accomplish all the tasks on our list. We forget that if God wants us to do something, He will provide the time and the way. We also forget that our list may be no good. God might have a different schedule for you.
You prioritize yourself and many other things above God when you believe you're too busy to breathe and pray. And we know this goes against the first and second commandments (Exodus 20:3-4). Prioritizing our to-do list above God is a habit worth breaking.
God never told us that we must rush around and stress out to pull off the perfect holiday party. That is a pattern of this world that we no longer need to conform to.
3. Pray Before You Commit
Give yourself permission to stop and pray every time you get invited to a holiday event before you commit. It may be a good event, but it doesn't mean you're required to go/participate.
So often, the holiday season becomes overwhelming because we've overbooked ourselves.
4. Allow Yourself to Take Naps
Cleaning, cooking, planning, and shopping all take a lot of energy. During the holiday season, it seems like there's always something going on, so you'll need more rest than usual, and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with listening to your body when it's telling you to slow down.
Believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding you into rest because it's what's best for you. Choose to believe God knows what's essential and trust Him enough to stop and pause.
Resting is essential to the abundant life we have in Christ, even during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. God knows we are human, and He knows we need rest. He even commands it:
"Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience." Hebrews 4:11
If we believe that we can trust God with every detail of our lives, practicing rest should be a non-negotiable. If all the good we do is through the power of Christ anyway, then we can trust He sits on the throne while we take a nap. I can testify that God keeps the world spinning when the dishes are left in the sink for the third day in a row or sugar cookie scraps litter your kitchen table.
We have been conditioned to think that we have to wear ourselves out for Jesus because He died for us, and He deserves it; all the while, we have ignored the truth that God commands us to rest. It was never a suggestion. God's model of rest on the seventh day of creation only heightens its importance. God doesn't need rest. He never slumbers or sleeps (Psalms 121:4), but He modeled it.
And don't forget, Jesus the Son modeled rest and prayer in solitude. We don't know every move Jesus made on earth, but it's written more than a few times that He went away to pray or rest. He would escape the crowds because even though He was fully God, He was also fully man. And humans require rest.
We especially push ourselves to perform and produce during the busy holiday seasons, but did God ever call us to that?
Knowing the truth is empowering, but putting it into action is when we become obedient. There’s never a season that should be too busy for God. He wants us to rest. He wants us to be still with Him, even when the rest of the world is hustling and bustling.
Let me encourage you to implement these four rest practices this holiday season. Although we feel the need to be more productive, even when we are tired, we must be aware that our perseverance in productivity is opening us up to disobedience, works of the flesh. So when your mind or body is tired, don't press on; stop.
Trust that God is in this pause, and rest in the way He's calling you to.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/PeopleImages
Vanessa Luu is a wife, mother, and faith-based writer. She speaks and writes to believers to encourage them to live authentically with God.