What God Says About Vacation
Once, after I preached on the Sabbath, I had a man come up to me afterward to talk. He told me, “Pastor, I can’t just sit and rest. I feel guilty. I feel worthless. I have to be doing something. ” This is a man who worked 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. nearly 7 days a week, feeding cattle before church and going back to work immediately afterward. I replied by telling him that God says rest, and so he should follow what God says… A few months later, this man in his early 40s had a heart attack. No joke.
I am going on vacation tomorrow morning. To say that I am looking forward to it is an understatement. My hardest grind starts in early January and goes through the end of May. It begins with two huge meetings, the budget and annual meeting, continues with at least three out of town trips, on top of which we have our incredibly busy Lenten season, Holy week, then high school graduations, personnel reviews, we hosted a conference, and all of that on top of the normal ministry which we do year-round. So, without fail, every year at this point I am ready for a refreshing break.
I am thankful that, in God’s Word, we find tons of reasons to take these breaks. I thought I would list some here, and a concluding thought for us to take with us as we all take a load off this summer (as best we’re able).
- The Sabbath rest. In the Bible, there is a weekly Sabbath, then a Sabbath every 7th year, and then a double Sabbath every 50th (although there is no evidence that Israel ever followed it). One of my favorite words is that the Sabbath day is a day for “refreshing” (Exodus 31:17).
- The Feasts and Festivals. One example is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Israelites did no work for 7 days after Passover. There were others Feasts and Holy Days where no work was done.
- Travels for Worship. Many people from all over the world came to Jerusalem for Pentecost. This, by definition, would have been time away from the grind to refocus on what matters and enjoy the company of family. Another example is Elkanah, who traveled to Shiloh to worship every year and make offerings (1 Samuel 1).
- Jesus’ Example. Jesus took extended periods away from work and ministry. Mark 6:31 is an example. After a brutal time of ministry, including the death of John the Baptist, they needed “a while” to rest. This was apparently above and beyond the norm. Elijah did this too after his showdown with the prophets of Baal – he took 40 days off (1 Kings 19:8).
So take a break this summer! Your time away is a gift from the God that loves us enough to let us rest. Those times away break the pattern of “work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep…” Paul wrote to Timothy that these things in our life are good gifts for us to richly enjoy. We experience parts of God’s good creation we don’t normally experience when we get away.