Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Rest for Leaders
By: Eric Albert
Have you ever woken up in the morning wondering if you actually got any sleep, or if, really, you just tossed and turned all night thinking about all of the current stressors in your life?
Before we can talk about rest, we have to clarify what rest is not.
Activity, labor, work, motion, action, exercise, job- all of these words may feel reminiscent of this past year, or maybe even just your past week. Unfortunately, they all lead you to exhaustion- to being tired and discouraged.
To discuss rest, we have to understand that it comes in three forms, in this order:
In order to be mentally rested, you must first be physically rested. And in order to be spiritually rested, you must first be mentally rested.
"Physical rest is an important way to ensure you’re able to sustain the everyday demands you face. You can honor the vessel God has blessed you with by being intentional about resting physically."
Resting physically really helps you avoid fatigue; that way you are ready to fully commit to your daily tasks without feeling drained.
Making time to clear your mind and step away from emails, social media, and even TV will help promote a healthy balance of mental rest. Once you’ve been able to rest physically, you will be able to intentionally rest mentally and clear your mind without distractions and the pressure of getting things done.
As we know, balance is key, so once you’ve had time to rest physically and mentally it’s time to explore ways to rest spiritually as well. Spiritual rest will look different for everyone, however, it’s a critical type of rest for anyone in ministry. Spiritual rest can help you feel rejuvenated and refreshed during a time that has been busy, chaotic, or just full of distractions.
1 Kings 19 tells the story of Elijah, having done the Lord’s work in a tough season, feeling like everything and everyone is against him, to the point where he is tired of living. He flees, praying that the Lord would take his life. Later, God reveals himself to Elijah, but before that, he refreshes him. God is preparing him for the journey ahead- Elijah had to take a nap, eat some snacks God sent to him via an angel, and then he could start his journey.
You might feel a lot like Elijah pre-nap and snack right now. And while COVID may have been tough, maybe this ramping back up to the new “normal”- trying to get people back to church, put activities back on the schedule, and keeping your staff all moving in the same direction, is even tougher. You may be doing this all while feeling exhausted, tired, and discouraged.
With all of this in mind, let me encourage you to find time this summer to rest. Whether it's a few days or a week, get away by yourself or with a spouse to rest physically, mentally, and spiritually. Take a nap. Take two naps! Whatever it is that you need to do to physically rejuvenate, you should prioritize doing it. Read some books- not necessarily Bible books- for enjoyment, so you can mentally unplug. Then, spiritually, allow God to reveal himself to you. Allow him to show you exactly how he’s preparing you for the season to come, so that you can go back into your mission field refreshed and prepared for the journey ahead.
Here are a few practical ways to practice each area of rest:
Physically: Pursuing physical rest doesn't have to mean inactivity. Consider making time for a sport or activity you feel too busy to do most of the year. However, allowing yourself to physically pause by taking more naps, sleeping longer at night, and not stretching your physical limits are also very important aspects of rest this summer.
Mentally: Embrace a break from being mentally stimulated. It can be easy to feel guilty resting your mind after such a mentally pressing year, but take time to set your mind on things above rather than your tasks and to do’s. You might consider reading fiction books that allow you to pause your typical stressors, listening to podcasts that are strictly for entertainment, and certainly unplugging from devices as often as possible for as long as possible.
Spiritually: We’re not recommending you taking time away from God by investing in Spiritual rest. Instead, try connecting with God strictly for your own relationship with him rather than for teaching tools or to pass your knowledge on to others. Meditate, sit with God in silence outdoors, or do a bible study you’ve wanted to dig into yourself. Take this summer to refocus on your love for him and open yourself to what He has for you, so that you can come out aligned with His plans and purpose.
Here at Vanderbloemen, our prayer for you is that you would be equipped to do your best ministry, and that requires being rested. So go take that nap.