Summer Vacation or Summer Rest?

(Note: Beginning with today’s blog, there will now be a video companion where I talk through the content of the blog. Check out the YouTube link here:

During my earlier years, I distinctly remember the tastes and sights of summer when school let out. It was a time of unstructured play, of romping through the backyard woods, of riding bicycles until the shadows faded into dusk, of feeling free and unfettered. It was also a time to be quiet with reading or stamp collecting. Time was my friend, offering an unending stream of adventure and rest. But alas, those days are nearly lost in the foggy recesses of my mind. I can only recall with effort the feel of them.

What is more familiar to me as an adult is the experience of the vacation. We “vacate” our familiar premises for something new and hopefully something restful. If we are married and have children, it becomes the family vacation, a chance to pull everyone out of known routines and spend time together. There is nothing wrong with the idea of a vacation and much that is commendable. But rest does not necessarily follow. I have heard friends speak jokingly of needing a vacation from their vacation. Behind the humor lurks a reality. We can come back just as frazzled from a vacation as when we left, sometimes more so.

The human body and soul require rest to grow. One of the training points I stressed to my runners during my coaching days was the necessity of rest. Muscles do not grow stronger when they are stressed. They do so only when they rest and recover. Without rest, they succumb to fatigue and begin to strain and tear. Our souls are no different. We grow stronger when we rest. Without it, our souls will show increasing strain and begin to tear. The Bible speaks of the Sabbath day of rest not as an imposition but as a gift. It is for our good.

But there are no boundaries in our culture for rest. We are expected to do more with less. We are expected to work harder and meet quicker deadlines. The Sabbath idea of rest feels like a dinosaur, long since extinct, only to be viewed in a museum of cultural artifacts. But the price tag is massive. Our souls are strained. And they are tearing. 

The prophet Isaiah called his people back to the rest of trusting the living God: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Is. 30:15a). There it is. Rest is salvation. Quietness is strength. And it comes from a posture of repentance and trust, no longer cobbling together a life without God. But the response of the people was tragic: “you would have none of it” (v. 15b).

That refusal to rest is the beginning of soul suicide.

Much of my ministry work involves helping others find rest, real soul rest. It requires detoxing from cultural expectations and rewiring personal habits. But I find such a deep hunger for this. It is the rest of communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the rest out of which we were created to work. It is the rest that will one day swallow the vain frenzy of this world and envelop it with glory. 

This summer, the real challenge for you may not be carving out a week or two for vacation. It may be finding rest, real soul rest. It will not come easily. You will have to fight for an hour or a morning of it, or a whole day — or even a weekend. But you will not be disappointed. You will not come back needing to find rest from your rest. You will have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. And the memory of it will linger with you back in the world of deadlines and to-do lists.

It is the memory of the Lord’s presence, the One who longs to give rest to your soul today.

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