Though this is a shorter post, I’m going to start you off with a TL;DR summary… “Take time to rest.” That’s it.
I seriously can’t stress enough how important it is to find time to rest so that our relationships with others will thrive, so that our spiritual lives will continue to transform, and so that we can find the capacity to do all things well. As people (especially college students), we are told that we must be involved in everything, that we must say yes to everything, and that we must never have free time. We are fed the lie that it is healthy to involved in a million things all at once. However, I would argue that this is not the case…that it is indeed okay to cut back on involvement, that it is okay to say no to certain opportunities, and that it is okay to have free time. In an age of individualism and progress, we are continually told that we must never waste any time doing non-essential things––like resting. But, this argument fails to acknowledge the fact that God desires for us to take time to rest. He desires for his children to be able to relax and to be renewed in times of true sabbath.
It’s a tragedy that people are shamed any time they try to cut back on involvement or try to step away from responsibility. Don’t hear me wrong, I’m a huge advocate of serving and being connected to the world through our involvements, but if these areas of our life are not married to some type of rest, then we will grow weary and we will eventually degrade to the point of ineffectiveness. Look to the person of Christ. Someone that began a ministry unlike any other. Someone that had a heart for the good news of God’s truth unlike any other. Someone that we know sought to make effective use of his time. Yet, we see instances where Jesus values and partakes in sabbath rest instead of continuing in his involvement with ministry. Let me point you to Luke chapter 5, verses 15 & 16: “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” The report of Christ’s ministry spread forth and more and more people came to listen and to be healed. The natural response for Christ would be to continue to preach and continue to heal, right? Well, we would think so, but that’s not what he does. He withdraws in solitude to pray. He rests. In another instance in that same Gospel of Luke, we see that Jesus withdraws again to the mountain with his closest disciples––Peter, James, & John––to pray and to rest in the community of those he loved deeply (Luke 9:28).
It breaks my heart to see so many of my friends burned out because they think they have to continue to be involved with everything and because they never know when to say no. Refusing to take time to rest may prove to be okay in the short run, but as we continue to neglect God’s designed sabbath, we will grow weary, we will burn out, and we will become ineffective in the things we do. Rest doesn’t always have to mean physical rest. Yes, physical rest is important, but I’m speaking more to emotional rest. The reason responsibilities, involvements, and leadership positions can become so exhausting, is because they require so much of us, that if we don’t take time off from them, we will eventually run dry. Whether it be your leadership positions in an on-campus organization, your need to fulfill 20+ hours of community service a week, or whatever else it may be, if you only jump from one responsibility to the next, you will become overworked and drained.
My advice? First, learn how and when to say no in a healthy manner. As I mentioned above, I am certainly not calling for apathy nor am I calling for withdrawing ourselves from involvement in all that we do. It is healthy to serve, to maintain responsibilities, and to lead others. But, we must learn to say no to certain opportunities if we do not have the time or energy to effectively carry out those responsibilities. The saying “don’t spread yourself too thin,” is so true because the thinner we’re spread, the less we can devote time and energy into the involvements that truly matter to us and to others. Second, spend time in solitude. Some of the most refreshing and encouraging times I’ve had since being in college have been when I withdrew to the quiet and privacy of my room, my car, or even a park and spent time alone praying or sitting in silence. This time of solitude is emotionally refreshing and provides a break from the busyness of life. Third, enjoy rest with friends. Another one of my favorite ways to rest is to responsibly forget about responsibilities (that’s an oxymoron and I may not be allowed to say that, but I’m going to anyway) and to enjoy time conversing, playing sports, or doing whatever it is that I enjoy doing with my friends. Not only will you grow in community with those you love, but you will also be encouraged as you take time to rest from your responsibilities and involvements. If you’ve read this far, hear me out: don’t cut off the important things, and don’t become a poor steward of your time, but please take time to rest. Jesus did it, and we can do it too. For your emotional and relational well being, learn how to rest well. I promise it will prove helpful in the long-term. Enjoy a sunset, go for a walk, look at the stars, sit at a park, go fishing, or do whatever it is you enjoy… Stop running a million miles and hour and rest.