You have one more test. . .
So you have finished another year of studies, and are now likely tired. Exams are behind you, but you still have one more test.
This is a test of your practical theology and of your spirituality. This is a test of your anthropology (what it means to be human, created, and dependent on God), your theology proper (doctrine of God, especially his infinite perfection, his providence, and his wisdom), and your hamartiology (sin and its impacts).
The test is, How will you rest?
Perhaps you are excellent at both rest and work. If so, you are rare.
But first, re-examine yourself; ask some honest friends or family to give their diagnoses. Thank God if you are well-formed at rest and work, for most of us aren’t. (I certainly wasn’t as a slack young man at College.)
Solomon was right in Ecclesiastes 12, Of the making of many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. A year of College is hard. Add to that Covid-19, lockdowns, screen fatigue, isolation, ministry, masks, and money, and it’s been a marathon we weren’t quite ready for.
The disciples walked with Jesus, and still grew so tired that he took them away for rest. Jesus grew so tired he slept in stormy boats and sat on the edge of a well. We are made of the same finite, human stuff.
Christopher Ash, in his fine little book Zeal without burnout: Seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice, reminds us that if we live without sleep, sabbaths, friends, and food, then we are making ourselves too much like God, and too little like his people. I would add, even too little like the incarnate Son.
Buy it, and read it slowly. And buy a hard copy, because you will probably need to read it again.)
I am sure that nearly all of you are weary now.
My godliness is closely tied to my restedness. If I am tired, I am more prone to sin and temptation. I become even less delightful to live with.
At this end of the year, I’d recommend diagnosing your tiredness with questions:
- Do others thank God for me, and do they want to grow up and be like me?
- Am I currently gracious and gentle? And am I increasing in these?
- Am I showing love to those around me?
- How am I going at exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22-23)? Love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
- Am I delighting myself in God? – Not study. Not just ministry. But in God himself.
- Am I happily praying to him in all things, and depending on him?
- And ask a trusted couple of people how you are doing in these, and whether weariness is hindering your godliness. Remember Proverbs: The wounds of a friend are faithful, and the wise person welcomes a hard word.
- Get and read Ash’s book (which I will review in a future post).
- Look after your soul – sadly, it is all too easy to let our spiritual disciplines and devotional life slip up during the urgency of College and assessments. But if we do that now, what will we do in the busyness and workload of ministry?
- Feast on the Lord and ponder his ways. Read your Bible devotionally, not just academically and exegetically.
- Pray, confess, repent, praise, and bless the Lord.
- Focus on your important relationships. Again, now is the time to train yourself to maintain and grow your relationships with family and friends. If you are going into ministry, the future won’t be less busy. Get this one right, now.
- And if you have to read your Calvin for Second, Third, or Fourth year, read him with your mind and heart, and with joy and devotion. The same with your summer translation work. Engage your heart as well as your mind. And remember that engaging the heart takes time, so give it sufficient time.
- My wife, who mentors women and supervises Christian workers, reckons there are three levels of rest we need:
- Recovery – When we are just washed out and burned out. Sleep. Eat well. Blob a bit. Chill out. We want to avoid getting to this level. But after 2021 with Covid study and ministry, many need it.
- Restorative – To refresh us so we can return to study or commence work or ministry. Do what refreshes your body and mind. Read a book for fun, get a healthy dose of exercise, do something to laugh, reduce your screen time (especially if you find that hard to do), enjoy alone time (you introverts). Or enjoy friend and family time (you extraverts).
- Recreative – To get us back to our creative best. Do something creative to actively (Creativity is divine, after all.) Enjoy a hobby, cook, garden, do a project with a tangible result.
Finally, a goal:
We come to College to prepare for a lifetime of ministry and godliness. So we sweat and we swot and we work at the Scriptures, for we are word-based people. But we also train in godliness and endurance. If College is just academic and intellectual, then it is an abomination to the Lord. No, we aim to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul, all our mind and strength. Engage your mind. Engage your affections.
But this is the place where we also aim to grow in the other foundations of sustainable, godly, grace-modelling ministry. The habits we build now will help or hinder us from here on. Start now in this academic crucible of endless and draining assessments to learn the grace of resting in the sufficiency of our infinite, wise, and loving Father.
He is infinite. We are finite and dependent.
So take time this summer to rest and refresh yourself, as our Father allows.