One of the writers who has provided me rich counsel in cultivating Jesus’s own rhythm of work and rest has been Elton Trueblood (1900-1994). Below is my paraphrase of a quotation from his book, The Lord’s Prayers (1965).
At times, Jesus would invite His disciples away from the demands of ministry and take them with Him alone and quiet in retreat. The gospel of Mark shows Jesus inviting them: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6:31).” Is there any better rationale than this for busy people in serving, healing, teaching and ministering professions getting away for regular times of retreat? These times of stepping away are no sign of failure or actual loss, but are an opportunity to regather resources for the good work given us by God. We return to the work of ministry renewed, revitalized and ready again. Such a rhythm results in greater progress than is produced by continual labor. Every busy person should see their lives in chapters. Some chapters involve active and hard work. Other chapters involve rest and preparation. In our hectic, busy world, it grows harder to find times and places to be alone and quiet with God, but it is still possible. Such a rhythm requires significant personal leadership and a conscious, deliberate plan. The rhythm of times away from our work enables us to bring far more to our work when we return. Being released from the pressure to produce, impress others or “be on” can be an enormous relief.
By the way, my book, An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest (IVP, June 2013), is now available for preorder on Amazon. And in case you’d be interested in the original Trueblood quotation, here it is:
“Sometimes Christ separated the Apostles from the strain of human encounter by taking them apart with Him, when their need was sufficient. “And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while’” (Mark 6:31). Here is the support for the requirement that busy people, especially those in the serving, healing, and teaching occupations, should engage in. periodic retreats. These withdrawals do not involve failure, or any backward motion, but rather a gathering of resources for renewed encounter. They are really advances rather than retreats. Every busy life should be lived in chapters, including chapters devoted to work and chapters devoted to preparation for work. With the world‑wide increase in population, the experience of absolute solitude is becoming daily more difficult, but for most of us it is still possible, providing it is included in a conscious and deliberate plan. Most people in public life would accomplish far more if each could have one week in the year when he does not see even one other human being. The relief from having to impress, or even to please, is potentially healing.” (Trueblood, Elton. The Lord’s Prayers. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1965, p. 30.)
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