There is a fault that I will confess to. It's not something new, rather it is a tendency that I have struggled with for years. The fault is my tendency to try to keep working even when my body is telling me it's time to rest. My guess is that I'm not alone in this struggle...
About six weeks ago I developed a bronchial infection. At first I thought it was probably just seasonal allergies (and that may have been a contributing factor) but my symptoms were different from my usual allergy struggles. Further, several of those around me (administrative assistant, youth director, etc.) came down with similar respiratory issues, all at about the same time. I tried to preach two weeks in a row and only seemed to intensify a voice strain. I then tried to limit my talking and increase medications (and things were slowly getting better) but after several weeks I was feeling more and more fatigued. I finally came to a day when I knew I just needed to "be still." For almost the entire day I: sat in my chair, read and prayed, and drank water. I kept the TV off and the cell phone muted - I simply rested in the presence of God. It was just what I needed. At the end of the day I wasn't "totally healed" but I felt like things were turning around. Sometimes what we need most (spiritual, emotionally, relationally, physically) is simply to be in a quiet place with God.
John Stott, in Appendix 3 of his book, The Living Church, describes how the discipline of taking a "Quiet Day" once a month radically transformed (he says "saved my life") his ministry. He describes a time, early in his ministry when he was burned out, anxious, and overwhelmed. He says, looking back, he wonders how close he was to experiencing a nervous breakdown. But then he went to a Conference and the speaker (Rev. L.F.E. Wilkenson) described the value of taking a quiet day once a month. This was a day to: rest, pray, read, meditate, plan, write, be still. Stott said he immediately incorporated this discipline into his schedule and the benefit was tremendous: "The burden of responsibility was lifted. Although ministry was still challenging, it was no longer overwhelming."
Is it any wonder that regular observance of a "quite day" would have such an effect when we find both the example of and an exhortation to this practice from the life and words of Jesus? Scripture tells us that Jesus frequently, "went off to a solitary place where he prayed." (Mk. 1:35). Further, to his disciples he said, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." This discipline of solitude was well integrated into the life and ministry of our Lord.
Sometimes we are stressed. Sometimes we are overwhelmed. Sometimes we are simply tired. Whatever the case may be; sometimes we simply need to find a quiet place and spend some time alone with God!
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.