Switchfoot has a song entitled “Adding to the Noise.” The first line says, “What’s it gonna take to slow us down, to let the silence spin us around.” The chorus of the song even admonishes us to turn the song itself off:
“If we’re adding to the noise
Turn off this song
If we’re adding to the noise
Turn off your stereo, radio, video”
Out of all the spiritual disciplines, I think I struggle with this the most, that is to turn off the noise and be still before God, to rest and be restored in his presence. Our culture pushes us to perform, produce, to do. There is always something new pulling for my attention, my affections, my money and my time. And being a Teen Challenge staff member can be brutal on our schedules and private time, especially if you live near or with the students.
I think Jon Foreman got it right in the song; rest doesn’t mean slowing down by watching another movie, flipping through the TV channels, or playing a video game. Although they may provide some needed distraction, I don’t find that they provide the rest that my spirit and soul really needs. We need rest that not even sleep can bring, although that is very important to our sanity as well!
I have been thinking about exercise, working out and running, as I have been trying to do a little of it. Every good exercise training program includes rest. Without rest you don’t give your muscles time to heal and grow stronger. I have noticed that my greatest increases in speed or strength (even though still small) occur after I have worked out for a few days and then rest for a day or two.
I think the same principles apply spiritually. We give, serve, love people, exercising our spiritual muscle, but if we do that without rest, we begin to strain and stress and become weary. We don’t give ourselves time to find renewed spiritual strength and vision.
I think God may have had our best interest at heart when he came up with the idea of a Sabbath; taking time to be still, to be quiet before him. “Be still and know that I am God.”
One of my favorite scriptures is found in the book of Revelation. A picture of Christ and the relationship that he wants with me, that compels me to rest, to be still.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.”
(Revelation 3:20 ESV)
When we want to get with a friend and take time to visit with them, what do we say, “Hey, you want to go to lunch?” Jesus is inviting himself over for lunch to sit down, just you and him. Wow! What a beautiful picture of slowing down, of relationship. Have you ever been with someone that inspired you, that you were excited to be with and learn about. When I have been at a meal with such a person my focus is not on the food, but on the person. But to hang out with Jesus, that takes it to another level!
So, what does this rest look like for you; time with you and Jesus? Everyone is a little different than the next person. Time in the morning or evening, even a few moments to pause here or there throughout the day to refocus my affections and attention. An extended rest is also needed on a regular basis. Time set aside to pray and listen. A Sabbath. A time of rest from the exercise (works). For me it takes deliberate planning and discipline. It takes a step of faith, believing that I can accomplish more by resting and being in his presence, than I can by relentlessly pushing myself and working non-stop. (See the wagon train story below.)
I sometimes get discouraged, disillusioned because God doesn’t speak to me, but have I really given him the chance? We do need to “turn off the noise.” God is in the silence.”They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…”
Think about it:
- Do you have a deliberate plan for spiritual rest?
- Do you need someone to hold you accountable to spiritual rest?
- Read Psalm 1 and think about it in light of this article.
“The story is told of a wagon train on its way from St. Louis to Oregon. Its members were devout Christians, so the whole group observed the habit of stopping for the Sabbath day. Winter was approaching quickly, however, and some among the group began to panic in fear that they wouldn’t reach their destination before the heavy snows. Consequently, several members proposed to the rest of the group that they should quit their practice of stopping for the Sabbath. Finally it was suggested that the wagon train should split in two groups-those who wanted to observe the Sabbath and those who preferred to travel on that day. The proposal was accepted, and both groups set out and traveled together until the next Sabbath day, when one group continued while the other remained at rest. Guess which group got to Oregon first? You’re right. The ones who kept the Sabbath reach their destination first. Both the people and the horses were so rested by their Sabbath observance that they could travel much more vigorously and effectively the other six days of the week.”
(Marva Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, p. 65)