Last week I had a ‘holiday at home’ and it was blissful! My sister came to stay, we ate good food and shed loads of ice cream, stayed up late watching superhero films, and gloried in doing nothing of consequence!
. . .And yet last week I also felt a disinclination to prayer. I was self-satisfied, self-centred, and worshipless.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that rest is bad, or that happiness and fun are unspiritual! I’m so thankful for time off work and good things to enjoy! I’m just saddened by the effect that it sometimes seems to have on my relationship with God.
I compartmentalise things, as though time with God is reserved for when I’m feeling serious or ‘spiritual’, or when I perceive that I’m in need. And yet if we approached our human relationships like this, how deep and authentic would they really be? When you are truly close to someone they share the complexities of life, but also the times of joy, rest, and random conversation.
What’s more, with God comes an element that doesn’t enter our human relationships, yet defines his with us. Worship.
When I look at the worship of the Psalms, God’s people are joyful in him, their happiness and enjoyment is increased when it takes place in his presence. They are quick to worship and praise God for his character and ways, and not just his direct blessings. They love to spend time with him in worshipful rest:
Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. Psalm 65:4
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1
Those who look to him are radiant . . .Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:5,8
This is a dimension that I need to cultivate! What can I do about this unhelpful tendency to exclude God from my leisure and rest, and neglect worship in my downtime?
Firstly I think it’s right to acknowledge my sin in this. God deserves my heartfelt worship all of the time, I dishonour him when I divorce rest and enjoyment from relationship with him. I need to repent and I’m begging God’s Spirit to perform spiritual CPR!
Secondly, perhaps I don’t hunger for God in my rest times because I’ve already filled my belly?
We all remember our mums telling us “if you eat sweets now, you won’t have room for dinner!” Sometimes we let lesser enjoyments spoil our appetite for a truer and deeper enjoyment of God. Even in my rest times, I need to create room to hunger for God. If my holiday routine is an endless search for entertainment – a constant carousel of Facebook and Instagram and Netflix or a solidly booked social calendar, where is the space for worship and rest in God’s presence?
Of course worship doesn’t have to be formal or scheduled, and it can be good for us to rest from our everyday routines when we’re on holiday. Our worship can continue in enjoyment that praises its source, heartfelt thankfulness to God, and unrushed time spent in prayer and in his word.
Finally, instead of just filling my days with mindless escapism and ice cream, I can be training my palate to crave the richer tastes and lasting rest of contentment in God; filling myself with the food of his wisdom, character, and kindness, and his thrilling promises for the future. I suspect that in eating my fill of these, I won’t feel such a desire to ‘escape’ in the first place (although it probably won’t affect my ice cream consumption!)
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
This is something I’m still thinking through, so if you have wisdom to share, let me know!