I recently read an overview of books entitled “How Christians are prioritizing faith and rest.” On the first reading, on the surface, it was a well-written, thoughtful article on the need for rest and reflection amid the currently busy and overburdened, frantic, and frustrating lives many of us live.
Who can argue with a need for that?
Then I noticed the disclaimer “Brought to you by [I’m not sharing the name of the publication] advertising.” Kudos to the publication for labeling it as advertising (though the disclaimer was in small very lightly colored type, which would make it easy to miss).
That alone did not disqualify the article, as advertising understandably pays for letting people know about resources that can be beneficial to their spiritual lives. These books appeared to have useful advice.
So what is my problem?
I could not get past a nagging problem for many hours after I read the piece. I decided to research them further and went on Amazon for more detailed descriptions and reviews of what was recommended and much of it seemed possibly useful.
Again, nothing blatantly in error, however the overall approach to the topic and many other things I have heard and read about how to deal with the challenges of contemporary life, even for Christians, seemed to be a one-sided focus on self-care, self-rest, and taking care of me. There is a need for all that and a balance necessary in our lives.
But, but, and yet….when I come across things like this I cannot help but wonder about how well-balanced and self-caring were those we read about in the Bible who accomplished great things for the kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul certainly was not—his life was one focused pursuit of preaching Jesus, getting beaten, mocked, jailed for it, sometimes left for dead, picking himself up, going to the next place and doing it all over again.
Jeremiah or any of the Old Testament prophets were certainly not self-caring and well-balanced as much of their preaching was mocked, ignored, and they often suffered terribly because of it.
Jesus was not as he left the comfort of heaven to become “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” and as Hebrews 12 reminds us, “who for the joy set before him, endured.”
The heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 certainly were not as the following description of them reminds us,
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them.
We want heaven too soon
There is a place for rest and peace when all will be well in our eternal existence.
For now, instead of thinking about how we can be self-indulgent, I think we do much better to remember that we are in a war. Life will be challenging; times will be difficult. To expect otherwise is not a true view of spiritual reality. To attempt to run from challenges can equate to going AWOL (absent without leave).
The decisions we need to make should not focus on how I can feel good, but what can I do well in the place I have been given to advance the Kingdom of God.
Far from admonitions to “self-care” I think we do well to remember the challenges of Amy Carmichael, who was a missionary to India for 55 years. She founded an orphanage, and later a school and hospital that cared for the children formerly enslaved as temple prostitutes and for their children.
When a young lady who was considering life as a missionary, asked, “What is missionary life like?” Carmichael wrote back, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.” (quoted by Elisabeth Elliot in A Chance to Die)
She also reminded us,
“We have all of eternity to celebrate the victories, but only a few short hours before sunset to win them.”
One more reminder
In my devotional time this morning, I read another reminder of the short-sighted view of self-absorption, where Moses reminds us
Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom. Ps. 90:12 TLB
When we have a deadline for a project it tends to focus our efforts on whatever we are attempting to accomplish. If I know I have guests coming I am highly motivated to tidy up my home before they arrive.
The problem with some deadlines is that we are not sure when they are.
The deadline of our lives is one of them. Ecc. 3: 11 tells us that God has put eternity in our hearts and we all innately know we are eternal beings. How much of that time we will spend on earth before we meet our Lord is what Moses wants us to consider in his Psalm.
Though we have no idea the exact number of days, we know they are limited, and this passage challenges us to use them wisely—for self-care or for Kingdom work.
Year-end or any time opportunity to evaluate
I am writing this at the end of the year and as we look forward to a new year, for myself I know that a focus on true satisfaction does not come from finding ways to make myself feel better but to focus on accomplishing as much as possible for the Kingdom of God. I am working to determine precisely what that means in my writing and media production.
I would encourage us all to take time with the Lord and to ask, “What do You want me to do in the coming year?” and “How can I so arrange or modify my life to accomplish Your goals?”
The Lord’s answer will be unique to each of us. Spend time in God’s Word, pray, journal, sit quietly, and repeat these actions until you get a clear understanding of what He wants you to do. I am doing that with you.
The delightful paradox of where to find true rest
One of the paradoxes of the Christian life, as Jesus reminded us, is that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matt.16:25).”
St. Augustine understood this when he said, “You have made us for yourself oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
I am not advocating a year of mindless work and frantic tasks with no time to rest but a challenge to lose yourself in activities, work, projects, and plans for the Kingdom of God that the Lord directs you to do.
In doing those things, you will find the satisfaction that you have accomplished tasks of eternal value and will find true rest for your soul.
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Postscript, this a personal rant, but I trust a well-informed one
Beware of advertising articles like this. They are not objective or balanced. They are part of the overall corrosive “influencer” culture that is so entwined with almost all media today it is almost impossible to read reviews of anything that are not paid for and not paid for in a way that influences what is written.
I can personally attest to the approach of this particular publication as I wrote for them in the past and discontinued my relationship with them when after writing a review of Bible software after its initial very positive acceptance, it was returned after being reviewed by the advertising department and I was told to modify parts of it to “pump up” software that took out significant advertising with the publication.
I refused and pulled the article. The loss of income at the time was painful.
I also later decided that neither I nor my ministry would never, ever take advertising of any sort, nor would I allow any sponsorship of my writing or participate in “affiliate” marketing of any kind, where for the mention of a product, you get a certain percentage of the price someone who gets it from you pays for it.
For a more details on how this system works and why I do not participate in it, check out this article, it is from my church communications website and applies to this site as well. https://www.effectivechurchcom.com/about-2/#toc-5
Know that if I like something and feel the Lord would have me tell you about it, I do it for that reason and that reason only, not because some financial transaction behind the scenes is taking place.