Do you find it hard to relax? I do.
If God wills, I’ll have eighty years on this earth. Time passes too quickly. I feel compelled to make use of every minute I can so I fill my days with constant activity. I even knit while my husband drives. I have a stack of books beside my computer – all writing research related. I have a tough time saying no to anyone. I do a self-check at the end of each day to see what I have accomplished, then feel guilty about the black marks left on my white board of the tasks I didn’t complete.
My struggle to relax may be why I’m intrigued with the introduction to David’s affair with Bathsheba. “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joah out with the king’s men and the entire Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening, David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace. From the roof, he saw a woman bathing.” – 2 Samuel 11:1-2.
At this point, my brain hits the pause button. Do you see what I see? In Old Testament culture, kings, not generals, led the army to war. David was shirking his duty. In fact, David is so into the “I need a vacation” mode, his schedule is all catawampus. (I had to look that word up in Spell Checker.) No woman bathes in the middle of the night. That tells us David was taking a nap in the late afternoon or early evening. Odd time for most people to take naps, even if you are on vacation.
“Give him a break,” is my next thought. “He’s tired.”
He had all winter to recuperate from the last war.
But the dude’s had a busy life. Frenetic, in fact. Intense. Stressful. Have you heard of delayed stress reaction? Maybe David’s stress over the Saul years caught up with him Big Time.
I can hear him ask Joab, “Can’t I sit this one out?”
All well and good. The fact is, David set himself up to be tempted by the beautiful, disrobed body of Bathsheba.
Jesus knows we are more susceptible to temptation when we’re tired. The disciples were exhausted from grief, the Bible says, when Jesus went to the garden to pray (Luke 22:45).
I don’t know David’s entire story about why he languished in his responsibilities. But I know my story. I know what makes me reach the point of “I don’t wanna anymore.” Oh I may not betray my husband and kill to cover my sin. I surely hope not. But other temptations abound for the lazy. Movies, internet sites, reading trashy magazines, eating too much food of the unhealthy variety, mulling over problems or filling idle moments with to stew over long ago hurts.
Is rest bad? Should I feel guilty for taking time out for me? Is idleness really the devil’s workshop as our great grandparents would have us believe?
Not at all. Rest in and of itself is not a bad thing. From the beginning of creation – or at least the end of the beginning—God created the seventh day for rest. After an intense time of ministry, Jesus urged his disciples to come away with him to get some rest.
How do I relax without succumbing to a David moment?
Here are some ideas.
Short breaks are better than one long break. Don’t go until you can’t go any longer. Take planned breaks. That’s one of the ideas behind the Sabbath. Jesus said that God made the Sabbath for our benefit (Mark 2:27). Our bodies need to rest and recharge. I wonder. If more of us did truly observe the concept of Sabbath rest, would less of us burn out so easily?
Do everything in the name of Jesus (Col 3:17). Even my rest. It’s not a sin to take a break. I need to choose activities that honor my Lord rather than give in to my selfish destructive desires. Vacations are not the time to blow it off. Get away from that chocolate doughnut, Karen! Instead of eating because I’m bored, I can go for a walk, play the piano, or make homemade bread to give to a needy friend. Instead of reading a gossip Internet site about Princess Kate’s clothing errors, I can chat with my daughters or chase my dog around the house. It’s all in what I choose to do.
Watch and pray. Do what you need to do to relax but never let down your guard. That was Jesus’ advice to his disciples in Luke 22:46 when they succumbed to exhaustion in the Garden of Gethsemane. Satan is a smart dude. He targets the weakest link.
Let’s face it. Sometimes life is unavoidably busy. I’m writing this blog at 5:30 in the morning because my husband who has been sick for most of a week, woke up with a coughing jag. I can protect myself from Satan’s schemes by allowing myself to catch more rest later in the day. I can also do what Jesus said—pray. Here we go. “Lord, I’m really tired. I want to honor you in all I do, but I’m weak and bleary right now. Stand with me and deliver me from temptation.”
Take every thought captive. A wise friend of mine once said, “Everything looks bad when you’re tired.” She is so right. Many times in idle moments I’ve caught myself worrying, fretting and rehearsing the faults of others. In the midst of my downward spiral, the thought has come to me, just get some rest and everything will look better. Once I’ve had that good night of sleep, the problems and flaws of others no longer look so menacing. In those moments when my mind is tempted to go down prohibited paths, I have to mentally, intentionally turn it off and seek ways to rejuvenate myself.
Make yourself unavailable. That’s what Jesus did. After he fed the 5000, he sent the people away, told the disciples to get in the boat and he disappeared into the hills to pray. Another wise friend once said, “Sometimes the best thing I can do for my family is to lock myself in my bedroom for an hour and read a book.”
Depend on God’s strength to do the important. I feel sorry for Jesus in Mark 6. His disciples had just experienced an intense but awesome period of ministry and were full of stories they wanted to share. So many people were coming and going, they didn’t have a chance to eat. His cousin, John the Baptist had just died. Jesus needed time out. He tried. He said to the disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6:31).Yet, unlike David, he did not relinquish his responsibilities when a hungry crowd followed him. He rose from his interrupted respite, depended on God for his strength, and fed the masses.
When you think you don’t have the strength to go any further and God calls you forward anyway, that becomes your God-moment. Make yourself available, partner with Him to do what He calls you to do, and then learn to say no after the job is done. Discern the difference between doing what God has called you to do and caving to the demands of the crowd.
Make a list. I’m big on to-do lists. I’m slowly factoring time-out activities into my list. For years I had trouble coming up with ideas of things that help me relax. Yet I also found that when I was intentional in how I relaxed, I wasn’t as prone to fall into the David syndrome.
Tomorrow afternoon, I’m taking a break from my writing and making that homemade bread.