Overworked and Underfed: A Need for Retreat
The evergreen trees reached upward and touched the clouds as if trying to glimpse heaven. Trails of smoke meandered skyward from chimneys atop homes nestled among the green skyscrapers. The sheer rock face rose as high on my right side as the valley plunged on my left. My eyes drank in all of the beauty unfolding before me until they were filled to overflowing. The road climbed higher and higher into the mountains until, I too, believed I could catch a glimpse of the Almighty.
This was my experience as I traveled to my first organized retreat. My denomination, Disciples of Christ, owned a retreat center called “Christmount” in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The Christian Women’s Fellowship of North Carolina (DOC) met there once a year in August for rest and renewal. The object was to fellowship together, with songs of praise and words of encouragement, as well as in solitude, with God and nature.
Hearing from God requires times of silence. Just as it is hard to hear someone speaking above the din in a train station, it is difficult to hear God amid the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Families require our attention. Jobs demand our focus. Churches need our participation. Everywhere we turn, burnout is imminent, without rest.
The Oxford American dictionary defines rest as “to be still; to cease from movement or action or working, especially in order to regain one’s energy”.
The book of St. Matthew, chapter 4, verse 11, tells us that angels came and ministered to Jesus after his temptation by Satan in the wilderness. As followers of Christ, we are tempted everyday by the enemy. We are not face to face with Satan himself as Jesus was, but we do meet his “minions” under the guise of strangers, coworkers, friends, and even family members.
When we are victorious against temptation, we must allow God to minister to our souls during quiet rest, to be ready for the next battle. Within Jesus Christ is a “well of living water”. We must continue to drink from it in order not to run dry.
The Oxford American dictionary defines retreat as “withdrawal into privacy or seclusion; a period of withdrawal from worldly activities for prayer and meditation.”
The work we do for the kingdom of God can also lead us into spiritual danger, if we are not careful. It is hard for some Christians to believe this. Working nonstop without time set aside for renewal and study, can lead to dissatisfaction and resentment towards our ministry and fellow Christians. The sin of comparison sets in. We wonder why our load is so heavy while another’s seems light. The joy of serving turns into disgruntled servitude.
According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, after Jesus’ baptism, he began his earthly ministry. He preached the Sermon on the Mount, healed multitudes of followers of their infirmities, and called his twelve disciples. Some of our schedules in ministry seem just as daunting at times. But, we continue on “full steam ahead” even though the gas gauge reads “empty”.
Let’s follow the example of Jesus Christ. The crowds continued to press in on him, but he realized that his spiritual tank was running low. St. Mark, chapter 1, verse 35 says: “And in the morning, easing up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” (KJV)
This verse can be both literal and figurative. Prayer in the early morning hours prepares our hearts and minds for the blessings and burdens of the day. Without a word from the Lord to encourage us, our day has the potential to spin out of control. Figuratively, the verse speaks about our spiritual health. Within our busy ministries, the Spirit will warn us early on when we are in need of spiritual retreat. We must heed His warning and withdraw from our work to be renewed. Don’t worry. Those in need of our help will still be there when we return. The difference is, we will be glad to see them!
Retreat is surrender to the Master’s care for instruction and rest where we can hear Him. You can escape to the mountains, but this is not required. A place of solitude is as close as your living room or back yard. What is required is uninterrupted communion with God and an obedient heart.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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