We looked at how rest - or lack thereof - affects us when it comes to sleep. And we know this. We all know someone who doesn't get enough, or doesn't get good enough, sleep and they're unhealthy across a wide spectrum of criteria: they're cranky, overweight, out of shape, depressed, with high blood pressure and so on and so on. We know that.
Did you know that a lack of spiritual rest does the same thing to us?
Yes, it's true. A lack of spiritual rest - a lack of soul rest - can make us cranky or depressed or anxious. It can cause us to overeat and underexercise, leading us to become overweight. It can raise our blood pressure from stress alone. And so on and so on and so on. All of the things that a lack of physical rest can do to us, a lack of spiritual rest can also do.
And perhaps most distressingly, a lack of spiritual rest can cause us to lose our spiritual passion. It can numb us to our spiritual ache. It can take us to a place where, in search of rest, we end up disconnecting altogether because we just can't do it any more.
If you have one worship leader in your church, I guarantee he or she is feeling this. If you have one preaching pastor, I guarantee you that he or she has felt this.
Many years ago, I was a high school student/young adult in my church, and I fell into the audio/visual ministry (by virtue of initially volunteering, but then I got stuck). For nearly six years, I was running audio or video or both every weekend for our Sunday service. These were the old days - PowerPoint and an analog mixing board. None of the fancy stuff that we have now. And I didn't think that it was affecting me.
We also had one guy running the front-of-house production - in other words, leading worship. And I'll never forget the first time he came to me and said he and his family were going to a different church on Sunday. "Sometimes," he said, "You have to have a chance to be a worshiper and not lead the worship all the time."
That really stuck with me. It prompted me to take a Sunday off and get out of the sound booth and go sit in the sanctuary with the rest of the congregation, and I'm telling you - that Sunday hit me hard. It was an entirely different experience than I'd had in nearly six years. It revolutionized the way that I thought about church and service in the church. (And some reading I've done in the past year or so has revolutionized it again, in an even healthier way, I think.)
Not everyone knows how to break away like this, though, and get some of that balance - some of that spiritual rest - built in. And the result is that a lot of persons end up leaving the church because of it. If not leaving the church altogether, they are leaving their church, the one they have poured their heart into for many years.
It's because they come to our churches, they plug in, they pour out, and they aren't being filled up. You can't fill something up if you're actively pouring out of it. Go try it. It doesn't work. You cannot put a pitcher under the faucet and pour stuff out of it while running the faucet into it and expect it to fill up. There has to be more stillness in it than movement, more rest than motion. Otherwise, it will never fill and before long, you'll have an empty pitcher.
Our churches are full of empty pitchers. And there just comes a point when that emptiness becomes too much to bear and church becomes just one more thing to do and all of life feels frazzled and what was that that Jesus said about the yoke being easy? Ha!
So spiritual rest is important, too. We need it.