I have taught some sort of Bible class since I was a teenager. Teaching the Bible usually means reading the passages you are planning to use in your lesson. You may even read additional scriptures as you write the lesson.
For many years, I thought reading the Bible daily in preparation for teaching was what I needed to stay spiritually healthy. It took many years to learn that reading the Bible to teach it to others is very different from reading it to stay spiritually healthy yourself.
When I was younger, I also struggled with the idea of quiet time with God. The kind Jesus seemed to have when he went off by himself to pray. As an extrovert who loves staying active, the idea of sitting quietly for a period of time seemed about as appealing as crossing my legs and muttering ohm.
Finally someone pointed out that for some people, quiet time may need to be a little more active and a little noisier. Taking long walks, while I prayed and reflected on scripture and ministry works best for me. You may need to experiment with what works for you. Just be careful not to be so active or have too much noise where you become distracted from your time with God.
Perhaps the toughest lesson for me to learn, was to fully embrace a regular Sabbath type rest. Christians worshipped on Sunday from the very beginning, and the concept of Sabbath rest was lost. Yet the elements of the Sabbath rest – rest from work and ministry, connecting with God through scripture, prayer and reflection and allowing beauty and creativity to envelope you – are essential for our spiritual health, too.
The benefit to this new concept of Sabbath rest is, like Jesus, we can take it on any day or at any time we need it. The challenge is to do it regularly and not wait until you are spiritually exhausted.
If you have allowed yourself to get to the point of spiritual exhaustion, it may take more than a few hours or even an entire day to return to a place of spiritual health and energy. Give your soul the healing time it needs. Don’t limp along trying to do the things you need to be spiritually healthy as little as possible to merely survive.
Finally, don’t neglect Christian community. I will be honest. This is the lament I hear from people involved in ministry – volunteer or paid – on a regular basis. There seem to be few Christians who are willing to listen to people who spend hours a day trying to minister to others and help them process everything that is happening around them. People who minister to others daily all know they have prayer, but all express a wish for people who will truly rejoice when they rejoice in ministry and mourn when they are mourning…who will encourage when they are discouraged, without micromanaging or suggesting they “do less”.
If you are reading this and haven’t found your place in ministry, perhaps that is who God is calling you to be…the person who is Barnabas for foster and adoptive parents, parents of children with special needs, ministry volunteers and workers, missionaries and more. The Church desperately needs more people like Barnabas.
Whether you are in need of spiritual rest and rejuvenation or a potential Barnabas for those who need encouragement in their ministry, commit to making the changes you need to help yourself or others be as strong as they can so they can continue serving others and sharing their faith. It’s a need we as Christians desperately need to address.