When You Don't Get the Rest You Need

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31. 

Those were Jesus’ words to His disciples after one of their ministry journeys. A restful retreat: what a good idea! But did they get their retreat or did they have to wait?

I first came across Mark 6:31 when we were moving into our house and decorating. I saw the above quoted portion of the verse - because it is only the second half - on an etsy shop as a wall decal. I thought it would make a perfect addition to a restful bedroom or guest room space. 

But you know me: I have to go check out the context of this verse to be sure I am not resting on a promise that was never made. I ventured over to Mark 6:31. I invite you to do the same right now. You’ll be surprised to find the story panning out much differently than you thought. But here is a little teaser: I think the verse still makes a great wall decal. After studying the context of this verse, it will be an even more meaningful reminder of God’s power in the midst of our exhaustion.

As I mentioned, we were in the middle of settling into our new home when I first truly studied this passage. Our kids are little, and at the time, one of them was still home with me full time and the other in preschool. I was starting to get involved in my husband’s ministry and had just started teaching a women’s Bible study. Our oldest still struggled with nighttime anxiety. I was exhausted a lot. No wonder I was drawn to this verse. I wanted nothing more than going to a quiet place to be alone with my Savior in prayer and be overcome with a feeling of peace and rest. 

Are you longing for that as well? Are you overwhelmed with responsibilities and demands? Do you wish for a time of rest with only you and God but having trouble even getting the opportunity for a few minutes alone with your Savior? You’ll find out that the disciples were in the same boat. Let’s take a look!

The setting

The first thing I do, when I come across a heart-warming verse and want to know its context, is to read the headings and skim over the previous passages. Doing so, I see that Jesus had been performing a number of miracles and been teaching crowds with the disciples in tow. As He preached and healed, they learned. Then, starting with Mark 6:7, Jesus sent them out to similarly minister to the nearby villages. They had learned from the Master, indeed, and now it was time to put their education into practice. They went out in twos, preaching and healing the sick.

Mark inserts the story of the beheading of John the Baptist. It appears as a sort of flashback. King Herod, who had John the baptist beheaded, is becoming painfully aware that killing John did not accomplish the killing of John’s message. Jesus is preaching and His following is growing. Matthew actually seems to connect this event with Jesus’ decision to find some rest and solitude (Matthew 14:13).

Mark 6:31

Here, in Mark 6:30, we pick up with the disciples/ apostles returning from their mission. They all excitedly gather around Jesus to tell Him all about their experience. Have you ever come back from a missions trip or experienced somebody who has? They are full of stories, excitement, and exhaustion. They have seen God do many things, and they themselves have been stretched to the max. 

That seems to be the case for the disciples. Mark 6:31 tells us the disciples’ ministry had been in such high demand, they did not even have a chance to eat. Wow! That’s intense. Have you ever been so busy at work or so demanded by your little children or so focused on a task, that you didn’t even stop to take care of your basic physical needs? Maybe you wanted to but didn’t get a chance? 

Jesus recognized the disciples’ needs, and He recognizes ours as well. It is under these circumstances that He invites His disciples to…

  • come with him
  • by themselves
  • to a quiet place
  • and get some rest.

Sometimes you need to get away. Jesus is leading His disciples away from the crowds to a place where they can be alone. Do you need to get away? If you are a young mom, this may mean leaving the kids with dad or a sitter and actually leaving the house. If your job is so demanding that you know, if you stay in town, you will be called into work, consider a family vacation? Are you working from home and need to get out of the house and away from your computer, because if it’s near, you know you’ll squeeze in another hour of work? What will it take for you to actually get away from your demands?

Jesus invites the disciples to come by themselves. When you read “by yourself”, you may think it’s just about you and Jesus. I’m not knocking alone-time with God. It’s amazing! I encourage it! But if you take a look here, Jesus is not scheduling one-on-one time with each of His disciples. He is taking them as a group to relax and recover. Are you a part of a ministry team that regularly takes or should take a time away like this? Jesus invested into His disciples in a relational manner; that means, they did life together and learned along the way. If His disciples were truly copying His ministry style on their trip, they may have build similar relationships. Maybe they should bring this new friend, to whom they have become a mentor, and show him what it’s like to rest?! No! There may be a time and place for that but it’s not right now. Jesus is encouraging his team to take this time by themselves.

Jesus suggests a quiet place. Honestly, I think it’s hard for us to do that these days. We blast the radio in the car, take coffee breaks at a crowded Starbucks, turn on the TV in the background as we clean. We are not used to quiet. But I challenge you to find it. Where can you go to escape the constant noise and distractions? Where can you go to focus on rest and on God?

The goal here is to get some rest. Jesus sees the demands that have been placed on His disciples. He knows they need to recuperate. He sees you, too. Make an appointment with Jesus to get away and get rest!

What actually happened…

Off the disciples go to get some rest-time with Jesus. They travel by boat to a solitary place (verse 32.) But then what happens? Basically, the crowds won’t let them get away. They find out where Jesus and His disciples are headed and run to get there before Jesus and His disciples. 

Can you imagine their disappointment? I mean, can you feel their exhaustion, their hope for a time of rest, and then this… “Can’t we get a moment of peace?!” Isn’t that how you may react?  I would! Even Jesus declared this time of rest was needed, so you know you’re not wrong. You were trying to get away but the demands keep following you. 

What did Jesus do? He had compassion on the crowd. Just as He saw the needs of their disciples, He saw the needs of the crowd. They were lost and they needed the gospel. So He began to teach them. He may have taught them for a while and it was getting late. 

You know the story. The disciples let Jesus know it’s about dinner time and they are far from any food source. They suggest sending the crowds to the nearby villages, so they can buy their own food there. But Jesus asks His disciples to feed the crowd instead. The response is bewilderment. How could they possible feed that many people? It would cost way more than they have? Again Jesus tells them to feed the crowd, using the five loaves of bread and two fish available. By a miracle, all 5,000 men (plus likely a large number of women and children) were fed. And there were leftovers! 

This amazing, well-known miracle takes place in the middle of the disciples’ exhaustion. They haven’t even sat down and eaten themselves in a while, and here they are, feeding a very large crowd of people with very little food. They experience the power of God. 

When you can’t get the rest you need…

Sometimes, we try to get away and our demands follow us. You are on your way out the door for your mommy-break, when your youngest gets sick all over the living room floor. She’s crying for Mom. Are you really going to leave now? Ok, this little person, whom you love, needs you.

You are getting ready to close your eyes, to shut out the world around you for a while, when you get a phone call from a friend in crisis. I mean, things had been rough for your friend for a while but they just came to a head, and she needs her friend! Your quiet time will have to wait. 

You worship God by quietly studying His Word, praying fervently, and listening intently in your solitude. But you worship Him also, when you are running from place to place, ministering to your family and friends. A life devoted to the Lord is an act of worship. 

When those times arise, when your body is screaming for rest but the chances of rest escape, it is God who sustains you! The God Almighty will minister through you and open your eyes to what He can do in the midst of your exhaustion. It is far beyond what you can ask or imagine.

In a similar way, Paul tells us that God has used his physical ailments to keep him humble and looking to God for strength. He expresses that when he is aware of his weaknesses, he feels the power of God through him even more. So he rejoices in his weaknesses, because they point him to God (2 Corinthians 12:5-10).

Have you ever experienced that: God working through you when you felt like you had nothing left to give? His power resting on you while you were all-too-aware of your weaknesses? It’s life-changing to realize that in the midst of exhaustion, God gives you strength to continue in your calling. You can depend on Him. He will sustain you and reveal Himself to you beyond your imagination. 

Now go, get some rest

Alright, this is not a call to give up on the idea of rest. The reality is, we need rest. The reality also is, we don’t always get rest right away. But don’t give up.

In verse 45, we find out that immediately following, Jesus makes his disciples get into a boat and take off. He sends them ahead of himself to the next town and sends the crowds away. As we continue to read, we get the picture that His disciples are on the boat for the night, probably finally getting some time away. They are off at sea and nobody can disturb them. They get their peace and quiet.

Meanwhile, Jesus stays behind for His own quiet time. He goes up to a mountain to pray. Jesus truly taught us how to live a godly life, including times of rest and solitude. He took them, and so should you!

So pause for a moment and formulate a plan: When will you get away? Where will you find your quiet place? What will it take for you to get some rest? And remember, when you plan to relax fails, God will guide you through. His strength will sustain you. But don’t put off your rest too long. Even Jesus took time away to pray. 

Testimony time: Comment below and share about a time that God sustained you and ministered through you in the midst of your exhaustion. All praise be to God!