Why You Really Need a Vacation

Family vacations are fun. They’re also important. Vacations are an opportunity to rest from work, reflect on God’s goodness, and spend extended time with family we love. All three of these priorities are easily recognizable in Scripture. The importance of unplugging and resting from work is seen in the principle of the Sabbath. Taking time to enjoy and reflect on God’s goodness is exemplified throughout the Psalms. And the necessity of withdrawing to spend time with those closest to you was modeled by Jesus himself.

But I’m afraid that our view of vacations is often shaped less by these biblical priorities and more by the values of our larger culture. Our culture views vacations as a reward for hard and sacrificial work, an opportunity to experience adventure, and/or an escape from “real life.” And while many Christians pursue and design their vacations for these same reasons, these are not biblical priorities.

Vacationing for Our Own Glory
God has already given us more reward in Christ than we could ever imagine. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). We are called to work hard, diligently, and sacrificially not to justify some earthly reward but in response to the overwhelming blessings and rewards God has already given us.  A Christian work-ethic pours forth from the gospel, not from the fleeting hope of a weekend or a vacation.

Living in a fallen, lost, and desperately needy world as those who have been redeemed and have the Spirit of the living God dwelling inside of us ought to give us every opportunity for adventure that we could ever ask for:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.  
-Phil. 3:8-9

Our pursuit of adventure through vacation is usually just the pursuit of excitement without sacrifice. True adventure involves risk, engages our whole selves, and is more exciting than any theme park ride could ever be.

Similarly, escape (whether it’s through alcohol, television, vacation, or anything else) is not the way God would have us address our stress and problems. Escape simply pushes “pause” on our problems, and oftentimes even makes them worse. But in Christ, we are offered true peace and rest that no amount of escape can ever offer. As Jesus said:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  
-Matt. 11:28-30

This doesn’t mean that vacations are unhelpful or ungodly. As I mentioned before, there can be many God-glorifying aspects to a time of vacation, whether it includes traveling somewhere conducive to these purposes or simply taking some time off at home (a “stay-cation”).

Vacations for God’s Glory
Vacations can provide an important rest from regular work. God built a rhythm of work and rest into the very framework of creation. What’s more, throughout Israel’s history they were called to stop their regular work and gather together for times of celebration, feasting, and remembering. A rhythm of rest is important in our weekly schedules, but it’s also import in our annual schedules, too.

These times of rest provide unique opportunities to reflect on God’s goodness, to remember all that he has done, and to glorify him for his graciousness in our lives. David, reflecting on God’s glory in his life, coupled the glory shown in creation with the glory displayed in God’s word:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
     and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
     and night to night reveals knowledge….
The law of the LORD is perfect,
     reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
     making wise the simple;  
         - Psalm 19:1-2, 7

We are so often caught up with the busyness of life that we forget to step back and marvel at the work God has done in creation and in our lives through his Word. Vacations can provide a unique opportunity for this kind of reflection.

Vacations can also provide a unique opportunity to spend extended time with family that you would otherwise never be able to get. Again, you don’t necessarily have to leave the city to do this. Taking some time away from work to form memories together, enjoy one another, and lovingly minister to one another is a type of ministry modeled after the life of Jesus himself. Jesus was a busy man, but he would still take time away with just his disciples (and sometimes with just three of his disciples) to engage specifically with them, teach them, enjoy them, and expose them to powerful experiences that would shape their lives and hearts. Vacations can definitely be about “family,” but that doesn’t provide a license to promote your family as an idol and deliver them the most “epic” experience your money can buy. If vacations are to really be about family, then they ought to be designed to enjoy one another, rest with one another, and intentionally point one another toward the ultimate hope and joy we have in Christ.
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