Written for and published by Phelps County Focus.
“Summer is almost here and it’s made for relaxing! Based on the last several summers, it’ll be too hot to do anything but sit by a pool or lay on a beach. When that gets old, there’s always sleeping in, staying up late to watch Netflix, delivery drivers, and cold AC.
“Or better yet, take out a little loan for a vacation to Florida. Buy that new car (it’ll be safer for travel), and go ahead and charge the landscaper to the credit card for mowing. It can all be paid back quickly this fall with that holiday bonus that’s probably coming. The memories made during the time saved will be priceless.
“Church on the weekends? But there are only about eight weekends to enjoy before the school year starts again, and you did just go to those Easter services. God loves you and wants you to enjoy this life He made for you, especially in the nice warm weather. He understands, and even expects you to be away from church for the summer months. You can always start back when school begins again.”
If you remember hearing about the temptation of Christ in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, or Luke, or if you’ve ever read C.S. Lewis’, Screwtape Letters, the thoughts presented above might sound familiar, just updated for our day and age. But that same voice is still behind these thoughts: he who is most effective at taking the blessings and love of God and then exploiting them in various ways.
So often the devil takes God’s gifts and encourages their excess, turning them into habits of laziness and self-centeredness, resulting in addiction. He appeals to our God-given desires and then suggests that we go beyond what is healthy to enjoy them. If we withstand these temptations, one of his final and strongest oppositions is to get us to just delay doing the good that we know.
Eating, drinking, and being merry are all blessings from God that make life beautiful. But when good things like these are done for their own sake, to the exclusion of God, they become empty and cause harm to ourselves and others rather than good.
Whenever life’s pace changes, especially during these upcoming summer months, our souls plead with us to “take a break”. The enemy of our souls makes suggestions like those above. But what would it look like to spiritually take a break?
In John chapter 7, Jesus Christ says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Maybe you have a relative who used to rise before the sun to read their Bible? When we can do something like this, sneaking the best moments of our day to remember and be quiet with the Lord, the grace-filled rejuvenation that comes through them is miraculous. In the Book of Genesis, one of the very first lessons learned is to give to God our first and finest – this obviously doesn’t just apply to livestock or crops – it applies to our time and attention, to our hearts. This is one of the reasons why Sunday has always been the day for worship, being the first day of the week.
Does your church offer more opportunities to be with God this summer? A family or summer camp? A mission trip? A pilgrimage? If they don’t, maybe you could help organize one.
Summer is almost here, and there will only be about eight weeks to enjoy all the opportunities presented by God: Church on the weekends and relaxing Sunday afternoons with family and brothers and sisters in Christ. It’ll probably be hot, so helping the kids with a lemonade stand (while enjoying some yourself, of course) will be a wonderful way to raise money for that mission trip or to sponsor someone for summer camp. The memories made will be priceless. Rest in the knowledge that the peaceful sunrises and beautiful sunsets this summer will have been prepared by God for you because He loves you. (These are just a few quick ideas on how to respond to our desires during the change of pace this summer.)
I know I’ve found myself at the end of a summer wondering where it went, and that I needed a vacation after returning from vacation. Maybe you have too. Let’s not fall into the “fake break” trap again; let’s take a real break this summer and enjoy every opportunity to spend time with the Lord. For He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
Father Joel Wilson is the Priest at Annunciation Orthodox Christian Church in St. James. Easy to spot around town, the black robe (cassock) that Fr. Joel wears is the uniform of Orthodox clergy, which helps remind him and you of God’s presence and love. Father Joel and his wife Presvytera Tessi moved here in 2014. They have been blessed with eight children, and feel increasingly grateful to call Phelps County “home!”