Our Need to Retreat

By Mark D. Roberts

October 4, 2016

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Mark 6:30-31


A Koala bear resting on a tree branch.Earlier in Mark 6, Jesus sent his disciples out two-by-two, giving them authority to engage in the ministry of the kingdom of God (6:7). They did as Jesus had said, calling people to repentance and healing the sick (6:13). Later, they returned to Jesus to report on their mission trip (6:30). Though Mark does not give us the details of this conversation, we do read one thing Jesus said to his disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (6:31). Jesus said this because “so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat” (6:31).

Have you ever felt like that? Has your life ever been so busy that you hardly had time to eat? Have you found yourself surrounded by opportunities and obligations, such that you didn’t even have time to stop and think, let alone pray? I expect most of us have had this kind of experience, whether in times when our inbox at work was piling up, or when we had young children at home, or, well, you name it.

I have been feeling like Jesus and the disciples this very month. As you may recall from a devotion I wrote a couple of weeks ago, at the end of August I spent five days in the hospital with a serious illness (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever). Though I have been healing well and should return to full strength in a couple of months, I missed over three weeks of work during my sickness and hospitalization. In my line of work, things don’t slow down when I’m out of commission. So, I’ve been struggling to keep up with my work, not to mention catch up on things I missed when I was out.

In times like these, and we all have them, we need to hear Jesus’ words for his disciples as if they were for us personally, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (6:31). This is an invitation to retreat, to back off from the demands of life to have time of solitude, silence, and rest. Even when I am swamped with work, I know that my soul needs this. Plus, I also know that there is plenty of data that shows how rest helps us to be more productive at work.

I want to encourage you to pay attention to the wisdom of Jesus. We all need times of rest and retreat, especially when the busyness of life threatens to overwhelm us. In fact, sometimes we need a retreat most desperately in precisely the times when we are the busiest. So let me encourage you to look seriously and prayerfully at your calendar, and set aside time for retreat. It might be a half-day at a local retreat center or a quiet park. It might be a long stroll on the beach. However you do it, take some time to get away and be with Jesus for a while.


When is the last time you stepped back from your daily life to retreat?

Do you need a retreat now?

Why not decide right now to set aside some time to get away and rest with the Lord?


Lord Jesus, how thankful I am that Mark has recorded for us this scene and your wise words. I’m struck by your sensitivity to your disciples. Though they were surely excited by their recent mission trip and thrilled to share with you what had happened, you sensed that they needed to get away, to be quiet, and to rest.

I expect, Lord, that you would say the same thing to me at times. Sometimes I listen to the whisper of your Spirit calling me to retreat. Sometimes, as you know, I just try to work longer and harder. Then I wonder why I’m exhausted, empty, even depressed.

Help me, Lord, to take regular times of retreat, so that I might be refreshed in body, mind, and spirit. May I learn to retreat with you, Lord. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Rest and Work: Conclusions

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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