The Need to Retreat

Retreat is a funny word. It is a word that generals loathe to hear. For some, retreat is not an option. It is a word that must not be spoken. However, a wise leader will understand there is value in the word retreat. In the midst of a bloody and bruising battle, it may become clear that retreat is the best option.

We are all battle tested even though we may have no military knowledge or experience. Life is a battle, and not everyone survives. There are times when life beats us down, and it is a struggle to get back up. Defeat is a real possibility. When we are in the middle of the battle, taking fire from all sides, sometimes it is wise to retreat.

The Christian life is not a “no fire zone.” The apostle Paul uses military imagery to describe the life of a Christian. We are engaged in spiritual warfare. Our battle is not against flesh and bone but against principalities and powers. Our foes are “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). It is much easier to fight a battle when you can see the enemy. Our enemy is a master at disguise and deception. He roams the earth like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He lives within our churches and sometimes within us. How does one retreat from oneself?

The need to retreat is real. If a person ignores this need, then they could be doing themselves much harm. At times, it is essential that we step back and get away. A retreat gives us the opportunity to refocus and reenergize. We may not be able to retreat from ourselves, but it will give us the opportunity to recognize what is happening within us and address it. We desperately need this time of introspection. We live in a world that does not allow time for reflection. We are constantly busy. We are constantly on our phones. We are constantly connected. We need to power down all of our devices and retreat.

A retreat is a much needed time of rest. Christians often dismiss the idea of Sabbath as a Jewish practice, but Sabbath predates the law of Moses. Sabbath was a part of creation. It was something God observed (Genesis 2:2-3). Jesus often retreated so he could be alone and pray (Luke 5:16). A retreat is rest for our souls. It is a rebellion against a world that tells us we always need to be doing something. We need to be making money. We need to be having fun. We need to be volunteering. Sabbath was and always will be an act of faith. It is the belief that I can take time to rest, and God will provide. There are more important things in life than making money or having fun. “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36)

What should a retreat look like?

Christians will sometimes use the word retreat for a two or three-day getaway filled with activities. A retreat should not be a time where you leave your home and go to a place where you are busier than you were before. You should not fill worn out after a retreat. Instead of filling it with activities, you should create space. This will allow you time to rest or reflect. Activities are not bad, but they should not be the focus of a retreat.

A retreat is something you can do with a group of people, or it is something you can do by yourself.

The location or setting of a retreat is important. It should be a place that encourages rest and reflection.

Technology should be avoided during a retreat. Turn off your phone. Don’t check your e-mail. Leave your computer at home.

Fill your retreat with silence, prayer, and Scripture reading.

Scott Elliott is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Austin Graduate School of Theology. He lives in La Grange, TX and is the minister for the La Grange Church of Christ. He is married and has two sons. He enjoys writing about the Christian faith and posting the occasional film review. His articles and reviews have appeared in RELEVANT magazine, Englewood Review of Books, and other publications.

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Greg Carlton August 26, 2015 at 9:46 am

    The seventh day was a day of rest for God during the creation period but didn’t become the designated Sabbath by law until Moses delivered the law.

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