On Valuing Rest
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
We see that in the very beginning of the world, one of the first things God did was establish a day of rest. This was one of the fundamentals of how humanity runs, long before the fall, and before the Mosaic law and the Israelites were established. As he was establishing things like male and female, man’s dominion on earth, that kind of thing- the very foundations of the world- he also was establishing rest. It’s something God keeps talking about, of course with the Sabbath command in the 10 Commandments, (Exodus 31:15. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.) but also in the concept of the year of Jubilee, and how he commanded the Israelites to let their fields lie fallow for a year every seven years so they would be more fruitful. Although the sabbath laws aren’t exactly reiterated in the New Testament – we aren’t commanded to take Saturday off, per say- the concept of rest is still there and we are rather foolish if we ignore it. Take, for instance, the verse in Matthew:
“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.”
Also this one:
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”
Now, our country is, I think, one of the worst offenders in this. And I love New York City, but it is one of the worst places in our country for this concept. Rushing is glorified, overworking is considered normal, stress is as common as breathing, and everything is focused on making our lives as hectic as possible. We alleviate this pressure by- in the case of the world- medicating with drugs and sex, and in Christianity, packing our lives even more with retreats and programs to seek God and Bible reading plans and such things. All good things, but bad when applied instead of what God has set up for us- regular, scheduled, honest-to-goodness rest.
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
I think our refusal to rest comes about because:
A. There’s this constant pressure from society that more is more, and really, the pressure is pretty crazy in the church too.
B. Within the church, the pressure to always be Doing quickly turns into a need to please God with our doing- a feeling that if we stop for a minute, He might not be as pleased with us.
C. We feel like if we stop and unplug, the world may fall apart without us. This is at its core a prideful view, thinking that God can’t keep it together without us.
Rest isn’t about lying in bed or watching TV for a whole day either. It’s about unplugging from the frenetic part of our life, turning off notifications if need be, making specific and regular time to do what rejuvenates our spirits, and doing something that’s different from our normal pace of life. For office workers, maybe a long walk outdoors with no noise in our ears to drown our thoughts. Maybe painting or cooking or dart throwing or goodness, whatever makes you feel ready to tackle humanity again.
And of course, lots of time spent with God, not for any purpose related to work, like writing sermons, but just to see what God wants to say to ME, and to be present with Him like we are with a friend in companionable silence. It’s like what David talks about in Psalm 23-
“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
It can feel impossible to set aside a day every week for this, but this isn’t really an optional thing long-term, as so many ministry leaders have exemplified with their burnouts and breakdowns. It can start even with an evening a week- half a day a week- whatever you have to do to get into the rhythm of this. But given our schedules and calendars, it doesn’t just happen- it has to be intentionally set aside for that. And as we submit ourselves to God’s design for this, I think we’ll be amazed at what it does for us. Clearer minds, renewed energy, better focus, and renewed joy. Check out The Ruthless Elimination Of Hurry by John Mark Comer for more and much better articulated thoughts on this subject. I promise it’ll step all over your toes, if you live anytime in this current century.
I think a good summation of the view Christianity versus the world holds on rest is this: Buddha’s final words are “Strive on, untiringly”, and Jesus’ final words are “It is finished.”
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