If you asked me about my relationship to the concept of rest, honesty would require me to tell you, “It’s Complicated”. Because I know I need to sleep at night. I love a good nap on a Sunday afternoon. I even know that I need to break from my work to engage in fellowship with friends and family. But beyond that? Most of the time I’m happy to keep working. I’ve worked through countless breaks because I wasn’t “at a good stopping point”. Cashed in paid time off rather than taking a vacation. Worked longer hours than I needed to. Committed myself to ministry and other activities – sometimes every night of the week!
Working – staying busy, I get. But rest?
I suppose when I was younger, I took great pride in the amount of work I did, the ways I was involved, engaged, and committed. It’s fun to feel needed! But even when that mindset began to change in me, I still don’t think I understood rest correctly. My philosophy was to do the things God called me to do, plain and simple. As long as I was not doing them “in my own strength” or “for my own glory”, I could serve indefinitely. No rest required. If I ever found myself in burnout, it must be because I serving with the wrong motives.
But that’s not true either. It’s entirely possible to burn out when we’re serving in His strength, for His glory, with all the right motives.
God rested on the seventh day of Creation. It wasn’t because He was tired. It wasn’t because He needed a time-out. He rested, and it seems to have been a model for His people to follow: intentional rest. I see three immediate benefits:
- It takes the focus off of me in the work I do. I can work and work, feeling like the fruits of my labor are directly related to the time and effort I put in. But stepping away recognizes that God will and does work in all circumstances for my good and His purposes (Romans 8:28).
- It allows me to look at Him, rather than the work I’m doing. Work can easily become trudgery. I can march ahead, one step following another, and lose the sense of why I’m doing so. Taking time in repose, reflection, and worship is important to keep the right mindset (1 Corinthians 9:26).
- It is an act of worship in itself. If I’m trusting God to work it out with or without me, if I’m looking to Him not only for my daily needs but for the ongoing work in people and situations around me – that’s really putting my faith to work. After all, the One who is worthy of my praise and worship is the One who is at work even in me (Philippians 2:13).
We are called to rest. And whether you subscribe to seventh-day, first-day, or non-Sabbatarian rest, the call is the same! Rest in your Creator. Rest in His sufficiency. Rest in the fact that your works will not bring about the change you want to see in people around you. Rest in what He has been, is, and will be doing.
This of course isn’t to say we don’t work. But our work is shaped by our rest. And work and rest alike are shaped as we worship and draw near to God. I for one intend for 2020 to be a living out of God-empowered work and God-empowered rest. Who’s with me?