Rest is something that is difficult to find these days, which is surprising because God promises rest to his people; honest to goodness rest, transformative rest, supernatural rest. Are we missing something? Maybe.
Perhaps we are substituting something that looks like rest for the real thing.
Could it be that we have confused comfort and rest?
America is a comfortable culture. We drive out of our garages to the Starbucks drive thru lane, and when we get to work, or the grocery store, we search for the closest parking spot we can find. Comfort. We come home, possibly with carry out food, and collapse into our easy chairs to fiddle with our smart phones and watch television for hours at a time. Comfort. We get annoyed when our comfort is interrupted by traffic, or bad weather, or airline delays.
I’m not much of a Starbucks coffee drinker, phone fiddler or TV watcher, but I spend a fair amount of time in my easy chair, and am quickly bugged by traffic, weather, and airport frustrations. I like comfort as much as the next person.
God wants us to rest; he designed rest. He created the Sabbath, every seventh day, for his people to let go of their worldly concerns and focus on Him, to rest in Him.
That sounds simple, but rest is a surprisingly difficult concept to define. Back in the Old Testament, the Sabbath meant no work, for anybody, and it was strictly enforced. In the New Testament, Jesus caused all kinds of interpretive challenges by performing miracles on the Sabbath and saying things like, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) It seems that Sabbath rest was one area that was not clearly understood by religious leadership.
I’m not sure we’re any clearer on it today. Christians are not held to the Sabbath Law like the Israelites were, but God still wants us to rest.
Is our search for comfort going to lead us to true rest?
I don’t think so. Comfort is nice for a while, but then it becomes boring, even destructive. Sometimes I get involved in Facebook, and then I start reading articles, and one click leads to another and before I know it I’ve spent an hour or two…on what? I feel vaguely unsatisfied after an episode like that. On the other hand, when I get out of my proverbial comfort zone, I feel energized, I feel the Spirit of God, I’m learning something, and I’m ministering to someone. Then God gives me true rest.
Lord, help me to remember that next time I have a choice between seeking comfort and realizing real rest.
What are your comfortable temptations? Do you find them restful? How would you define God’s rest?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
I think this is a great distinction, Judy. I know exactly what you mean by that vaguely unsatisfied feeling after binge-watching or web-surfing or whatever. Those can almost be like addictions — and rest must be a sense of freedom, not enslavement. Lots to think about here.
“…rest must be a sense of freedom, not enslavement.” So true, Jeannie. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Your post reminded me of this quotation about refreshment:
“But what is work and what is not work? Is it work to dig, to carpenter, to plant trees, to fell trees, to ride, to fish, to hunt, to feed chickens, to play the piano, to take photographs, to build a house, to cook, to sew, to trim hats, to mend motor bicycles? All of these things are work to somebody. There are in fact very few activities which cannot be classed either as work or play according as you choose to regard them.”
-George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
Never really though about it before Judy. But so true. Comfort is not rest. It goes well beyond and deeper than rest. Yet what a comforting thought!
“How would you define God’s rest?”
The Jewish word for peace is shä·lōm’ but has much more to it than just peace, although inner peace is important. The word also includes welfare, health, prosperity, safety, contentment, friendship, completeness, and more. So, I’d say that shä·lōm’ pretty well sums up my idea of rest, which only comes through faith in Him.
Thanks Larry – Faith in Him. That says it all!