When most of your days are spent at home, are the lines blurred between rest and other activities. Does it matter?
This pandemic has played havoc with our rest; we are out of balance. Those who are driven to work will be inclined to work too much; those who love to rest may binge watch and sleep like they never have before. We’re doing our best to adjust, but it’s rough.
Let’s see what God has to say about rest to find some balance.
Biblically, rest is difficult to define and important to understand. It’s a multi-layered term meaning everything from simple sleep to anxiety free living to eternal life with God.
On the very first pages of Genesis, God demonstrated that rest was important. He rested after doing his creative work. We all know what it’s like to finish a difficult job and to be satisfied with the result, and God said that his creation was very good. He rested. He enjoyed the results of his work.
Most of us think of resting after we work, like God, but we’re not God. We must rest before we work. Man and woman were created last, so they lived their first day on God’s day of rest. That is significant. We have to rest in God before we can do meaningful work. God, through Jesus Christ, has done all the necessary work of salvation for us, and until we rest in that marvelous truth we will be unsettled; restless.
Once we’ve got that straight, we can consider day-to-day resting. For those familiar with the Bible, the first word that pops into your minds when considering rest might be Sabbath. The Sabbath was a weekly day of rest during which everyone was to rest equally. Human striving – work – was off limits. It was a day set aside to worship God, to notice what God had done and was doing and to refresh oneself. It was an opportunity for Old Testament believers to experience a taste of the Kingdom of God.
When Jesus came, he took issue with how the Pharisees had interpreted the Sabbath. Jesus miraculously healed people specifically on the Sabbath to prove that the Sabbath was far more than simply not working. He said that he was the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8), that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27) and that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:12). The Sabbath was supposed to be a gift, a delight, a foretaste of God’s coming kingdom, but the Pharisees had made it into a chore.
Jesus promised better 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
Jesus was alluding to the heavy burden of the law that the Pharisees had placed on people and was offering an alternative. Following Jesus with gentleness and humility, instead of determined pride and self-discipline, will lead to rest. It’s counter cultural not to assert our presumed control, but gentleness and humility are far better options. Authentic rest will only be found in Jesus.
Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God on earth and taught us that rest requires deeper faith than outward idleness will express. The pattern that God established for one day per week of rest is still appropriate, but there’s more to rest. I believe genuine rest is letting go of our illusions of control and resting in the love and grace and sovereignty of God. The pandemic has emphasized our lack of control, but have we rested in God or are we simply stressed?
For my husband and me, we miss travel, outdoor concerts, eating out, playing cards with neighbors, getting together with friends or taking in a good movie. Instead, we’ve been taking a daily walk or two, maybe a bike ride, enjoying our less frequent socializing with family and friends, reading, visiting the botanic gardens and, I admit, streaming television and movies.
With some trial and error, we are finding ways to rest and refresh ourselves. We still have sleep deprived nights and frustrated days, but it benefits me to remember that I need to rest in the love, grace and work of God, that he is sovereign and I’m not, and that authentic rest is found in Christ alone. That helps.
Are you finding it difficult to rest? What are some of the restful activities that you enjoy?