I don’t know how to rest.
Well, I mean, I’m learning. Slowly. But historically, I haven’t been very good at resting.
A big part of the problem for me has been simply not understanding rest. Rest for me has been one of two extremes. It’s either the thing you do when you are completely burnt-out and exhausted or the thing you do when you’re being lazy and/or avoiding life. But that can’t be a healthy view of rest! And I’m thinking that God wants us to have a healthy view of rest since it’s something He commands us take part in. (Exodus 20:8)
It’s also something that He promises to give to those who come to Him.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
I recently discovered that, in Biblical times, rest was something that only free people had the privilege of enjoying. Slaves weren’t allowed a day off. And if these slaves did get rest, it was because they “earned” it. It’s because they had worked themselves to a place of burnout and exhaustion.
Doesn’t it now make more sense why Jesus gets so frustrated with the Pharisees in Mark 2? The Pharisees had taken the command of God to partake in the Sabbath — and they placed it as a burdensome weight on the people of God. What was meant to be a gift of freedom was used to put people in slavery!
And [Jesus] said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
Even today, I think we miss the whole point if we ask, “Do I need to keep the Sabbath?” It’s a complicated question because I think God gave us the command of the Sabbath because He knows that we do need rest. But He also gave us the command because He wants good things for us. He wants us to live in freedom. He wants us everything we do to be done in faith. In fact, Romans tells us that ANYTHING not done in faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)
The Sabbath wasn’t given to us as a way to appease God. The command to rest was given to us for our good. It was given to us to build into our lives intentional time to remember His faithfulness, His love, His provision, and His salvation. It reminds us that we aren’t keeping the world spinning, God is. It reminds us that we aren’t on our own. Faithfulness in our work is a good thing, but ultimately God will provide, God will fight for us, and God will keep us.
“But the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work… and you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.”
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwelling safety.
Think of how crazy it was for God to command the whole nation of Israel to take a day off. This was a small, barely established nation in the midst of thriving, hard-working, threatening surrounding nations. If one of the neighboring nations found out that Israel was commanded to take a day of rest, they likely have thought “oh boy! Those dummies are as good as ours!”
Rest seems foolish to the outside world because those in the world have no one to depend on but themselves. Is it any wonder that rest still seems foolish today in this over-worked, always hustling culture that we live in?
Rest is for the free. It’s for those who have put down their yoke of slavery and taken up the much lighter yoke of Jesus. For those who are enslaved to sin, rebels who fight against their dependency on a mighty and holy God — where is their rest? There is no real rest.
I’m still learning how to rest and what it looks like in my own life. If I’m honest, even my rare “rest days” end up just being opportunities to get all the things done that I don’t normally get done. But I want to learn how to truly rest in the work of God on my behalf. I want to learn how to worship my King and celebrate the freedom and privileges that I now have as his child. I want to let Him set me free and give me rest.
What does rest look like for you?