For years, my husband, Chris, encouraged me in taking a weekly Sabbath, yet I resisted. How could that even be possible with the constant demands of a young family, a group of women I was investing in, events to plan, and the never-ending, bottomless dirty clothes hamper? A weekly Sabbath just wasn’t possible, at least it didn’t seem like it, so I didn’t give it enough serious thought to even try. In my heart and mind, I just wasn’t willing to consider my Heavenly Father’s invitation into the rest He so desired to provide.
I always considered the work/rest model seen in Genesis 2:2-3 as a suggestion. God had completely finished all His work and could afford a day off. I, on the other hand, had work that was never done. I also gave myself a Sabbath pass by claiming “freedom in Christ” – freedom from condemnation under the law! I used these things as justification of my choice to continue working hard day in and day out, ignoring the voice of the Spirit, Who was offering a better way.
Sadly, many years passed by while I missed out on the incredible gift of rest. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that God finally got my attention and began to lovingly convince me of His good purposes embedded in His design of a work-rest rhythm of living.
Why I Was Resisting
First, He showed me that my refusal to rest was all about my underlying fear of releasing control. If I stopped mid-stride, then all that I was working so hard to obtain would be threatened. He showed me how badly I depended on being needed and, in my pride, having to personally meet the needs of people around me. Keeping my foot on the pedal of life blinded me to the greater value of bringing the needs of those around me to the Father in prayer. He showed me my lack of faith to entrust Him with the “unfinished” and, ultimately, to surrender to His will.
Second, I was doubting that God really had good things in store for me. If there was goodness or success to obtain, it was up to me to secure it. I didn’t want to rest.
And finally, I just didn’t want to buck the cultural norm of a life full of continuous activity. I tended to wear busyness like a badge of honor.
What I Have Learned Since
These hard lessons have helped me to at least try to rest. So far, here are a few things I have learned.
Most importantly, I’ve come to believe that Jesus invites us to rest with Him and to learn from Him.
In Matthew 11:28-30, He extends this incredible invitation: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)
Learning to rest does take time: it seems what the Bible teaches most about rest is what it is not. Leviticus 23:25 says that rest means “no ordinary work.” Other passages teach that rest does not equal idleness (Proverbs 31:27 – “she does not eat the bread of idleness,” Ezekiel 16, 2 Thess. 3:8, Ecclesiastes 10:18.)
So, practically speaking – rest can include activity. The key to understanding rest is this: is it life-giving? (Which most likely means expending energy.) Does it restore?
What is restful for you (organizing your filing cabinet), might be work for me. And landscaping, which is restful for me, might sound like work for you. Discovering what rest means for you can initially take considerable thought and energy but will result in fullness and joy.
You know you have rested well when your soul is at peace, when your perspective and resourcefulness are fresh, and when you are ready again for the work God has for you. When you have learned to rest, you will feel more energized and ready to return to work.
Here are 3 questions to consider:
- Where do you experience resistance when it comes to answering Jesus’ invitation to rest?
- Is there something God is asking you to trust Him with in order to enter His rest?
- In what ways do you mistake idleness for the life-giving rest God desires for you?
To dig a little deeper, Margaret recommends…
- Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg
- Buy A Cabin: The Theology and Practice of Rest by Robert L. Franck
- Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature by Peter Scazzero