In our action-oriented, fast-paced American culture, that statement seems as logical as saying “fried chicken is heart healthy.” It sounds like the kind of thing you tell yourself when you need another reason to procrastinate – a lazy man’s justification for laying around.
We live in a society that rewards the busy. We idolize the hustle, take pride in our out-of-control schedules, and look at the 40 hour work week as a mere baseline. We spend the first quarter of our lives just learning how to navigate the rest of it.
When my Spiritual Formation professor first told us rest is spiritual, the class actually laughed. As college freshmen who had just received a pile of syllabi and two weeks of orientation, we got a kick out of it. Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, mission trips, community service – those are the spiritual disciplines. But rest?
Culturally, it’s something we often miss in our reading of the Bible. Nonetheless, rest isn’t a mere suggestion to us by God. From the very first chapter of Genesis to the end of Revelation, rest is taught as both a gift and a spiritual discipline.
- What did God do on the seventh day?
- How does he command us to spend an entire day each week?
- Mary or Martha – which one did Jesus say chose the better option?
- Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.”
- When God called Moses to lead his people, he promised him in Exodus 33:14, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
- Similar promises and mentions of rest show up at least nine times in the Psalms.
And these are just a few random examples. None of this is to say that hard work isn’t important. We’re called to carefully steward the resources that God has given us. If our lives are truly surrendered to Christ, we should make the most of every moment of every day. Laziness is clearly sinful, But laziness and rest are not the same thing. While work is definitely a form of worship, rest is too.
So why is rest so spiritually important?
- Rest creates space for us to reflect on God’s nature.
- Rest forces us to trust in his goodness and ability to provide.
- Rest reminds us of who is truly in control. (Hint: It’s not us.)
- Rest fosters humility.
- Rest rejuvenates us for the hard work ahead.
At its heart, rest is a form of worship. It’s an act of surrender – a recognition of our human limitations and God’s endless provision. It’s one of the many things that sets him apart from us. We need it and he doesn’t.
It’s prideful to think we’re too busy to rest, too important to stop, or too strong to step back. Click & Tweet! But we serve the God who speaks in the small whisper. It’s hard to notice him at work when we’re too busy to stop. It’s impossible to depend on him when we think we’ve got it handled ourselves.
Rest as a Discipline
Rest is more than sleeping or turning off the brain for a few hours. It’s intentional. It requires commitment. Have you noticed how hard it is just to find a free Saturday with the family or schedule vacation time? If you find it difficult to actually stop and make the time to rest, here are a few tips.
Build it into your routine. Create spaces in your schedule to get alone and unwind. Mine is often during my commute or the lunch hour. Block it out and don’t blow it off.
Plan some non-negotiable offline time. For me, it’s around 6-10PM every night. From the time I come home until Holly goes to bed, I avoid my phone and computer unless it’s an emergency.
Set some sleep goals. In college, I learned that my sleeping sweet spot is around 7 to 7.5 hours every night. Any more or less and I’ll wake up tired. I also need about an hour to unwind before I can actually fall asleep. If I don’t hit these goals, I won’t be at my best for others the next day. Find your strike zone and be faithful to hitting it.
Do it for others. Rest is no different than answering emails or showing up to meetings on time. If you don’t rest like you should, you’ll let others down. Rest so you can be “all in” for other people.
Be intentional. Use a portion of your rest time to dig into God’s word and pray. Look for what he is trying to show you in those quiet moments. Reflect on how big God is and remember how small you are.
It’s Friday. Are you prepared to slow down?