When you hear the word “rest”, what is it that comes to mind? Do you immediately think of sleep? Does your mind go to your Sunday afternoon nap? Do you start to dream about vacation? What words or images come to mind when you think about what it means to “rest?”
For almost a year now, God has been wooing me, calling me out of the places of busyness and stressful living to places of rest with Him. While it may sound ever so enticing to you, I have to say that it has been much harder than I would have anticipated to follow Him obediently in this. I’m a busy person. I like to have a full plate. I enjoy a lot going on. I like to say “yes” to nearly everything. However, it had gotten to the point in my life where I was almost idolizing busyness. If I wasn’t busy, I felt unaccomplished and unimportant. I was allowing busyness to define me. So, God in His mercy and firm love continues to call me away from that pursuit and back to the simplicity and beauty of pursuing Him above all else.
Today, I want to explore with you a passage in the book of Hebrews. Open your Bible to Hebrews 4, and take the next few minutes to read through the entire chapter. Go ahead; it’s only sixteen verses long.
This passage speaks often of rest and the importance of entering into God’s rest. The Hebrew reader would have been well-versed in Old Testament Law which commanded a Sabbath rest for all. You were required to work six days each week and to rest on the seventh, just as God did when He created the world. There is beauty in that. God modeled for us from the very beginning of time this important and necessary element of rest. God wasn’t tired after creating for six days, but He knew we would be tired and would need a break from our own work. So, in His mercy and because of His love, He set a standard for rest.
Here’s the interesting thing about rest. I find that we tend to either abuse it or refuse it. There’s a fine line somewhere in the middle, but for the most part I’ve seen a tendency toward one extreme or the other. What would be an abuse of rest? When it’s all play and little work, we abuse rest. When we shy away from responsibility because we prefer fun, we abuse rest. But then there is the refusal of rest. This would be represented best in the workaholic mentality. This is all work and no play. This is working on your days off. This is the absence of margin.
To find the balance and the margin that Christ calls us to, we need to take a look at what rest requires. In order for us to steer clear of the abuse of rest and the refusal of rest, we need a biblical perspective of what God intended rest to be.
Rest requires discipline. It requires the commitment to give your all and to work as unto the Lord and not man (Colossians 3:23), but it also requires the ability to possess and maintain boundaries. It requires the ability to walk away and say “no” when “no” needs to be said. Discipline is not only knowing how and when to say “yes”, but it’s also knowing how and when to say “no.”
Rest requires hard work. God didn’t model laziness when He rested on the seventh day. He modeled wisdom. A hard week of work requires a day of rest. Likewise, true rest requires hard work. Rest is most restful when we have given our all and held nothing back. If we maintain the mentality that in all things we are working for the Lord, then hard work should be our natural default.
Finally, rest requires trust. To cease working for a day requires trust in the Lord that this world will keep on spinning and life as we know it will go on without my efforts for one day. This is a hard one for many of us. Every time our phone alerts us of another incoming email, our tendency is to jump to respond, is it not? But, there is wisdom in pausing. Rest trusts that God will provide in the absence of my own efforts. There is wisdom in choosing to rest after hard work. It requires trust, but rest is the reward.