The Sanctity of Rest
This summer, I spent a week at rest a full ten hours away from my prolific bean patch. We went to Indiana to spend a rare visit with my parents. While there, I enrolled my children in swimming lessons and spent almost two hours every morning watching them. From my lawn chair beneath the shade trees, I felt restful. Unpressured. Calm. I didn’t plan the swimming lessons for my own rejuvenation, but I went home strengthened and encouraged after all those hours of sitting in stillness.
The principle of rest gets confused. Because of physical examples, like running hard and collapsing on a couch afterwards, we equate rest with exhaustion. Needing to take a break from ministry gets stigmatized as if it is something the weak might need or a prescription for those who are burning out. But we are getting it wrong if we buy into that lie. God rested in Genesis 2. Exhaustion did not drive Him to instigate the Sabbath. Isaiah 40:28 confirms this by saying, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary…” Rest wasn’t created for the weak; it was implemented first by the strong.
Jesus embraced this principle of rest. In the middle of history’s most astonishing segment, just when the climax was building and the world was about to be saved, Jesus commanded his disciples to “come apart and rest.” Jesus was strong in spirit yet He promoted solitude. He sought a silent sanctuary to pray alone, exemplifying a balance between ministry and rest.
David understood. “You lead me beside still waters,” he said. He found a calm place of refreshment and soul peace that allowed him to fight giants, lead a nation, and write timeless psalms of worship.
But resting is hard.
It feels better to look back across your day and see tangible proof of your energy and efforts. Many find it easier to be imitators of God in creativity and productivity than emulating Him in taking regular breaks. Onlookers applaud achievements, not blank days with little to report.
Perhaps we identify with the wayward Israelites more than we like to admit. Isaiah 30:15 says, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you were unwilling.” Rest is God’s channel of strength to our souls. Do not refuse His provision.
Carving out time for rest often means saying no, even to things we really want to do. It is easier to keep saying yes, to keep running like the youth and soaring like the eagles. Hasn’t God promised strength? And didn’t He say we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us? Bolstering ourselves by these promises, we run. We soar. And we forget that we receive His strength through the channels He created. One of those is stopping our work and taking a break. Neglecting to rest is to reject the Lord’s provision of strength.
What is rest? When God rested in Genesis 2, the creation story comes to a full stop, like those in music. Lively music with no pause is cacophonic and annoying, but music with strategic rests offers worship and energy. That silence, that break gives us breathing space. The crescendo of our lives needs to be broken by coming fully to rest.
Rest is an opportunity to walk through the gates of His sanctuary. Through communion with God and quietness, we can enjoy the Lord and find pleasure in His presence. Learn to quiet your mind. Turn off the inner voice that is constantly making lists, thinking ahead, and making plans.
Rest is not always deeply spiritual. Sitting under shade trees at the edge of a pond was rest to me. Other activities will do the same for you. Engage in activities that release tension and place you in position to receive gifts of peace and clarity. Rest is not happening when you take a break but at the same time feel pressured to hurry up so you can get on with life.
Our challenge is to emulate God on the first Sabbath and Jesus in His pauses in ministry. We have His permission to say “no” to requests that come our way. Then we can hear His invitation to quietness and sanctuary. The God who said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel,” also beckons us into quietness with His inviting call, “Come apart and rest.”
Take Him up on His offer and be refreshed. A life that returns to the Source and refuels at soul level is a life that has something to offer a needy world.