I can remember the moment clearly. Early last year, standing in the kitchen at the office, a missionary who was visiting us asked me “so Andrew, what day of the week do you take off?” I knew my answer at that point in my life was none. After shaking it off with a joke and an eye roll he replied “so you think you’re better than God?” Not much I could say to that.
It’s not that I didn’t believe in the importance of rest, I just didn’t practice what I preached. Within two weeks of that conversation I was burnt out and was forced to rest.
We often fall into the trap of thinking that rest is for the weak, the unspiritual. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s remind ourselves of 3 things about rest:
1. Rest is not laziness
Perhaps you’re a busy servant in your local church. Maybe you volunteer lots for CEF or other mission agencies. Ever caught yourself boarding the ‘holier-than-thou’ train when you see another Christian who isn’t as ‘busy’ serving as you are? Subconsciously, you put the ‘lazy’ label on them? Don’t—knowing when to stop, or when to add nothing more to your diary is godly, not lazy.
What does godly rest look like? You’ll need to be wise here and think this through for yourself. But it probably doesn’t look like spending a whole day on Netflix, or eating nothing but fast-food every night for a week because you’re ‘resting’. Real rest builds up, nourishes, refreshes. It allows us to refocus our minds and hearts. It might look like more time with friends and family if those relationships have been neglected. It may take the form of you getting away for a while if life has become a whirlwind. It could be that you need to get outside if you’ve been stuck indoors studying for weeks on end.
Ultimately, though, all rest should be God-focused. We need Him more than anything else when we’re recharging our batteries. The Psalms talk often about being still before God, waiting patiently for him (Psalm 37:7). Praise Him as you take time away, praise Him as you meet with friends, praise Him as you enjoy the great outdoors!
2. 6 days shall we work, 1 day shall we rest
I’m not going to open a discussion on the Sabbath, Sundays or whether the fourth commandment still applies today. Here’s what I will say, though—from the very first pages of the Bible God sets a clear pattern that we should work for 6 days, and rest for 1. Be careful not to think that you’re somehow owed both Saturday and Sunday as your ‘days off’. We are called to work, and work hard. But once we’ve done that, we need to rest, and rest well.
I used to think that I could work for weeks on end without resting, and as long as I took enough ‘rest days’ at the end I’d be fine. But God did not ordain 1 week out of 7, or even 2 days out of 14 days. We’re to rest 1 day, every week.
Whatever your theological position on the Sabbath, one thing is clear — God connects ‘rest’ and ‘worship’. Want to rest well? Go to church on Sunday and spend time with the family of God.
3. It is sinful not to rest
No doubt as you’ve been reading this — just as I have in writing it — you have tried to justify the times your weeks don’t reflect good patterns of working and resting. But there are no two ways about it — if you don’t rest, you’re sinning. Work is good, work is honourable, but it’s abhorrent to God for us to be working so much that we don’t have time to rest. Our bodies need it, our souls need it.
On a basic level, think about it—if you work hard and then crash, the time you need to take off in order to recover makes all those ‘extra hours’ of work pointless.
It’s time we all got out our diaries, swallowed our pride, got over our ‘fear-of-missing-out’ which keeps us up late on social media, and realise we aren’t superhuman. Fill your days with brilliant, hard, enjoyable God-glorifying work. Then sit down, rest and let your body and soul recover the way God intended it.