The Work of Rest
Have you ever noticed how much work it takes to rest?
A perfect example is going on vacation. The week before heading out is notoriously terrible, packed with more work, more arguments, and less sleep. With a vacation in mind, we tend to become superhumans, able to accomplish double what we would normally accomplish.
Even going to the beach—one of the most relaxing vacations in my opinion—takes a lot of work. In order to sit and rest on the beach, we pack and haul umbrellas, sunscreen, blankets, towels, and an ice chest. Rest requires work!
Work is not bad. In fact, I think Scripture makes it clear that we are designed to work. In Genesis 1:28, God made it clear that Adam and Eve had work to do. This work was given before sin entered the world, implying that work is good in its purest form. I also think Scripture is clear that we are called to work hard. Colossians 3:23 ESV says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
I believe work, especially hard work, glorifies the Lord and Christians should do better than anyone.
Yet, Scripture also teaches us to rest.
What if we put as much energy into resting as we do into working?
I am not saying we live for the weekend, idolize retirement, or seek so much passive income that we can just kick back and relax by the time we’re in our forties.
I am saying we work hard to set boundaries for rest and protect the time God calls us to really replenish our souls.
So how do we do that?
First, we work harder.
I’m a millennial. Truthfully, I don’t like to admit that I’m a millennial because we’re associated with laziness, entitlement, and basically just being spoiled.
…but the fact remains: I’m a millennial.
I think one of the least admirable traits about my generation is that we just don’t work hard. The line I hear over and over again is, “I’ve seen my parents work their whole lives and for what? I don’t want to do that.”
Agreed. Life is not just about work.
However, life requires work. We are called to work. Timothy Keller makes a great argument in Every Good Endeavor that we will even work when we are in Heaven. Similarly, David Platt challenges believers that there is no room for retirement in the kingdom of God in his book Radical.
In order to rest well and experience fruit in our lives and those around us, we must work harder.
Think back to vacation: when we have a vacation in sight we work harder. Our perspectives shift from how daunting our to-do lists seem to how wonderful vacation will be.
In our day to day lives, we need to shift our perspectives to how wonderful our promised rest will be, whether on this side of Heaven or not.
On this side of Heaven, that requires work. It means we will have to work harder and prioritize during our workdays to enjoy the Scripture-mandated Sabbath. It may mean less scrolling through social media and playing games on workdays and more productive rest on days we do set aside to rest.
…which brings me to my second point about how to rest in a way to replenish our souls.
Second, we rest better.
Resting better means productive rest.
But, wait, doesn’t that sound counterintuitive?
Surely productive rest is not folding laundry while watching TV or some other variance of multi-tasking, right?
Scripture talks repeatedly about the importance of being still.
Scripture also talks repeatedly about not worrying or being afraid.
I think the two go together. You see, we DO because we are afraid what will happen if we DO NOT.
Think about it: I DO volunteer for the task at church that I know I shouldn’t because I’m afraid (a) it won’t get done if I DO NOT, (b) people won’t like me as much if I DO NOT, (c) or some combo of the two.
We could think of one hundred other examples of this: picking up an extra shift on a day we set aside to rest, signing up for one more extracurricular activity on our only weeknight off, and so on…
For some, productive rest may be taking a nap because it means that person does not worry about the constant busyness of life for an hour. This act of taking a nap may be a great leap of faith for someone that struggles to trust God to take care of his or her endless to-do list.
For others, productive rest may mean an intense cardio workout because it means the person is able to spend some time just thinking about God, relying on Him to get them through the workout, and taking care of the body God provided them.
For others, productive rest might mean memorizing, meditating, or reading Scripture.
Whatever productive rest is for you, make it meaningful. Productive rest is not just getting through a day without work. It is not wasting time. It is not putting off tasks. We were made for more than that.
Now that school is back in session and the week is in full swing, how can you incorporate rest into your day? Week? Month? Year?
Be intentional about your rest starting now.