January 10, 2017
God has commanded us to rest. Let that sink in for a moment.
At first glance, this command doesn’t appear hard to keep. After all, who hates the idea of sleep, or chilling in a hammock? Who truly wants to rush and stress? Unlike resisting cheating on a test, or eating a third cupcake, resisting rest doesn’t seem to be our problem.
But resting doesn’t come natural to us. Stress, anxiety and busyness have become epidemics in our culture. We go a million miles a minute, frantically trying to get that elusive place of being finished with our to-do list.
Yet, we consistently come up short. Another interruption, task or problem always arises. So we pick up the pace in hopes that later we’ll finally be able to exhale. God’s command to rest sounds to us not like a breath of fresh air, but like a naive platitude from someone who simply doesn’t understand the pressures and pace of our lives.
Our perspective reveals the true object of our trust—our own self-sufficiency. It unveils whom we are dependent upon for security—ourselves. It shines light on what we truly believe about rest—that we can’t afford it. It shows that we think our ability to rest rests on us.
God commands us to rest, not to put more pressure on us to get through our to-do lists quickly, but rather to remove a weight from our shoulders. His command to rest is a gracious invitation to trust Him.
Rest is not about time, but about trust.
We foolishly believe that we will rest when we are done. But we have family, friends and neighbors who need us. We have jobs to do, and errands to run. The bills won’t pay themselves, the house won’t fix itself, the weeds keep growing, and the meals must be made. Life seems to get in the way of our rest.
Even when we put our head on the pillow completely exhausted, our mind continues to race over all the things that are still undone.
Maybe we need to view time like they did in the Old Testament. The Hebrew understanding of day and night is quite different from our way of life in the Western world. For them, tomorrow begins at nightfall tonight. Sunset, not sunrise marks the beginning of a new day. So each day begins with a time of rest.
Our rest, not our work, is primary. And while we rest, God works (Psalm 121:4, John 5:17).
We rest in His Sovereign reign over all things. Anxiousness and restlessness disappear because we trust that He is perfectly capable of handling things without our input or contribution. We rise to join Him in the work He began while we were fast asleep—the work He will sustain while we rest again tonight. The pressure is off.
Don’t miss this important point. This is a critical part of the created order that is completely lost on our ambitious, driven, type-A, early-bird culture. Rest is built upon our trust in and relationship with the Creator – not the efficiency with which we deal with His creation.
Everything begins with rest. We read that and it doesn’t even make sense. It is truly foreign to our workaholic minds. How can we rest when we haven’t done anything yet? This reveals a myth that we buy into. Rest isn’t mainly about our recovery from labor; it’s mainly about our relationship with God.
We start with rest to remind ourselves that rest is not a result of our work or our circumstances, but of our willingness to trust God with our work and our circumstances. Our relational currency has never been about our work performance, but rather His grace. This concept serves as the foundation of the Gospel, but it is also the foundation upon which we live in relationship with the Creator and His creation.
Odds are, if you struggle to rest it is probably because you are trying to wrangle your circumstance, your schedule and your life into the place where you can control it enough to lay it down and take a break. Control is an illusion of our imagination. What we really need to do is lay it in God’s capable hands, thank Him for His providence, and rest in His grace.
The decision to obey God’s command to rest—day after day, week after week—is really a choice to abide with Him. Let that sink in for a moment, as you exhale stress and inhale rest.