“We need to talk!” I’ve heard this phrase many times in my life, and often my initial thought is, “Oh no, what am I in trouble for?” Many times it was not about being in trouble, but still indicated that an important conversation was needed.
With that in mind, we need to talk…about rest.
Why Must We Talk?
- Do people or circumstances trigger disproportionate responses or overreactions in you?
- Do you lack biblical freedom in your relationships with others?
- Do you wish you would be more honest and open with others? And they with you?
- Do you consistently rehearse past injuries and talk of real or imagined ill-treatment?
- Are you constantly tired no matter how much sleep you get?
- Do you react sharply to others? Or harbor forgiveness?
- Are you tired of others (or yourself) expecting more of you at church or in your relationship with the Lord?
- Do you feel guilty if you’re not always productive? Does rest seem like laziness?
- Has what you do become more significant than who you are?
- Do you feel isolated? Do you want to be isolated?
These and other symptoms likely reflect an absence of biblically-patterned rest in your life. It does not mean you are weak; it means you are a finite human with limitations.
A Personal Note
Over the last year or so, my family and I have sought to be more intentional to practice a one-day-a-week pattern of rest. That is another way of saying, we have practiced the good worship of repentance! Turning from my established habits and patterns has been harder than I thought, and I have much more work to do.
Why does rest often seem like so much work? While rest is a word intended to set one at ease, our response to it may actually bring a flurry of intense feelings, convictions, confusion, and hope. We may work feverishly to prepare for a family vacation only to return from our “rest” to take up the pile that accumulated while we were away. We often sense the need for diligence in spiritual disciplines which helps our souls fully rest in the Lord. Striving to rest is hard.
We must push through to understand resting in the Lord since one of our primary aims as Christians is to help others experience the soul rest God purchased for them as well. The beginning of the Gospel of John comes to mind in summary form: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth that we would receive grace upon grace from His fullness, and so be empowered and enlivened to make Him known to others who struggle to rest in their souls (John 1:14-16). Christ’s work was to do the will of our Father to accomplish soul rest for those who believe—who rest—in Him.
What is Rest (a Primer)?
Rest represents a break from the physical and mental labor we invest in regular patterns of work, daily living, and worldly striving. In some ways it is similar to the concept of peace, since both contain the idea of resting—or finding peace—in God and His ways. It is helpful to remember that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:9). In our culture, where productivity is prized and even worshipped, God’s command for a regular pattern of rest does not make sense, so we must remember that His ways are higher than ours because His wisdom is perfect.
Rest in the Old Testament
Old Testament writers used three main word groups to communicate concepts of rest. They mean “to cease, rest” (Genesis 2:2), “Sabbath” (Exodus 20:8, 10) and “special Sabbath observance” (Exodus 16:23), “to rest” (Exodus 20:11), “resting-place” (Deuteronomy 28:65), “state or place of rest” (Isaiah 28:12), “rest, calm” (Isaiah 30:15), and “to be at rest” (Jeremiah 30:10).
In the Old Testament rest (and peace) is often connected with the possession of land on which to rest in relationship with the provider God (Joshua 1:15). In the New Testament peace and rest is found in an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, by grace and through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Rest in the New Testament
Similarly, New Testament writers used three main word groups which shed additional light on the concept and importance of rest: “Sabbath” relies heavily on the Old Testament word and is seen in (Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 1:21-22; 6:1-5; Luke 4:6; 23:56; John 19:31; 20:1; Acts 13:27; 15:21); “Sabbath rest”, referring to spiritual rest in Christ for the people of God (Hebrews 3-4): “stopping, or ceasing” (Matthew 11:29); and “being quiet or silent” (Luke 14:4; Acts 11:18).
Put the Horse before the Cart
Societally we have put the cart before the horse and must be intentional—with the Lord’s help and the accountability of the Body of Christ—to put the horse back in front of the cart.
Will you join us by leaning in to learn about rest? Will you allow the Lord, through His Word, to deepen, or correct, your understanding of rest? And will you follow Christ by prioritizing life biblically, working hard when it is time to work, and resting weekly in faith that God’s ways truly are best for us, and bring rest for our inner and outer man—our souls and bodies?