Rest – where does it fit into a Christian’s life?
Finding enough rest is an issue I have battled with since I was a young child. I struggle to find time to rest and even when I am resting I feel lazy and can only think about the list of things that I should/ could be doing!
Part of the reason I have decided to write about rest is because of this difficulty. It is something that has been highlighted within my study at KST and is having a huge impact on my life. In September 2012 during our module on Genesis, Dave Perry spent some time teaching on the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2-3): what this meant for people at the time and importantly what it means now. The key point that struck me was this: ‘God is so effortlessly in control of his world, he can take a day off!’
For the last year and a half I have taken 24 hours ‘rest’ each week, generally falling sometime between Saturday and Sunday. When I say ‘rest’ I mean that I’ve put away anything related to my job. I have found this an extremely helpful and refreshing discipline – it allows me the time to ‘switch off’ from the work which can become all encompassing. However, here’s the bad news: I often do not feel ‘rested’ after this break, as I fill it with jobs like cleaning the house or completing assignments!
Rest is not only relevant in the specific context of the Sabbath, it actually ‘becomes a powerful theological theme throughout the Bible. Joshua 21:44 says “The Lord gave them rest on every side…”; Mark 4:38- “Jesus himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion…”; Matthew 11:28 “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.
What is rest? The dictionary defines rest as “cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength”. What does it really mean to rest? What does this mean in a Christian context? We don’t want to cease to do the work of God. Does this mean ceasing from ‘secular work’? (if there is such a thing?!) Does it mean taking family time and not attending church ‘meetings’?
I’ve been thinking about what my rest time looks like and how I could better spend this time so that I feel refreshed and energised by the end of it. I would prefer to spend my rest time chilling out with friends, chatting with family and reading more of God’s word than sleeping and being completely anti-social! Obviously, everyone is different and I recognise that some may find sleeping and having time alone to be the refreshment that they need. Sometimes this is me too.
Having re-looked at what I have written it is very me focussed, I, I, I.
I do want to feel refreshed and energised, but for what purpose?
Is there a ‘should’ for how rest should be or is it different for each person? Should we take time out from church ‘stuff’ or should we pack-everything-in-we-can in the hope that we reach out to someone? I wonder if we can sometimes feel so keen to achieve great things for God that we don’t let ourselves stop. I’ve struggled with feelings of guilt for missing church activities or foregoing opportunities to evangelise, because I wonder what will happen if I don’t and I wonder if it will mean missing something of God’s plan for me.
What I keep coming back to is that ‘God is so effortlessly in control of his world, he can take a day off’ (Perry, D. 2012). This not only gives me great comfort but also provokes me to actually rest in God’s presence as a sign that I trust that He is in control, not me. It is about me trusting in our great creator, trusting him enough that I can actually take my hands off the reigns and relax. Through God taking a day of rest I believe that sets a pattern for us, giving us the permission to rest as well. Time and time again, I am reminded of God’s awesome grace, even when I fail to give him full control of the reigns, he blesses me.