Rest is something we struggle with, isn’t it. It seems to be one of those Earth-dweller conditions, like fighting sin and enduring suffering. We always feel tired.
I thought when I got out of law school everything would normalize. I’m less stressed, but I’m actually more tired. An eight-to-five schedule plus a two hour daily commute with only three weeks’ vacation takes its toll. I’m sure you can relate. I hear it all the time, from students, teachers, factory workers, truck drivers, doctors, and parents: I’m tired.
There are lots of great books out there on this subject, and I won’t re-cover their ground. And I’m afraid I can’t give you a fix-all solution. But I will show you what the Bible says and offer a few practical solutions that I’ve used in my own life to ease the struggle.
First, let’s go right to the source. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall have labor and do all of your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” Exodus 20: 8-10. I never realized until my most recent read-through of the Old Testament how many times God has to say, “REST!” I think he knows that our tendency is to plow, to produce, to keep busy.
Conversely, and ironically, he knows that we long for rest. He had to have felt the yearning in this Psalm: “…Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” Psalm 55: 6. It was almost, seemingly, in direct answer to this desire that Jesus spoke on so many occasions. “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, and you will find rest in your souls.” Matthew 11: 28-29.
There are two types of rest: physical rest and soul rest, and I think Jesus is speaking to both. The physical reasons you need rest are obvious: pull up any medical article on the dangers of lack of sleep. For the mental side of your health, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that if you don’t take the time to step back, the consequences can be dire. Listen to your body. Watch for signs that you need to slow down. And of course, this is all intimately connected with spiritual rest. If your soul is burdened, if something is weighing heavily on your heart, you can be exhausted and run-down in another way, one that is just as dangerous. And that can spill over into the physical side. And, to complete the circle, the physical side can easily spill over into the spiritual. Happily, the consequences of resting are just as connected as those of not resting. “For anyone who enters into God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:10.
God wants the best for us. He wants us to be in an optimal condition to serve him and serve others. He wants us to experience rest and utter peace. And so he requires from us a Sabbath. Whatever that day may be, we need a day of rest and rejuvenation, mind, body, and soul. Some of you may be thinking, “Oh, yes! I go to church on Sunday morning and Sunday night and do a thousand acts of service!” No, no, no. That is no Sabbath.
I’m not saying don’t serve your church. I’m saying spend time in prayer about the things you’ve been called to do, about what God thinks you can handle physically and spiritually. And ALWAYS remember that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27. Rest. Your Sabbath is for your rest, for recharging your body, and aligning your soul with God.
We have come to a point where we seem to take how much we can do, how many boxes we can check, as a badge of honor. If you’re having trouble fighting that feeling, think of how many times the Bible says for us to rest. This is not a recommendation, like your mom saying, “Honey, you should really get some sleep.” It is a commandment. And we’re not supposed to break it. Hebrews calls it disobedience if we do.
That’s not to say there are not times when we simply are not able to rest. I’m not disregarding that. I’m also not saying there won’t be times when the Spirit will prompt you to go a little further, do a little more. An example is Jesus’s frustration when the disciples, obviously exhausted, couldn’t stay awake to keep watch with him just before his arrest. That was a time to rise to the occasion, and there will be such times in all of our lives.
But I do know that a lot of things we call impossible are not. We could set them aside if we truly wanted to. We can say no. I also know that Jesus promises that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. He only asked one hour of his disciples that night. He won’t ask more of you than you can physically, mentally, or spiritually bear.
So rest, my friends. And go out and be the person God has called you to be. Do it for yourself, do it for your family, and do it in obedience to a decree as old as time.