I have a list of life priorities. In the God category, I’ve included devotion, study and writing. The fourth item in that category is rest. When I originally wrote the list, rest was not on it. I added it after further deliberation about what I thought my highest priorities should be. I’ll be honest — this list represents the person I aspire to be. It is intended to be motivational. I have a really hard time getting around to resting.
I’m sure I’m not alone regarding my relationship with rest. I recently discussed this with a friend, and we identified reasons we have trouble resting (maybe you can relate): we’re too busy; we feel guilty when we aren’t “productive;” we don’t know how to rest (even the thought of it can cause anxiety). You might have others to add to this list. Suffice it to say, for a variety of reasons, we, in our culture, aren’t usually good at resting.
But I just keep remembering what the Bible has to say about rest, and I think it deserves a place among our priorities.
When the Israelites were in the desert, God established the Sabbath by providing double the usual amount of food every sixth day, so they could rest from their work every seventh day (Exodus 16:23-30). In the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), God formalized the Sabbath as a weekly day of rest for all of creation. In Psalm 46:10, we are told that God says to all, “Be still, and know that I am God.” God wants us to recognize that he is with us and to trust in his ability to do what needs to be done for our good. Jesus invited the people to rest, saying to the gathered crowd:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
— Matthew 11:28-29
And my favorite: God himself rested after spending six days creating the universe (Genesis 2:2).
Technically, Jesus freed us from the Law, including the requirement of keeping the Sabbath. God doesn’t require us to rest. However, Jesus admonished the Law-bound Pharisees:
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
— Mark 2:27
We who follow Christ would be wise to respond to Jesus’ invitation to rest. If you don’t know why you don’t rest, or don’t know how to rest, take a little time off this week to explore those things. (Of course, I’m asking non-resters to rest — I get that it may be a little difficult, but try!). Rest is God’s best for us, it is for our benefit, and it is God’s desire for us. Rest is a gift from God to his beloved.