Have you ever found it difficult to rest because there is always so much more to do? Has your wife or family tried to get you to put your phone down or to stop thinking about work so much? Most men want a productive life. We work harder and longer to produce more and then find moments when we can rest. But what if we started with rest first? Your life can be more productive if you rest first and then work out of your rest.
This philosophy for life is a slight shift on some levels, but it is vital.
In the story of creation, the book of Genesis tells us God rested on the seventh day. This story is where most of us get the idea we are to rest after our work. Have you ever considered how humanity’s first full day on earth was God’s day of rest? God worked and then rested, but he designed us to rest first and then work out of that rest.
God worked and then rested, but he designed us to rest first and then work out of that rest.
The New Testament helps us understand this idea on a spiritual level. Hebrews 4:10 says that whoever enters God’s rest has rested from his works. This verse is a spiritual analogy of resting in God’s love and grace towards us in Jesus rather than working to earn his favour. Yet we also know Christians are supposed to do good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:1). Jesus teaches us that our lives become more fruitful not because we do more but because we abide in him (John 15:5). We do not work for God’s love, but we do good works because we rest in God’s love.
Jews have carried this idea of starting with rest into their everyday life. For most of us, rest is the final part of our day. We go to sleep after we have worked all day. A Jewish person begins their day at sunset. They start each day by resting and going to sleep. Imagine saying your prayers before bed and starting with “thank you for the gift of this new day” and then going to sleep.
Science has started to support what the Bible has already been teaching. Several years ago, an article from Scientific American outlined the importance of rest. This article showed how naps, meditation, and rest habits increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories, and encourage creativity.
The article from Scientific American quotes Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson of The Florida State University. He has spent more than 30 years studying how people achieve the highest levels of expertise.
“Ericsson has concluded that most people can engage in deliberate practice—which means pushing oneself beyond current limits—for only an hour without rest; that extremely talented people in many different disciplines—music, sports, writing—rarely practice more than four hours each day on average; and that many experts prefer to begin training early in the morning when mental and physical energy is readily available. ‘Unless the daily levels of practice are restricted, such that subsequent rest and nighttime sleep allow the individuals to restore their equilibrium,’ Ericsson wrote, ‘individuals often encounter overtraining injuries and, eventually, incapacitating burnout.’”
If you want to rest, then it cannot be an add-on; it must be part of the everyday rhythms of your life.
Here are four practical ways you can start with rest.
- Ask God to examine your heart. Where are you still trying to prove yourself to others? It is so important to draw your identity and worth from Christ. Finding your identity in Christ may be the most significant issue for leaders to wrestle to the ground in their hearts (Colossians 3:3-4).
- Build annual rhythms. In my case, I have learned to schedule my vacations and important family events (like birthdays) at the beginning of each year. These days are marked in my calendar as an appointment before I crowd it out with other activities.
- Build weekly rhythms. What does it look like to rest each week? If you need to, put these times in your calendar to set aside the time to rest.
- Build daily rhythms. Before you go to sleep each night, thank God for the gift of a new day and ask him to help you start your day with a good rest. This practice may feel awkward at first, but there is something mentally and emotionally refreshing when you teach yourself to start your day with rest. Then find moments in your day to continue to rest spiritually and physically (quiet moments for prayer, meditating on the Bible, and taking some deep breaths).
What steps will you take to start with rest?