I once attended a retreat — not the kind of retreat with speakers and workshops, but the kind of retreat with lots of free time and no electronics. We were told to find restful activities that refreshed our souls. I looked at the face of a fellow attendee and recognized panic on his face. He couldn’t think of anything to do.
If anything defines our culture right now, it’s frantic busyness. Most of us are used to hustling. We’re not so good at rest. We may not even know where to start.
Rest is so important that Adam and Eve spent their first day resting. I imagine them waking up the day after their creation, wondering what God had planned for them. Picture their surprise when they found out that their first day on earth was a Sabbath, a day simply to be and to enjoy.
Later on, God gave rest as one of the Ten Commandments. Think about it: God included it on his list of top commands, alongside other important items like not murdering and not committing adultery. Clearly, rest is important to God.
I know that some claim that the Sabbath command no longer applies. I’m fine with that conclusion, but it’s still a good idea that goes all the way back to Creation. From the very beginning, God gave us the gift of rest so that we could enjoy him and his good gifts, and to make room to simply be and to love.
In fact, Jesus’ invitation to rest, found in Matthew 11:28-30, is profound. “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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
At first glance, Jesus invites us to leave our exhaustion and find our rest in him. Dig a bit deeper, though, and you discover it’s a summary of the entire Christian life. We leave our emptiness and flee to Jesus, where we find everything we need. Rest isn’t just a physical and emotional necessity; it’s a picture of our relationship with God. We can’t afford to ignore it.
I find that most of us aren’t good at rest. Rest is like a muscle; it needs to be strengthened over time. Expect to struggle at first, especially if you haven’t spent much time cultivating the gift of rest in your life. Here are some ways to get started.
- Start small. If you’re not used to regularly building rest into your life, start small. Really small. Instead of taking a full vacation or even a full day, take a few hours off. Keep building the muscles of rest.
- Learn what energizes you. We’re all different. What looks like work to someone else may be restful to you. What makes you feel alive? What energizes you? What brings you joy? Take note of these activities, and build more of them into your rest.
- Avoid pseudo-rest. Some activities, like scrolling through social media and news or binging shows, look restful, but don’t really replenish your soul. Be careful of filling your rest with activities that don’t restore you.
- Love God and others. God calls us to love him and others. Look for ways to pursue this love in your rest. Find ways to enjoy God’s presence and to show your love to others with your rest.
Many guys aren’t good at rest. No wonder; the world pressures us to stay busy. But God gives us the blessing of laying aside our work to enjoy him and others. It will be hard at first, but it’s worth it.
Your assignment this week: take some time to rest. Don’t miss out on one of God’s greatest gifts.