When God created the world, he built rest into the natural order of things: Wake and sleep. Day and night. Work and Sabbath. Seasons. Festivals. Jubilee. In order for us to be everything we’re intended to be, God knew we’d need regularly scheduled times of rest. So he built them in for us.
Then, in fact, he commanded us to keep them!
How’s that going for you?
Somehow, it has become a badge of honor NOT to rest, lest anyone of us be considered undedicated or less than hard working.
Rest, relaxation, and time for restoration have become almost synonymous with laziness. Busyness today is a way of life.
Rest? We don’t know how to do it.
Laurel Bunker, Dean of Campus Ministries and Campus Pastor at Bethel University, recalls one particular time when she was a student herself:
I was sitting in an 8 a.m. political science class. Thinking that sitting in the front of the room would aid me in paying close attention to the professor, I sat in front of him, hoping, praying that I would stay awake.
I did great for the first 20 minutes or so, but eventually my late night shift at work, coupled with several hours of homework afterwards, caught up with me. Smack! My forehead hit the desk with such force that it literally bounced me straight up in my chair and almost threw me backward had it not been for the back support piece and a college friend sitting behind me who kept me upright!
The professor looked as shocked as I was, although I am sure he was nowhere near as embarrassed.
This was not my most shining collegiate moment. Fortunately, my professor and I both understood that I was a good student and that it was not a lack of discipline or hard work that propelled me into this moment of embarrassment; rather, it was due to an issue that impacts many university young people—lack of sleep.
But lest we think that lack of sleep only touches this demographic, consider that The Center for Disease Control says that 35% of all Americans aren’t getting enough sleep! Many of us are getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep on a nightly basis, and some are getting as little as four hours of sleep per night!
Is this you?
God’s call back to rest
The results are disturbing. Beyond the occasional inability to focus (as Laurel’s college story illustrates), irritations and mood swings, research also shows that lack of sleep can be a contributing cause to much more serious health challenges including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s. Sleep is essential! But many of us, for any number of reasons, act like it’s just not so.
Yet God wants us to rest. Because he made us and created us and was there when mankind fell into sin, God has always known that we would need to remove ourselves from our own striving and straining. In the same blog where Laurel shared her story, she writes this:
God desires for us to slow ourselves and to cast our cares upon Him because He truly cares for us and our mental, emotional, and physical health (1 Peter 5:7, Phil. 4:6). God desires for us to take rest.
So why is it important for believers to examine the issue of taking rest? Laurel proposes a number of reasons, including that rest is important so that we can be present with God and with people.
To be present with people
Indeed, rest is connected to the believer’s joyous work of evangelism. Rest is an absolute necessity in order to be able to notice, love, pray for, listen to, talk with, serve alongside, welcome, and be present with our neighbors.
Sharing the gospel was never meant to happen without the help and strength of our Father. As the Lord said to Zerubbabel: “‘It is not by force, nor by strength, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Zechariah 4:6).
Is it possible to access his Spirit, help, and strength without taking the time to rest and be filled with his power?
This summer, will you take some time off? Even a weekend, just your Sundays? To recharge yourself?
The joy of the Lord is our strength.