Rest is not something we do well in our culture. In the name of productivity we go, go, go. But Jesus modeled a much different behavior. Jesus rested. Even when the needs around him were great he still took regular time for rest. If Jesus needed rest then so do you.
Here’s just a few studies to look at:
- The U.S. is the Most Overworked Developed Nation in the World
- In The U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep
Let me sum up the articles in case you don’t want to read. Here’s some of the highlights.
There are 134 countries in the world that set a max amount of hours workers can work, but not the US. Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 hours more than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.
To top that off our time off is terrible… The US worker averages 13 paid days off per year. Almost every other developed country have 20, and some up to 30 days. To make matters worse the average American worker will only take 50-60% of their days off.
We are overworking, not taking time off, AND our sleep sucks. Currently, 59% of U.S. adults do not meet the recommend amount of sleep. Compare that to 1942 U.S., 84% of adults met the recommended amount of sleep. That means 41% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of nightly sleep, compared to only 11% who didn’t 70 years ago.
I’m not tying to make any political statement over this… I’m not trying to get the laws to change. Rather I’m trying to point out how little we value rest. If you think that’s good that we work hard, don’t take time off, and sleep little. You’re wrong.
Thanks to technology we are able to do more faster, in other words most studies will point towards increased productivity. Maybe you think that’s a good thing, we are getting more done. But it comes at a cost. Increasingly American workers are unhappy and dissatisfied.
Now more than ever, we need rest. But we are getting worse at taking it. Everything we do is about work and being productive. Jesus modeled a much different behavior. Let’s take a look.
From The Beginning God Incorporated Rest
From the beginning God incorporated rest into the design of creation. Not for his benefit, but for ours.
Genesis 1 – 3 is an incredible passage that unfortunately has been overshadowed by the whole literal 7 day creation argument. That’s not even the point of the story, but it’s the only detail most focus on. There’s SO much more in this passage.
You can read more on the point of the story here: We’ve Missed The Point of the Creation Story
If you grew up in church you’ve probably heard that on the seventh day God rested. But have you ever stoped to think of why or consider the implications? God didn’t need rest. He wasn’t tired. Rather he was showing how important incorporating a regular routine of rest into our lives is.
This is significant. God wants you to rest. He even showed you how from the very beginning.
Resting of God’s People
The theme of rest continued through the nation of Israel. They were commanded to take a Sabbath, a command they woefully misunderstood and abused. But none the less they took one day off a week, something that was revolutionary for the culture. In a culture where if you didn’t work you literally wouldn’t eat. Taking a day off was unheard of and seemed foolish and lazy.
But it didn’t stop there. Not only were they to take a day off every week, in Leviticus 25:4 God commands them to take every seventh year off… A whole year. That way both the land and the people could rest. Again God is showing a pattern of rest that probably emphasizes rest more than we are comfortable with in our culture.
Jesus continues the theme of rest in his ministry. Both in his words and his actions. In his message he talked about coming to him to find rest (Matthew 11:28-30) and promised those who followed him would not be burdened. That’s not to say there’s not work to do, quite the opposite. What Jesus is offering rather is the pressure of feeling like everything rests on you is lifted. He has already done the heavy lifting.
Not only did Jesus teach about rest, but he modeled it. Time and time again Jesus withdrew from people to go to the quietness of a mountainside and pray. Don’t miss the significance of this. Jesus left people in need, walked past them, so that he could go rest.
That might sound selfish. But in fact rest is one of the least selfish things we can do. Jesus understood the limitations of the human body. He knew if he didn’t fill himself up he would have nothing to give. So taking time to rest and recharge is actually one of the most loving things he could do.
If Jesus needed rest then you do too. It’s not selfish, it’s ensuring that you fill yourself up so that you have something to give to others.
The Benefits of Rest
It Restores and Refreshes Us
We’ve bought into this lie that the busy = good. If we aren’t always doing something then we are lazy. But taking regular breaks isn’t lazy, it’s necessary. We were not designed to keep going, we were designed with rest in mind. And when we don’t rest we risk burnout. Don’t believe me? Just google the effects of not resting. Increasingly we are discovering really how damaging not resting is to our physical bodies and our emotional health. We need rest.
It might seem selfish to rest. To spend a day where you fill your own tank each week. But I think we need to flip that script. I would argue it’s actually the most selfless thing you can do. Hear me out… If you don’t rest then you will have nothing left to give others in your life. If you don’t rest you will not be able to give your kids what they need. If you don’t rest the work you do for your employer will tank. If you don’t rest the people closest to you will suffer.
We think by staying busy we are meeting the needs of those around us. But in fact, by not resting we are actually robbing the people around us of our best, rested self.
It Builds Trust in God
Be honest… You think you are a pretty important person. Maybe not on a global scale, but in your world, around your people, you think you are important. It’s okay, I do too.
When we rest it puts us back into our rightful place. You and me, we aren’t as important as we think we are. The world will continue without us doing what we do. The reality is that God is in control, not us. And when we rest, especially when we do it regularly we are reminded of that. We are forced to trust that God’s got it. That we can rest, because he’s in control.
That’s why I think it’s important that we rest in the middle of our to-do list, not after it’s all done. It allows us to build trust in God, and that he’s in control and not us. When we rest our trust in God is built up.
If that makes you uncomfortable… If that makes your head spin that you couldn’t possible take a day off because of all the things you got going on… Then you really need to rest. Because that mindset shows that you think you are more important than God. You are not in control. God is. He’s got it. You can take a day off. You can rest. God’s in control, not you.
How To Find Rest
Hopefully at this point you want to find rest… But that can be hard to do. Here’s 3 ways that I find rest in my life.
This might be hard for some of you. But you have to say no. If you want to find rest you are going to have to say no to something and some people. And you will probably be saying no to some good things, some important things. But you have to say no to what is good, for what is best.
Look at Jesus, he said no to people in need so he could get away to recharge. He literally said no to people that needed to be healed, people that wanted to be taught. He walked past them, snuck out the back, ran away from them. Why? Because he knew he had to say no to something important so that he could say yes to something more important. He knew if he didn’t rest he would have nothing left to give.
Saying no allows you to have the space to rest. SO THAT, you have something of value to give to those that need you.
Find what Recharges You
Once you have the space to rest you now actually have to rest… Rest will look different for each person as we each will recharge differently.
For Jesus that seemed to be the mountains, nature. That’s where he often withdrew to. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you find rest when you are out in nature, by water, in the mountains, just walking around your neighborhood. But that’s not for everyone. Maybe it’s an afternoon nap. A cup of coffee with a friend. A date with your spouse. Listening to music. Reading a book. Sitting on your back porch. Heck it could even be going for a run.
What is it that you do that afterwards you feel refreshed? Do that.
Spend Time with God
Of course the first two steps are meaningless without this final step. When you say no and find rest you essentially have self care. Not a bad thing, but not the ultimate point of what God commands us to rest. We do things these so that we have space to connect with God. So when you rest this should be a central part of what you do.
Just like as each of us rest and recharge differently we will each connect with God differently. For some it’s in the quietness of the house. Others praying while in nature. Some like to journal while others prefer to draw their prayers. It doesn’t really matter how you spend time with God, it matters that you make intentional time to pour into your relationship with him.
Let me just add one more piece to this… This can take some work and practice. Don’t be discouraged if you got distracted or feel like you didn’t connect with God. Just keep going back.
You and I need rest. We need a place to rest and recharge. You need to find time to spend time with God away from the chaos of the rest of our lives. If Jesus rested then you need it too; regularly.
Where do you find rest?