Why We Need Rest: More Than the Work We Do

Why We Need Rest: More Than the Work We Do April 10, 2014

This is a guest post by Dr. Dan Boone, the president of Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming releaseThe Way We Work: How Faith Makes a Difference on the Job (BEACON HILL Press). Read more at his blog, www.danboone.me.

Everybody I know is tired. You are tired. I am tired. Your work wears on you.

In addition to the work, you battle the monotony of doing the same things repeatedly. Laundry breeds in the closet. School homework is eternal. Customers keep showing up. Things break and require fixing, again.

We’ve done these things all our lives, every week, most days. And we grow tired of the rat race.

We need a Sabbath rest

God’s Created a Pattern of Rest

May I tell you one of my favorite stories?

Once upon a time the Creator created creation. As the story is told in Genesis 1, we notice a literary flow.  The creation of the first day:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

You know what comes next. The details of six more days of creation, all followed by the words: “And there was evening and there was morning. …”

Do you see the pattern? Evening-morning, evening-morning, evening-morning.

Each new day begins with night. When we go to sleep, God begins the new day. We begin each day resting.

This cycle tells us that the world does not hinge on our work. We make our contribution late in the day. God was putting the finishing touches on creation when we were hired on day six.

Our corresponding fit in this evening-morning pattern is sleep-labor, sleep-labor. Interestingly, there is no biblical command to sleep. It’s a pattern we can’t ignore without crashing. Our bodies demand sleep. The creation story establishes a healthy pattern: evening-morning, sleep-labor.

But there’s another pattern in the story. After creating, God rested. God practiced Sabbath. The word Sabbath means stop, quit, cease and desist, rest. God stopped doing what he had been doing for six days. A new rhythm began. Six days of labor, one day of rest: 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

We Need a Sabbath Rest

Fast-forward in time. We find ourselves in Egypt, slaves in a brick-making factory. And here comes God liberating us from Pharaoh’s grind and preparing us for a new career as entrepreneurs in Canaan. And God says,

Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it (Exod. 20:8-11).

For the life of me, I cannot imagine any liberated slave saying, “What! No way! If I want to work seven days a week, who are you to tell me I can’t? No one has the right to make me stop working!” They would have called that slave crazy. Today we call the same person a workhorse, the backbone of the company, the guts of the organization, an iron man (or woman). We give that person awards and make him or her poster child of productivity.

And there are also those people who work six days for pay, then become nonstop workers at other quests on the seventh day – white knuckling a golf club and getting more stressed with each hole, attacking the lawn with veins bulging, cleaning the house with the vengeance of germ warfare. They are restless, driven, anxious, charging, doing-doing-doing.

Sabbath is a sign, a signal between God and us. After six days of labor, God calls for a day of rest. This is somehow connected to our sanctification: “You shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you” (Ezek. 20:20). God cannot make us holy without our participation in the rhythms of grace.

If you continue living at the same pace you are now, will you like the person you become in ten years? What is the quality of your life off the clock? Can you relax? Do you know how to stop working? When, during the week, does God’s grace penetrate your fatigued spirit and invigorate your life? When do you get still and hear the whispering God? When do you recalibrate, recharge your soul batteries? When do you really play?

God never intended us to live non-stop, harried, and distracted lives. God is not a slave driver. God liberates His people from slavery. We are more than the work we do.

Are you racing through life at a harried pace or have you been able to find the rest and refreshment God intends for you? Share your experience with a comment by clicking here.

Image by net_efekt


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