In these days of stay-at-home orders and quarantines, there have been a good many blogs and social media posts on how believers can still work hard and use their time well. And rightly so (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12)! A hearty yes and amen! Some of us are tempted to idleness and laziness. We need such a tonic.
But without an ounce of contradiction, some of us need a different tonic. Work has ruled our lives. Our kids’ extracurriculars mean we can’t remember the last time we’ve sat at the table for a family dinner. Late at night we lay in bed answering emails, because we cannot stand watching that little number on our phones tick up and up and up.
And for those of us, stay-at-home orders and quarantines might actually be a gracious call to rest, and even provide the opportunity to do so, at last.
Rest is Good
In Genesis 1, we encounter our true and living God busy at work for six days, creating the earth. But as we turn the page to Genesis 2, on the seventh day, God rests.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1–3)
This same pattern of work and rest is found in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11). It’s even found in the life of Jesus, which should be no surprise, since He and the Father are one (Mark 6:30-31 and Luke 5:15-16).
So to anyone who needs such a tonic, hear this happy news: It’s okay – even good – to rest.
Five Encouragements to Rest
But those of us in the unable-or-unwilling-to-rest crowd might need just a bit more encouragement. We might just need to know why rest is effective and efficient.
1. Rest imitates God.
God worked six days and rested the seventh. Following His pattern could only and ever be a wise and healthy use of our time. Not only that, our desire is to grow in holiness, to imitate how our God thinks and speaks and acts. And if God rested, then such a pursuit of holiness involves rest.
2. Rest creates space to pray.
It’s hard to make prayer a meaningful part of our lives if our minds and hands are perpetually occupied – even with good things. It’s why Jesus often took breaks from His public ministry to withdraw to desolate places and pray (Luke 5:16).
3. Rest sharpens priorities.
If we establish the boundaries and carve aside the time that will make rest truly rest, we will have to give up the illusion that we can do everything. And when we quit trying to do everything, we’ll mercifully challenge ourselves to see and do what’s most important.
4. Rest builds humility and community.
Building off the last encouragement, we’re going to have to ask for help once we admit we can’t do everything. This will help cultivate that prized biblical virtue of humility, and it’ll help cultivate community, as we learn to lean on one another.
5. Rest rejuvenates.
As obvious as this may be, those of us who need a call to rest will also need this reminder. A non-stop life will wear us down. The allure of constant effectiveness and efficiency will actually make us ineffective and inefficient, as we’re far too busy to give anything our best thought, our best energy, our best effort. Rather, rest will rejuvenate us to work hard and to do our work well.
So to everyone who needs such a tonic, hear the good and gracious call to rest. Heed the words of Jesus:
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:30–31)