Rest in Peace

You’re loved, and you love others in return. The size of that group of reciprocal affection is larger or smaller depending on who you are, your personality, and your social maturity. But you have that group of people—friends and family—for whom you leverage much of your waking day to serve, hoping to make their lives better in whatever you do. And speaking of vocation, you have particular skills and talents, the toolbox that holds what you can and can’t do, who you are and who you aren’t. Lastly, there is your wrist or your pocket, wherever you keep your favorite time keeping device, reminding you through beeps and vibrations that life is short. These three—the people you love, your abilities, and limited time—form the perfect storm for guilt-driven exhaustion. Time management coaches salivate when they hear talk like this, as if they alone can "to-do" and "time log" your life into efficiency and reward. But, too often, four important letters are missing in the conversation—r-e-s-t.

Rest is a pretty big deal to God.[1] He rests[2] and commands his people to do the same[3]. When God made this thing we call a 24-hour-day he made the night to precede the day, leaving humanity passive and at rest at the start of each day, only joining him later, like a teenager roused from sleep mid-morning, to join God in the work he’s already doing.[4] Order matters. Then, in the ministry of Jesus, you’ll find Jesus taking time to rest[5] and sleep[6], calling his disciples to rest[7], framing salvation as rest[8], even allowing his dead body to rest on the Sabbath between Golgotha and Easter resurrection[9]. Rest is a major theme in creation and redemption. And yet, you sit there with loved ones on your mind, not even considering that the best way you could serve them would be to rest—to sleep eight hours[10], to take all your vacation days, to learn to say “no,” or to refuse to enroll your children in the youth sports circuit equivalent of training for a decathalon[11].

Are you more or less pleasant to be around when you’re exhausted and overworked? If you have to ask a family member or friend to answer that question, that is a warning sign. Your family doctor will tell you that avoiding proper rest will earn you a short temper, decreased focus, weakened will-power, difficulty prioritizing, and enough physical maladies to fill a medium-sized medicine cabinet. Are these the things you want to carry into your best relationships? If you’re starting to wonder if you might have a problem, is working harder really the answer?

Jesus is inviting you to rest, commanding you to rest, but not with a heavy hand as if he was trying to put a speed governor on your Bugatti. Christian, one of the reasons that Jesus lived, died, and lives again is to give you true rest. Jesus atoned for your sins; you don’t have to let guilt drive you to hypertension. Jesus gives you his righteousness as a new identity; your work doesn’t and can’t define you. Jesus reorders your priorities through the Bible; you can put first things first rather than all things first. And as you begin to rest—really get about the excruciatingly painful work of truly resting—you’ll find yourself able to love and serve your friends and family better than when you were popping 5-hour energy drinks. When it comes to considering whether or not you will rest, the question to answer is whether or not you believe in a God loving enough, sin-destroyingly powerful enough, life-alteringly true and trustworthy enough for you to take a deep breath and rest.

  1. For that reason alone it should be a big deal to us.  ↩

  2. Gen 2:2  ↩

  3. Exodus 20:8–11  ↩

  4. Few things bespeak our culture’s ignorance of true work than the view that a day begins with the alarm clock, continues to exhaustion, and concludes with an invitation to a six hour nap induced state of sleep deprivation, only to rise the next day to repeat it all again.  ↩

  5. John 4:6  ↩

  6. Mark 4:38  ↩

  7. Mark 6:31  ↩

  8. Matt 11:28–30; Heb 4:9–11  ↩

  9. John 19:32  ↩

  10. I often wonder how our congregation would be different if we all agreed to get eight hours of sleep each day for a month.  ↩

  11. Basketball, baseball, football, soccer, swimming, lacrosse, track and field, wrestling, robotics club, chess team…  ↩