Before writing this article I asked a few friends from different walks of life - what comes to their mind when they hear the word rest ?
Sleep topped the list followed by a variety of answers as to what rest means to different people. Here are few examples: a vacation, reading a book, no phone calls, no emails, home, happiness, peace, hanging out with friends, doing nothing, gardening, cuddles from a baby, the beach.
The fact is, whether you are a new mum or an empty-nester, an employee or an entrepreneur, a student chasing assignments deadlines and preparing for exams, or a retiree, a child or an adult . . . we all need rest.
So the question is, what is rest? If you go to Google and type "what does rest mean?", you get results such as: cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength.
The Bible however defines rest in two ways:
Ceasing, to Enjoy God’s Provision
Genesis 2:2-3 says,
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.
God, the creator of the universe was not drained, fatigued, or exhausted after a long week of work and therefore decided to rest. God, having finished the task that He set out to do, rested. The Hebrew word for rest is the word Sabbath. Sabbath does not mean resting after an exhausting week but it carries the idea of celebration of completion or enjoyment of accomplishment. After finishing the masterpiece, God looked at His creation and He enjoyed it. He called it "exceedingly good" (Genesis 1:31).
What does that mean for us today? God did not need rest, but He has set this as a precedent for us. Since we are God’s children, we need to follow the example of our Father and enjoy rest as a discipline in our own lives.
But let’s not confuse rest with laziness. In the Ten Commandments, we are commanded by God to rest, but we are also commanded to work.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
God did command us to rest but we now know that rest was commanded after 6 days of hard work for the people of Israel.
My husband and I enjoy the Sabbath rest on Mondays. To get that one day of rest I intentionally work hard over the weekends to prepare meals in advance, finish the laundry and other pending work before Monday. Mondays then we don’t have to do our regular chores as we have meals prepared, laundry done and no cleaning, only rest.
This does not necessarily means we get to sleep all day long but we intentionally cease from our routine errands. We spend time reading books, having friends over for coffee or just spend time with our daughter in the park and take time out to thank God. So for me to rest is to celebrate God’s provision in my life.
Ceasing, to Be Refreshed and Rejuvenated in God’s Presence
As a mother I can tell when my 2 year old is tired and needs rest. There are very clear indications that I see – my daughter starts to trip and fall more often than usual, bad behaviour is evident in tantrums and crying over small issues. I immediately know that all she needs is comfort from her mum, and rest. How often do we apply this logic to ourselves? We may not literally trip and fall, but we know how we feel, day after day, when we do not cease from our busyness and spend time in God’s presence.
God alone can comfort us and in His presence we get rejuvenated. The opposite of the word rest is: restlessness, agitation, disquiet, rush, strain, toil, tumult, unrest . . . these are just few words to get you thinking. Do you experience any of these emotions? If the answer is yes, you need to come in God’s presence be refreshed.
In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." According to the Greek translation rest in this verse means: to cease and be refreshed. In a world full of distractions, where notifications pop almost every second on your phone, group chats are never-ending, billboards and advertisements never stop enticing, people are always in a rush, with emails to reply to and a buzzing phone . . . when and how do you rest?
Recently as a family we have started practising a few hours of no gadgets, especially on our rest day. We turn off the notifications and keep our phones away from us. Yes, there are exceptions when we receive phone calls, but other than that the world still goes on and we enjoy uninterrupted rest. So whether your body needs a good 8 hours of sleep, or few hours away from your smart phone or to just enjoy doing nothing – you must rest, as God intended it for you.
Rest is a discipline. Like any other discipline, it requires intentionality. But, believe me, the dividends are great! You gain greater appreciation for God’s provision – creation, family, friends. And you are refreshed and rejuvenated in God’s presence to face your daily battles.
“Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength . . . It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.”