The Gift of Rest and the Beauty of Sabbath

Pauline   |   September 20, 2022 

“I’m so tired!!"

My husband jokes that that’s the statement he hears from me most nowadays. Our family moved into our new home in a small community in Orissa two months ago. For the first time in our marriage, both of us are working full time (my first full time job). The girls are adjusting to the Indian education system in a small school and navigating friendships in a new setting. The transition and getting into the rhythms of this new way of life has left me exhausted by 8 pm every night. I have been enjoying work, and the community and all that comes with it, but oh my! I am so tired. I am so thankful for the good sleep I can have every night! What a gift sleep and rest are to us!

You may not be in the same season of life or circumstances but feeling tired and needing a break is something we all say or hear often. But I must admit that I don’t always feel rested or refreshed even when I do have a break. Are you like this too? Do you come out of holidays feeling rested or more exhausted?

For some, resting consists of bingeing on Netflix, while for others, a day off may mean shopping, or a list of fun activities to do. Or, we may struggle with our endless to-do lists and have no time for rest. We flood our weekends with all the tasks that need to be done. We fill every day of the week with cramming up for exams or trying to meet a deadline or something else.

One day, the director of our institution was just checking up on how I was doing, and as I talked about being exhausted, he mentioned the importance of a day of rest each week (for him each Sunday) and how observing that has given him so much energy for the coming week and its demands. He also mentioned what he meant by rest – it was a day he kept for physical rest, but also to delight in the Lord and the rest He gives. He encouraged me to intentionally keep aside time for rest.

This made me think because Sabbath, or rest, has been something I paid so little attention to growing up, thinking that wasn’t relevant to me but only to the Old Testament times. But in the past three years, the Lord has opened my eyes to the beauty of the Sabbath in so many ways - through sermons, discussions with friends, encouragement from those older and more mature in the faith and my own time with the Lord.

God the Creator, after He had worked for six days, rested on the seventh day and blessed it (Gen 2:3). After the deliverance of Israel from slavery, He gave them laws on how to live as His people. As He rested on the seventh day, His people were to follow in His example. As the once enslaved but now freed men, their day of rest was one where they could reflect and celebrate their deliverance from bondage to slavery and also delight in and depend on God their Provider and Sustainer.

The Sabbath was to be a day of rest from the labours of the week, not just for the Israelites, but for their servants and those working for them, and even for their animals. (Deut 5:6, 12-15) In fact, every seventh year, the land would rest for the entire year and the people of Israel would live on what the land yields (Lev 7:1-7). It struck me how the Lord cared for the need of all His creation for rest and extended that to animals and the land too and how the Sabbath showed the dependence of the people on the Lord!

So, the Sabbath was not a burdensome law, but a gracious gift of God and one to be spent celebrating Him and growing in trust in Him.

But ever since the garden of Eden, we’ve been trying to live life on our own terms instead of gladly bowing to what our loving Creator, Sustainer and Father says. The Israelites time and time again broke the Sabbath, conducting business on that day instead of relying on their Jehovah Jireh. They did whatever they pleased, with their hearts and minds far from the Lord. Later, they filled the Sabbath with so many rules that it became a heavy burden on the backs of the already weary people.

We're not very different! We also like to live according to our own understanding of what is good for us. Instead of looking to the Lord for the rhythms of our lives, we pattern it to the ways of the world around us or our own desires. We strive to be our own providers and think we can self-sustain. Sometimes that means working tirelessly, for hours and days on end to provide the kind of life we think our families deserve. We need to study every day without rest because the competitive exams are just too hard and we need to prove ourselves. We try to look within us for deliverance and find ourselves working harder but feeling more restless. We struggle to give people working for us a day of rest because we are so dependant on them and also sometimes want to get the most out of them.

But our God who has set a rhythm of rest for all of us, has set it for a purpose. Our bodies and minds need the rhythm of work and rest. When our minds and hearts are not submitted to the Lord, we bend under the pressure of having to control all things and not being able to let go. And rest for our minds involves surrender to the Lord and intentionally setting our minds to delight in His deliverance, care and providence.

As a mom, I know when my kids need to rest. I know overworked and overplayed kids will make cranky, sleepy school students who will be disobedient because of their tiredness. As a physiotherapist, I know when I help my patients work on their muscles, rest is needed as much as exercise. A fatigued muscle will injure more easily and not perform to the best of its ability. As parents we know we are often the snappiest and most impatient when we have had absolutely no rest. I also know I want my kids to rest in my care of them, in my love of them, in the fact that they can rely on me.

Our loving God graciously gives us the gift of rest, both physical and spiritual. He is our Provider who provides for all our needs and sustains us and so we can rest in His loving care. More than that, in the riches of His grace, He has made the perfect provision for our hearts to be at rest in Him. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30,

“Come to me, all who labour and are weary and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Have you ever experienced the exhaustion of not measuring up? Of coming face to face with all your shortcomings and wondering how you could be accepted by God? How wonderful the good news of Jesus that He will give us rest as we come to Him in our weariness. He can give us this rest because He has fulfilled all the requirements of the law on our behalf and in place of our punishment, gives us His righteousness. He gives us this rest as we take His yoke upon ourselves, learn from Him and live lives submitted to His will. By grace, through faith in Jesus, we are fully accepted and fully loved by the Father. No more striving for acceptance, belonging, approval or love. We enjoy this fully through Jesus and we can rest in this.

What does this mean for us today, we who no longer have the obligation of keeping the Sabbath as a law? For me, it’s been a growing realisation of my need to submit to the rhythms the Lord has for my daily life, and live each day out of the rest and acceptance I have in Jesus. I need to keep reminding myself that only rest that is rooted in delighting in Jesus and in loving submission to Him will truly refresh me and fill me with joy. Time off weekly for my body to rest has helped me be in a better state to face all that the week has for me. Though we are called to set our minds on the Lord and our hearts on Him every day, time set aside specifically to remember what the Lord has done and rest in His love has been very refreshing.

We are not called to a list of things we must do to rest or even given a commandment about any specific day, so if this is something that’s been on your mind, you could ask the Lord how He would like you to incorporate this rhythm into your life. Our day of rest, if we have a day set aside, may include time with the Lord, fellowshipping with friends, family time, reading a book, going for a picnic, or anything else, but in all these, what is important is the attitude of our heart.

So let’s ask ourselves, in all that we do, are we delighting in God who has graciously given us the gift of deliverance, rest and providence? Are our hearts rested and celebrating His acceptance and love for us?

 

Photo by Angelina Kichukova on Unsplash

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Pauline

Pauline lives with her husband and two adorable daughters and is a physiotherapist by profession. She loves dancing and being silly with her daughters when she is not stuffing her mouth with food. She loves music, board games and exploring street markets with her family.

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