Rest From Work
I’m grateful my work is fulfilling.
Honestly, I love my work. I find that what I’m doing is up-lifting. For the most part, work energizes me. Yes, I get tired at times. But it’s a “good tired,” a sense of accomplishment and awareness that my work is meaningful. Not only for myself, but for others.
Work is good. Wisdom teaches us:
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil [work]” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
I’ve had employment engagements in the past that were difficult — requiring me to “will” myself to show up. But even unpleasant working conditions allow me to see the importance of obedience and faithfulness — acts of stewardship.
The Apostle Paul reminds us: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” (Colossians 3:23). On more than one occasion I’ve had to remember: “Richard, you’re doing this for the Lord, not for others.”
Whether our work is fulfilling or un-fulfilling, it is essential that we rest from our labor.
If God saw that it was necessary for Him to rest on the seventh day, what makes us believe we can avoid rest (see Genesis 2:2).
The central Hebrew root for the concept of rest is שׁבת (šābat), or Sabbath, which means “to cease, to rest.” Sabbath keeping is a core component of the Judeo-Christian cultures. Established and commanded by God, we are to enter His rest, laying aside our work (Exodus 20:8-11).
We know that rest is fundamental to our success, health, and happiness. However, in the pursuit of greater productivity it’s easy to neglect finding rest from our work. Nowhere is this truer than the United States.
Kenny Kline reminds us: “The United States is the only advanced economy that doesn’t mandate vacation policy at the national level.”1 He lists seven reasons why rest from work is essential:
1) Rest keeps our brain sharp.
2) We are more creative.
3) We are able to accomplish more in less time.
4) When we’re rested, we make better decisions.
5) Rest helps our body and immune systems repair themselves — we’re healthier.
6) We catch up on needed sleep.
7) Rest allows us to have time to review and reflect.
God understands why rest is indispensable for our lives. So why do so many struggle in regularly taking time to rest from work? The reason is quite simple: FEAR!
What will my boss think? I’m afraid if I take time off I’ll fall behind. I can’t afford taking time off. The project(s) are too important to take time off… etc.
Sabbath keeping is not only for refreshment — it is to help us refocus.
We are inclined to forget God. That’s a historical fact. God instituted the Sabbath — not only to provide rest — but so we will worship (focus our thoughts and attention toward) God.
It’s easy to view my accomplishments as something I’ve done at the expense of remembering that it is God who has given me gifts to serve and bless others. It’s tempting to shift my focus to pleasing my employer first, rather than pleasing God first. I forget that when I please the LORD, God blesses my work, which pleases my employer.
Regular Sabbath keeping realigns my focus and bolsters my trust. And, when I’m trusting God, I am able to enter His REST.
It’s not only work that produces weariness.
Psychologist Adam Grant identifies the “dominant emotion of 2021” as “languishing.”
As I speak with fellow pastors and leaders there is an obvious awareness that within many there is a growing sense of emptiness, despondency, lack of hope, aimlessness, and joylessness. These “weights” encourage anxiety.
Sabbath refreshes our mind, body, and soul. This God-ordained-rest also re-directs our attention to God, strengthening our trust.
Are you tired, weary, anxious, and fearful? Perhaps it’s time to accept Christ’s invitation to regularly enter a Sabbath rest:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” - Matthew 11:28–30 (The Message)
Any amount of time you spend resting with God will help your spiritual growth. For a wonderful free resource to guide you in connecting with God, check out A Simple Pause, an app for your phone that will guide you in several different types of spiritual disciplines.