What is Rest?

Dating is not about the activities we choose to do, but about the person we choose to pursue. The dinners or movies or long walks serve the function of connecting us to someone desirable. Sometimes even difficult conversations, non-fun moments, are weathered by us as well, because we trust that the bonding they will produce is worth it.

But what would those activities be without the person? In our productivity-driven world, it would be hard to justify them regularly. Where does real rest fit in?  Is it only resigned to guilty pleasure, show binging, with repentance or sloth in tow?

The lure of productivity is that it will buy us security, happiness. Produce accomplished children, high-paid work, healthy ministry, a skinny version of ourselves? The pressure and expectations can feel crushing.

God understands and provides for this universal human condition by commanding rest in him. Yet when we hear this, we can feel the burden of still having all the demands, but now in less time! And then we may feel guilty that we feel that way about something we know is from God. What can be done?

We must remember, we were redeemed for wonderful things, not because of our “wonderful” selves.

This warm blanket of grace is at the heart of Sabbath. By the time of Jesus, the most religious Jews were taking Sabbath, a complete day off from all types of work, very seriously. Their ancestors had been exiled for their syncretism and Sabbath-breaking, so they determined to not offend God like that again. But they over-corrected: they added to God’s laws, and decided to police each other in their observance as opposed to letting God be the judge.

Into this stepped Jesus, to declare that the Sabbath was made for us, not the other way around (Mark 2:27). It is meant as a blessing, not as another crushing expectation.

The original command came in the context of Israelites who were dependent on farming. I have never been a farmer, but my impression is that it would be unwise to take off one day a week, and downright insane to not work entire years. The only justification to do that is the word and promise of God, and the only way they would ever obey is to trust God’s character to back up his promises—even more than they trusted the wisdom of hard work and diligence. It was a huge risk.

The Sabbath to me is a is a place to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:7). Can God be trusted to take care of me? Am I willing embrace that I am weak, even where I appear the strongest? Am I willing to take the risk of rest in each season of my life?

Sabbath is not about a thing we do; it’s about a person we are learning to trust, because he has always been faithful. He asks us to rest, not because he wants to watch us squirm, but so that we can better receive the gift of knowing that He is God and we are not.

This is why the New Testament declares that Jesus is our Sabbath rest. He earned my salvation, I never could have, and I can rest from my striving for approval. This resting in salvation’s beginning then expands outward into my growing rest in him in my life.

I am free to approach the throne of grace and ask for a transformed heart, a hear that choose to rest in God; I am free to rest from my attempts to earn anything from him; I am free to rest from finding my security in things or people; I am free to rest from other people’s expectations, knowing that only God is my judge.

I’m no longer dating, now I’m married. I’m not having to wonder if he’s worth not-working for, because I experience the dual edge of enjoying the rest I find in spending time with my husband, and knowing that that time I spent is a good investment in the health of our relationship. And because I am married to an excellent man, he carves out time for me to get my work done, so I can rest without worry in his presence.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  As Augustine put it, “Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”