I am an expert at pretending to rest. I can fool myself into thinking that I’m taking the appropriate amount of time to be still, to stop checking items off of my to-do list, and to enjoy that art of slow living. But the truth is that I’ve never stopped striving at all, every time that I was “resting” I was trying to appear the most balanced, the most in tune with how to take care of myself. Or even more accurate still, I never took time to slow down because I felt like I didn’t need to. Resting was something that only weak people did, those who didn’t have things to do and worlds to change. Only unimportant, powerless people took a breather.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 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.” Genesis 2:1-3
Well that changes things doesn’t it? If the God of the universe, the Creator of everything took time to rest then why do we think that we can live life without doing the same? When I take an honest look at what my life this past year has been like up to this point I see heavy burdens of stress and shadows of pride blanketing most of my days. This is a direct result of my own foolish heart thinking that I could go through life without resting, that I was too important to rest, that the world would fall apart if I took one day to do nothing.
I’ve been feeling the need for Sabbath increasingly more over the past month, but I never fully engaged with the practice of respite. Instead, I preoccupied myself with a dim shadow of it full of escapism and daily to-dos. I don’t think you’d be shocked to find out that my version of resting didn’t yield all that much refreshment, in fact, it often left me feeling even more drained than I was before. Being still is not something that I’m all that good at, yes I can fake it on the outside quite well, but on the inside my brain is constantly going, thinking about how many things I should be doing right now and what I need to do next. Finding time, let alone a day, where I had no plans other than to slow down and breathe, well that was not only a foreign concept to me but a hard one to put into practice.
But it’s funny how the Lord speaks to you sometimes. He puts something on your heart and keeps reminding you and poking you about it to see if you’re listening. He keeps asking “Do you get it? Do you get it? Do you get it?” until you finally throw your hands up in joyful exasperation and whisper, “Yes.” Well, that has been the case with me and intentional Sabbath taking. It’s come up in books, sermons, thoughts, conversations, quiet times, and finally finally finally I can say, “I understand.” But just in case we are inclined to forget about our divine revelation the next morning, God niggles those words into our hearts through Scripture. He likes to drive the point home (and to be fair, that’s totally what we all need).
So here I am, opening my Bible on the morning of my Sabbath Monday and what passage am I reading today? Hebrews 4. And what, you might ask, is Hebrews 4 all about? Rest. But not just how great resting in God is, but what happens when we harden our hearts against the Lord’s word and choose to go our own way. If that isn’t a spiritual kick in the pants, I don’t know what is. Remember what I said about God asking you if you get it? Well, I can now say with confidence, “I get it! Rest isn’t just a nice idea; it’s a Biblical commandment, one that God demonstrated for us.”
We are not more important than God. The world will not fall apart if you take one day a week to turn off your phone and breathe. Your friends will not abandon you if you take one day a week to commune deeply with God and with yourself. You are not more important than God. I am not more important than God. But when we choose to go our own ways and walk in the opposite direction of God’s rest, then we deny ourselves so much more than a day off.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:9-11
God’s rest is for today, not tomorrow, not for when it’s convenient, but for right now. Don’t harden your heart against his rest; it’s sweeter than anything we could imagine. Don’t be so busy trying to earn your breaks that you miss out on the gift of divine rest from God. Intentionally making time for Sabbath rest will look different for everyone. For some, it might mean scheduling a day each week (hello, me), setting aside that book you’ve been meaning to read, spending time with old friends, unplugging from electronics, going on a hike, or lying in bed eating pizza and watching movies. Whatever your Sabbath looks like, make sure that you’re not just finding rest in earthly things, but that you’re drawing near to God and taking shelter under his wings. He is the giver of real rest and refreshment, hide in him, friends.
Welcome to my Sabbath.