“Rest is for the weak,” or so goes the popular adage. I was sitting at lunch with a man from our church a few years back and I asked him how he was. He responded, “I’m tired, but I’m not going to say I’m tired because everyone is tired.”
How did we get here? Often, our North American culture is driven by ambition, workaholism, and burn-out. In many cases, we do not want to accept the limits that God has placed on us as human beings. We prefer to push our limits, burning the proverbial candle at both ends, expecting to produce just a little bit more. At some point we must stop to evaluate if our incessant drive is rooted in the Edenic lie that we can be like God.
However, God has given us a wonderful mechanism to protect our hearts and bodies from the consequences of this lifestyle. Practicing Sabbath rest is not just a good idea but a practice that is built into the very Ten Commandments. As believers we see most of the Ten Commandments as morally binding, but for some reason we look at the Sabbath as if it were not.
From the very beginning of creation, God has demonstrated for us a rhythm necessary to remind our restless hearts and bodies that He is the One who governs all things, even while we rest.
In our family, Mondays is our day of Sabbath rest. This may vary depending upon how strict of a sabbatarian someone is, but this is not the space to delve into those issues. On Mondays we work hard at practicing three central principles.
1. Delight in God
Ultimately, Sabbath is for God, not for us. It is time that we set aside specifically for Him, to honor Him, be with Him, and enjoy Him. Sabbath rest is an opportunity to remind our restless hearts that, in the words of Augustine, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Work will never fill our hearts. Accomplishment, success, these fleeting pleasures cannot fill the God-sized void that exists in our hearts. Delighting in God on the Sabbath is a weekly reminder that only He can truly supply my needs and satisfy.
One of my favorite verses to meditate on during Sabbath rest is Psalm 16:5, “LORD, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future.”
2. Delight in others
We often call Sabbath rest our family day. This is a day where we want to intentionally be with each other, listen to each other, care for each other, play together, cook together, and whatever other crazy idea comes to mind. The rush of work often pushes us to value that which is not eternal.
We can tend to prefer tasks over people. One of the hardest lessons for me to learn is that tasks are not made in the image of God, but people are. Those who merit my attention, my ears, my time, and my energy are those who have been crafted by God in His image. Sabbath rest is a wonderful opportunity to invest in those who are around me, specifically my family.
C. S. Lewis has famously said “you have never talked to a mere mortal.” Sabbath rest permits us to reset our minds and hearts, unplug from our mortal devices and the litany of mortal conversations happening on them, and spend time investing in immortals.
3. Delight in creation
Finally, Sabbath rest is a gift from God to enjoy His generosity in creation—both nature and human creativity. It is amazing to consider that God has made His creation so beautiful out of sheer generosity. We get to enjoy wonderful scenery, the complexity of nature, the beauty of a rose, all because God is gracious toward us.
Sabbath rest permits us to take in the pleasure God has integrated into creation. We can take a moment to enjoy a walk in the woods, go out and play in the park, sweat doing some exercise, or even watch a movie. These things are results of God’s creativity in nature and in humanity.
Rest for the Weak
I would agree rest is for the weak, precisely because it is the weak that don’t realize how much they need rest. It requires great strength to push against the status quo that wants us to do more and produce more, to stop and realize the blessing of rest. Do you practice a Sabbath rest? If not, you certainly should. Not just because it is good for you, but because God wants you to.