Do you Understand the Spiritual Importance of Rest?

Jeannie Ewing

Do you Understand the Spiritual Importance of Rest?

“On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation” (Gn. 2:2-3).

As a new homeschooling mom, I’m teaching our daughters about creation.  As we go through what God made each day, Felicity and Sarah eagerly interject with questions about the Earth, the animals, the sky, and water.  It’s overwhelming to consider how magnificent are God’s works!  But what strikes me most – always, to the core – is the truth that God rested on the seventh day.

God rested.

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Think about that for a moment: the Creator of the universe and everything in it made time to rest.  Naturally, God didn’t need to do this.  So why would He choose to rest?  Rest is important, even crucial, to our wellbeing.  God was making a statement by resting on the seventh day.  He wanted to set an example for us all to follow.

We also know that work is good and necessary; not only did God work by creating the world in six days, but He set Adam and Eve to work once He made them: “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Gn. 2:15).  Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, we learn about the value of work – and what happens when we don’t work (see Prv. 12:24).  Opting out of valid work is the equivalent of laziness, or the vice of sloth.  We cannot expect to see the fruits of our labor – either materially or spiritually – if we do not toil according to our primary vocations.

The Idolization of Work

Yet many of us have made work a false deity.  Work is esteemed in our western society as the highest means of success, especially when work is labeled as prestigious (e.g., being the CEO/CFO/COO, etc. of a company) or lucrative (e.g., making six figures or more each year).  No longer do we view work as a means to an end (as in, harvesting crops so that the family can eat), but it is almost always associated exclusively with the amount of money we earn.  And the only way to make more money or advance along the corporate ladder is, of course, to work more. 

What about rest?  Why is sleep deprivation such an issue in our modern epoch?  Somehow, we’ve deluded ourselves into believing that, in order to be productive, we must be constantly busy, constantly doing.  We, therefore, neglect the beauty and higher order of being when we are always doing.  We don’t know how to be Marys, because we are so accustomed to being Marthas.

Consider what the Psalmist’s sage words mean about working too much without respite: “It is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night, to eat bread earned by hard toil— all this God gives to his beloved in sleep” (Ps. 127:2).  So, not only is it unhealthy for us to neglect sleep and relaxation, it is also considered vanity!  It seems this is because,when we work so hard to earn money and acquire possessions, we tend to view success as our own, rather than as a gift from our provident God.

Resting is an act of trust.

When we rest, we nestle into the bosom of God.  Resting is an act of trust.  We can let our guard down, knowing that God will provide for the details of our lives.  Relaxing or taking a break means that we don’t have to control everything, because we are “worth more than many sparrows” (see Mt. 6:26).  If the birds and flowers do not fret about how they will thrive when tempests arrive and famine strikes, then we should not worry about what we will eat or wear.

Working too much might indicate our lack of trust in God, which translates into a lack of faith.

Rest rejuvenates the body and the soul.  We are revived when we make time for silence and solitude, time to listen to the Lord speaking to us, perhaps as we saunter in the park on a crisp autumn day, or hear a bird’s evensong.  Resting is balm for the soul, especially on days and weeks when we are so harried and hurried that we seldom stop long enough to breathe or eat properly.

Rest restores and balances us.  It brings us back to the center and helps us refocus on what’s most important – our faith in God, caring for our families, and fostering relationships with those God has entrusted to us.  Money will always come and go, but the fullness of the life God has given to us cannot be trumped by monetary gain.  “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (see Mt. 6:21)  Rest, therefore, is at the heart of our relationship with God. 

Resting reminds us to take time out of our hurried lives and slow down.

Slow down for a day, then, and watch what happens.  Your body will be recharged, and your soul will be revived.  Work has its place in our lives, but rest must never be sacrificed in order that we get ahead or push forward in our careers.  Our hearts, when rooted in prayer, are naturally drawn to periods of rest.  It is during times of quiet when we are most attentive and attuned to God’s murmurings and stirrings in our hearts.

We discover who we are and who we’re meant to be in times of respite.  God chooses to meet us in the space we make for rest, because that space isn’t filled with frivolities or busyness.  Empty your heart in the space that the times of rest permit you, then, so that God may fill your empty cup to overflowing once again.  When your heart is filled with His love and presence, you are better able to give of yourself without resentment or depletion.  Rest today.  Rest in His love.

How do you make time for spiritual rest in your life? Leave a comment below!