So now that we’ve looked at the command to rest and the merits of resting, what exactly is rest? How do we practically apply this command?
Since the Sabbath is the quintessential example of rest, I went back to those passages on it. In Exodus 16:22-30 gives us a glimpse of the Israelites’ Sabbath while in the desert. God commands them to gather twice as much manna and prepare it the day before so that they can rest on the Sabbath. Initially, they try the gathering-enough-manna-for-two-days thing on a non-day-before-Sabbath day and then the manna gets all nastily full of worms. And they actually go out to gather on the Sabbath (no manna in sight) and are rebuked.
Frankly, this is what my “resting” looks like a lot of the time. I rest when it’s time to be diligent. I don’t rest when it’s time to rest. I don’t trust God to provide. This seems like a key feature of rest–we rest because we trust God to provide. Just like Psalm 127:1-2 says: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat–for he grants sleep to those he loves” (or alternate translation: “for while they sleep he provides for those he loves”) (NIV). Rest involves a big mind shift. If we think we are self-sufficient and that our labor is what provides for us, we’ve got a problem. Whether we grow our own food or work at a job and buy food from our wages, God has still provided.
In the New Testament, we see this principle repeated: God provides rest. Jesus Himself says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Mat 11:28-30 (NIV)
Rest is only found in the context of our relationship with God, regardless of if it’s physical rest or spiritual rest. The more I study rest, the more I’m coming to the conclusion that it is primarily a heart issue. Don’t you hate things like that? I would much rather have things be cut and dry… measurable. But rest seems to defy that sort of measurement. For instance, sleep can be a sign of resting in God or can be a sign of laziness. Not sleeping can reflect a heart full of sins like fear and pride, or it might be that God’s called me to do something (e.g., Paul preaching through the night). For me, it tends to be a control issue–can I let go of my illusion of control and trust God to take care of things while I rest? And can I do it before my body forces me to give up control? (check out “The Resting Place” in Tales from a Spacious Place if you want to see more on this)
Scripturally, we aren’t commanded to keep the Sabbath, but that doesn’t let us off the hook for resting. We need rest, just like we need oxygen, and ignoring that need is as ridiculous as refusing to put on an oxygen mask during a flight emergency. In an effort to put our own masks on first, our family decided to implement a weekly Sabbath after listening to a series by our pastor, Mike Priest (3/15/09-4/5/09). Taking a break reminds us of important things–that God is in control, that He provides for us as a loving father provides for his children, and that obeying Him is life-giving–and gives us margin in our lives.
So how do you practically apply this concept of rest? How are you diligent to rest? I’ve already started writing up my answer to this question, but I’ll leave you here so you can start thinking about your own life first. 🙂