rest • verb, noun: to refrain from labor or exertion; to be free from anxiety or disturbance; peace of mind or spirit
Every journey requires rest—whether we seek mental, academic/artistic, or physical wholeness—we all need to pause and rest. Our journey towards spiritual wholeness also involves a component of rest. In fact, I maintain that God created us to rest and gave us a specific day in which to seek rest.
It started with creation. God created for six days, and then rested. In addition, he made that day a special one.
“So God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it [as His own, that is, set it apart as holy from other days], because in it He rested from all His work which He had created and done.” Genesis 2:3 AMP
If the God and Creator of the universe paused to rest—maybe we should consider following his example. God created us to rest—he set apart a day in which to find rest and relationship with him. You can search a Bible commentary or BibleGateway to find all of the references to ‘Sabbath’ in the Bible.
Over time, and because of sin, humans drew apart from God, the Sabbath, and rest. When he called the Israelites out of Egypt, he had to teach them once again about his holy day and its purpose. Between the exodus and the birth of Jesus, the Israelites (now known as Jews) added to the original fourth commandment about keeping the Sabbath holy.
They perfected their rules into an onerous burden. When Jesus started his ministry, he shocked the religious leaders because he kept Sabbath differently. Yes, he went to the synagogue. But he also healed people. He let his disciples pick grain because they needed to eat.
Jesus summed up the commandments in two categories—Loving God and loving man (Mark 12:30-31). The first four commandments show us how to love God, the second six explain how to love man.
Jesus didn’t come to do away with the commandments—he came to show us that he is the way to salvation and peace. The Pharisees had turned the commandments into a burden too confusing to keep track of. Jesus came to show us that the rules don’t save us—he does.
Rest for the Weary
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus uses the metaphor of a yoke to explain the purpose of his commandments. Farmers use yokes to connect two animals together so that they could share a burden. Some cultures use a yoke as a means of distributing the weight of a burden equally to each side of the person who carries it—it acts as a balance. Either description provides an apt metaphor. The first implies that Jesus wants to walk beside us a guide us in his ways—he wants to labor with us and work through us.
The second usage of yoke makes sense, too. God wants to give us a balanced perspective and help us lead balanced lives. If we follow his commandments, it will happen naturally.
I love the way the Message Bible words it:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
The Twofold Aspect of Rest
Rest, then, involves two things. Coming to Jesus on a daily basis, and resting from our labors on the Sabbath. If you feel as if you can’t find time to rest, I challenge you to spend a month observing Sabbath rest once a week. Meet with other believers. Praise and worship God. Limit (or eliminate) social media. Keep the TV off. Get outside and enjoy creation. Spend time with your family. Eat simply. Set aside everything on your to-do list and celebrate life instead. Rest.Rest involves two things: Daily time with God and weekly rest from our labor. #sabbath Click To Tweet
If you have to turn off your phone and your computer, do it! In order to set aside anxiety and disturbance, we have to disassociate ourselves from what makes us frazzled. Learn to rest, truly rest. It may take a while for you to figure out what you need to set aside to achieve Sabbath rest. When the sun goes down on Sabbath, you should feel the desire to linger longer in the rest, but rejuvenated and ready to face the week ahead because you took time to rest.
Nurture Yourself Takeaway #28—To find wholeness, learn how to rest.