I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a lot more free time lately. Being locked in your house under a stay-at-home order will do that. During this COVID-19 crisis, most of us have been getting more rest than usual–which sounds like it’d be a good thing, if it weren’t being forced upon us.
Because the thing about rest is that sometimes it actually makes me feel restless. That’s probably why I’m not very good about getting ample amounts of it under normal circumstances.
If you’re a driven person, I imagine that the same is true for you. I don’t want to waste my life. I want to spend my days doing things that are full of meaning and purpose. I want to get stuff done!
So I don’t want to rest until I’m tired. And by tired I mean completely exhausted and spent.
But here are 3 reasons why that’s a bad idea.
Busy is not a badge of honor.
The fact of the matter is that if you refuse to rest, you’re playing a dangerous game.
When God brought Israel into the promised land, he commanded them to take a weekly Sabbath. But they were also required to take every seventh year as a Sabbath–meaning that they would let the land rest from growing crops for an entire year (Leviticus 25:1-7).
Can you imagine if the company you worked for took every seventh year off? But that’s the kind of rest God was calling his people into. Rest requires faith in the fact that God is working to care for you even while you’re resting.
And what’s crazy is that failing to rest is probably the only sin you actually get praised for. Not resting is what gets you promotions and raises. Not resting impresses the people around you–especially if you’re working hard for a noble cause.
But refusing to rest is not a badge of honor. It’s actually a sign that you need to grow your faith.
If you skip rest for long enough, you’ll eventually need to catch up on it all at once.
If you refuse to rest, you can keep going for a while. But you can’t go forever.
When God gave Israel the command to rest, he also outlined a consequence. If they failed to listen to him, eventually he would remove them from the promised land. And the term of their exile would be as long as it took to pay back the Sabbath years they had not taken. (Leviticus 26:35).
And when Israel was eventually removed from the land, they were exiled for 70 years (2 Chronicles 36:17-21). That means that Israel hadn’t observed a Sabbath year in 490 years! In other words, they had actually never done it.
Israel failed to trust God enough to build rhythms of rest into their culture. Instead, they relied on their own strength to sustain them. And because of that, they began to make economic and political decisions that led them down a path of moral corruption. (It got so bad at one point that they actually sacrificed their own infant children on altars of fire in the hopes of a good harvest.)
All that to be said, when you refuse to rest, it always catches up with you.
For some, it leads to burnout that completely side rails your life. For others, you simply lose the perspective that rest brings. And that leads you into a moral slide that you just don’t come back from.
If you refuse to engage in regular rhythms of rest for long enough, you end up having to pay it all back lump sum–and often with interest.
Rest is a way of experiencing God’s grace.
Saint Augustine, a famous fourth century theologian, once said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.” Perhaps the reason why we’re so restless is because we have failed to rest in Jesus.
But rest is the very thing that Jesus promised to give us. He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
The invitation to rest is an expression of God’s grace toward us. So if we say that we don’t need rest, then what we’re really saying is that we don’t need grace. And that’s just not true.
So while we’re living under this stay-at-home order, here’s my encouragement to you. Don’t fight rest. Embrace it. It’s a reminder of the grace that God is constantly inviting you to experience. Don’t refuse that invitation.