“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” – St. Augustine
Life presents us with many opportunities to fill our days with an inexhaustible amount of activities, whether leisurely or out of responsibility. However, where is it that we find the strength to persevere day by day? Or how do we find meaning when often times our tasks feel like an endless cycle of work in which there is no ability to see beyond to a greater purpose in our efforts.
This semester I’ve been brought to a place where I value and want to be at rest in my soul more than ever before. I’ve taken a couple of new jobs within the last few weeks, so I have found myself often with a booked schedule. I’m to the point where I find it strange if I have a couple of hours of free time, making sure that I’m not forgetting something. So basically, my perspective has become one that values and wants to understand rest in more depth. And in the midst of this season of my life, God is faithfully teaching me a valuable lesson. Our true rest is in Christ.
There are a lot of different facets of rest that we explore. The one I am about to share is one that I have been taught in a couple of different contexts. My good friend and mentor from back home in NC first taught me that we as disciples of Christ should always leave room in our lives for God to work. We’re going to call them margins in our lives. It isn’t beneficial to the Kingdom if you have every minute of every day planned out. These “tasks” taking up all of our time become liabilities. The Spirit of God is who leads and guides us, but if we come to the place where we are preoccupied with too many things to remember and lack even a free minute, there is no space for him to lead us in.
Another context that I was taught this valuable truth was in one of my classes at Trinity. We were in Methods of Teaching Music, and my Elementary Education teacher was teaching us about the “rest” found in making music. By showing us how putting notes together without any rest produces chaos, she applied that to how indispensable rest is to our own lives. She then pulled out a book from our bookshelf full of exciting literature for children and opened it to a random page. That is where the concept of margins comes in. She told us that it has been a proven fact that it’s practically impossible to read a book with no margins. It makes our brains go literally crazy. And that space on the outside surrounding the words on the page represents rest. Y’all, rest is really important. But it is also crucial to gain the correct perspective of what it is.
What Rest is Not
From my experience, it’s really easy to just accept rest as being the amount of time you have planned in your schedule to just sleep or veg. A point in time meant to hit the pause button and shut down physically and mentally. There is no harm in taking a break, but this can lead to habitual laziness that is found in confining yourself to comfort. I have come to realize, though, and hope that you do as well, that rest is so much more than that.
Other times, we look to the Old Testament and see the Sabbath day as being the rest God provides and demands from his people for rest. So it’s also easy to call Sunday our Sabbath because that’s the Lord’s Day for us. The day that most of us go to church and sometimes even get in that Sunday afternoon nap. An important thing to remember about the OT is that it is a foreshadowing of what God is going to accomplish in Christ, and, as believers under the New Covenant, we get to enjoy the results of fulfillment in the work of Jesus.
Are we able to identify the opposite of being at rest? In my opinion, it is to be constantly striving and never coming to a place of contentment. Striving for approval, striving for bigger and better things, and striving to complete assignments are just a few examples. The truth is, there will always be more to do and accomplish. Life is a never-ending cycle that stops just so we can keep up. That’s why having the right perspective of rest is so important, and why time is so valuable.
Be at Rest
One thing that I think is important to keep in mind is that there is a difference between spiritual rest and physical rest. We need both. The cool part about the physical rest is that it reminds us that we aren’t God. Our body demands a chance to recover its strength, but the Lord never takes a break. If we try to keep going off little sleep, we have a hard time functioning and giving it our best.
There is only one reason that we as believers can be at rest spiritually, and that is the fact that the work of salvation has been completed in Christ. The book of Hebrews talks about the rest that God provides for his people through Jesus. (Hebrews 3 and 4)
This greater view of rest is something that is worth pursuing. I encourage you to spend time in God’s Word and in his presence, soaking in this truth. We’ve only scratched the surface here of what it means to rest as the people of God. Christ also talks about this rest in the gospels saying, “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.”