You might be yawning as you read this, sipping on your second (or third) cup of coffee. Maybe you’re checking your phone every few seconds, glancing at your calendar to make sure you don’t miss anything, your mind running while your body struggles to keep up. You feel a rush when you accomplish something on your to-do list. When you finally get to sleep, it’s not long before you’re waking up and beginning the race all over again.
But what if you just stopped?
You might be thinking, You don’t know my life. Stopping isn’t possible. I’ve said “yes” to people and things, and I can’t just stop.
In our yeses, though, is it possible that we’ve neglected what God has called every one of us to? How can we expect to function well if we’re not resting, making opportunity for our relationship with Him to grow and for our hearts, minds and bodies to flourish?
In his book Garden City, John Mark Comer writes:
Work and rest live in a symbiotic relationship. If you don’t learn how to rest well, you will never learn how to work well (and vice versa). After all, the opposite of work isn’t rest—it’s sleep. Work and rest are friends, not enemies. They are a bride and groom who come together to make a full, well-rounded life.
Sabbath rest helps us reorient our hearts and minds as we practice dwelling with God, exercising dominion over work and rest, and proclaiming our association with God’s dynasty.
Sabbath rest helps us practice dwelling with God.
As citizens of both a present and future kingdom, we’re commanded to dwell with God. God communes with all Christians through our union with Christ by the Spirit living within us, but this communion isn’t automatic. It needs to be cultivated and it takes time. But when was the last time you set aside as much time as you spend meeting with coworkers or a friend and sat in the Lord’s presence instead, asking and expecting Him to meet you? Have you ever thought about taking part of a day or a whole day to read Scripture and remember God’s story?
This sounds too good to be true, but as followers of Christ, we’re called to rest and delight in Him. God showed us the way in Genesis 2 and Christ models it for us in the Gospels. We were not created to work seven days a week and neglect rest. Dan Allender writes:
Sabbath is not about time off or a break in routine. It is not a mini-vacation to give us a respite so we are better prepared to go back to work. The Sabbath is far more than a diversion; it is meant to be an encounter with God’s delight.
God invites us to be in continual communion with Him, in both work and rest, and we can’t do one without the other.
Sabbath rest helps us exercise dominion over work-rest balance.
Sabbath rest is one way we can exercise our God-given dominion over things of the earth. While God has full control over time as a whole, how we spend the time He’s given us reflects the One we truly serve.
When we continually choose work or duty over a time of rest and delight in the Lord, we set what we claim as our highest priority to the side and tell the world that we’re capable in our own strength. Pete Scazzero notes:
As theologian Robert Barron argued, at the heart of original sin is the refusal to accept God’s rhythms for us,“ and ”at the heart of...the Sabbath is stopping to surrender to God in trust. Failure to do so is the very essence of the sin in the Garden of Eden.
Our loving and gracious Creator and Father has given us a rhythm that leads to true fruitfulness and thriving, but we can’t do it alone. We must take dominion over “our” time and surrender it to Him—He knows what is best.
Sabbath rest helps us proclaim our association with God’s dynasty.
Again, kingdom citizens live in the present with hope for the remade kingdom to come. As we live in the here and now, we make known our identity—image bearers of the living God—to the world. When we do something countercultural, like participate in Sabbath rest, we set ourselves apart and proclaim whose we are and in whom we trust. John Mark Comer writes:
Even though the Sabbath is about imitation of the God who works and then rests, it’s also a day to remember that we’re not God. We take a day off, and the world gets along just fine without us.
We’re not as important as we think.
There is a God, and I’m not him.
God is patient and kind to help us pursue the rest He intends for us. It will look different for everyone, but at its core, it is a time set apart from the toil and devoted to replenishing our bodies and souls, increasing our delight in the Lord. If that’s a walk outdoors, meditation on Scripture or a gathering with friends, our Sabbath rest is an invaluable gift from God to dwell with God, exercise dominion over work and rest, and proclaim our association with God’s dynasty.