Everyone thinks their life is too busy. I can not recall the last time someone told me they felt really rested. It is almost like, being exhausted and overworked is a badge of honor. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Being well rested is God’s idea. He was the first one to actually choose to rest. In Genesis 2:2 we read, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” Throughout the Old Testament we discover that God not only thought rest was a great idea, he codified it in the hebraic law through the sabbath. The people of God were commanded to integrate rhythmic and intentional rest every seventh day. It wasn’t optional, it was necessary. In fact if you study the early teachings on the sabbath it was intended to be treated not as an obligation, but a celebration.
God knew that rest was essential to our ability to live the full and abundant life we were created to enjoy. While social pressures attempt to define our existence by what we produce, God actually defines it by what we enjoy. Consider these verses:
- “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
- “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
- “The joy of the Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10
We even encounter serious warnings in scripture of the consequences of not prioritizing the enjoyment of God. In Deuteronomy 28:47 we read “If you do not serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, You will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. You will be left hungry, thirsty, naked, and lacking in everything.” Those are potent words. Choosing to enjoy God would lead to “abundant benefits“. Meanwhile, failure to serve God with a joyful and enthusiastic attitude led the Israelites into a bondage of servitude to their enemies. Failure to enjoy God would lead them to be “hungry, thirsty, naked and lacking everything.” Wow!
Theologians throughout history have wrestled to understand this. The Westminster Catechism put it this way: “The chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy Him forever.”
In his book, The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis poignantly captured our tendency to miss the blessings of God when we seek enjoyment elsewhere. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” John Piper refers to the pursuit of joy as “The Grand Obligation” and writes extensively on his blog about this tension between enjoying God and seeking to find fulfillment elsewhere.
I believe the institution of the Sabbath in the Old Testament was intended to provide us with the rest and rhythms required to be able to truly enjoy God and all that he has desired for our lives. Although the structure of Sabbath is not legislated in the New Testament, the principles apply universally. This sentiment is echoed assertively when the author of Hebrews exhorts us to “labor therefore to enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:11).
This is not to say that working hard and being productive is not important. 2 Thessalonians reminds us “If a man does not work, he shall not eat.” However the goal is not to work. The goal is the enjoyment of God in all that we do, and that requires learning how to rest well. Rest is a divinely appointed necessity for a person that yearns to live in line with the plans and purposes of God.
So, when was the last time we felt rested? When was the last time we structured our lives with the intentionality God desires for us?
For the past few years, I have been actively seeking to prioritize and alignment my life with weekly rhythms of rest, so that I have the ability to truly enjoy God. Each day I wake up an hour before my family to sit in the stillness of the morning to read, pray and journal. Every Friday, I sit at a coffee shop for a few hours and choose to rest. During those hours I typically read, write, think and sometimes just look out the window holding my coffee and enjoying the view. On the drive home I never fail to be amazed at how much I find myself rejuvenated and enjoying God.
10 Tips for Cultivating Rhythms of Rest:
- Wake up early and read scripture every morning
- Drive to work in silence and list the blessings God has provided
- Attend prayer meetings at church
- Go to a coffee shop with a journal once a week
- Get to bed early and read a book
- Hold a cup of hot coffee and stare out the window
- Turn your phone off for one day each weekend
- Refuse to check email on Saturdays
- Rent a cabin in the mountains and stay overnight alone with a journal
- Sit for 30 minutes beside a river and talk with God
Let’s not let the pursuit of productivity preclude us from the purposes of God. If you choose even one of these and implement it in your life on a regular basis you will find rest begin to creep back into your life. A well rested soul has the space necessary to enjoy God. If doing this makes you afraid you wont be productive enough take time to memorize the following truths. The purpose of life is not productivity. The purpose of life is the enjoyment of God!