Saturday. A much-needed day off. Saturday means sleeping in, sipping coffee, picking up a book, and spending quality time with my wife.
But somehow, Saturday can become one of the most unrestful, dissatisfying days of the week. Boredom emerges out of relaxation, breeding conflict and discontentment. Hours spent lazing in front of entertainment feel painfully empty.
How can such a good day turn sour so quickly?
We humans have the ability to ruin all of God’s gifts. We take good things and pervert them with selfishness. We value the blessings of God—including rest—above God himself (Romans 1:25). Through our improper attitudes and misplaced affections, we can suck the joy out of God-given pleasures.
Rest, if not done God’s way, can exhaust you and belittle God’s goodness. Yet our Creator has given us guidelines to enjoy rest and honor him in it.
In the Book of Psalms, Solomon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:1-2).
Here we have two rests: vain rest, and the Lord’s rest.
Vain rest—the kind that proceeds from “anxious toil”—says, “I think what I have done today is sufficient for God to be appeased. I’ve earned the right to refrain from work now. I will resume his work when I feel ready.”
But the Lord’s rest says, “I have obeyed what God planned for me. I may be tired and weak, but I know God is with me and is blessing my labor, because he is the one who commissioned the work. Now I get to drink in the God-given pleasure of rest for my worn out body, thanking God. He has granted me the privilege of resting, and I can enjoy it full-heartedly because my relaxation is from him. And I can’t wait to get back to work afterwards.”
How Do You Rest?
Which type of rest sounds more like your attitude when your head hits the pillow or your body hits the couch? Ask some of these diagnostic questions to yourself.
Does the idea of praying at the end of your day seem soothing, like a cool drink of water on a hot day, or does it feel like another pesky task that will waste your energy?
Are you just as aware of God’s presence when you are resting, eating, and running errands, or watching television as you are when you are in church or reading Scripture?
Does your work and your spiritual activity ever feel self-righteous or guilt driven, as if it were all about appeasing God?
Does each leap of faith embolden you to take your next step with God, or exhaust your spiritual muscles?
Learning to rest well for God’s glory means starts with working well for God’s glory.
When we obey God and do his work joyfully, he promises that he is enough for us, even in the midst of our labors. He promises to give us his power to help us fulfill our desires to do good works, through faith (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). It’s only when we work in our own strength, “eating the bread of anxious toil,” that God cannot strengthen us or bless our activity.
Don’t work in your own strength, but in the strength that God gives by his grace. Then, rest in that same grace. Jesus is calling, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Image credit: Thomas Frost Jensen (CC 2.0)