The blessing of rest

Feeling restless? There may be a reason.

In my student days we filled up the car during the week, since only a few rostered stations were open on Sunday. You could buy a newspaper at the Deli, but none of the big shops were open. And they closed for public holidays too.

That was back when Aussies had the weekend off. Emergency workers and nurses still worked, but they received penalty rates to compensate for missing time with family and friends.

Now there’s a push to have the shops open evenings and weekends. Do Aussies really feel our life is diminished if we can’t shop? Or is the push from big business figuring they can’t make a buck if the door’s closed? Of course, they don’t want to pay overtime or penalty rates, so we’re losing those compensations too.

Do you have people in your family who now must work evenings, weekends, and public holidays? Does it affect you when you try to get the family together? Does it limit their participation in in community, church or sporting activities?

I’m not advocating an enforced Sabbath: I argued against that last post. But life is more than work and sales. A balanced life has rhythms of work and rest: daily, weekly,  annually.

The issue isn’t merely having individual rest to enjoy myself. We need coordinated rest, communal rest where we stop to enjoy each other. Personal rest matters, but rest is also a social experience.

God was blessing Israel when he told them to rest on the seventh day. Pharaoh had been a hard taskmaster, demanding more productivity in less time, calling them lazy when they couldn’t meet their targets (Exodus 5:8, 17 NIV). When God said he wanted them to rest each week, I can almost hear the cheers!

God set up his earthly realm so we wouldn’t need to work seven days a week to survive. He set the example himself. In Genesis 2:1-3, rest wasn’t a command; it was a blessing. And that blessing underpinned God’s command to Israel to rest (Exodus 20:11).

But creation is not at rest. Ever since it rebelled against God, it’s been at war. Under the wrong rulers, life is a laborious, frustrating, a struggle. God has been working to bring us back to rest, under his governance. His work comes into focus in Jesus (John 5:17, 19). As the Messiah brings humanity back under God’s governance, creation will receive its rest again (Hebrews 4:9-10).

We’re still in a restless world. Perhaps you’re dying for a rest if you have young children or you’re in a hectic season. But consider what your life choices say about the person you serve. Are you a slave to profits? Or do people see you serving someone who’s not a hard taskmaster?

There’ll always be busy moments such as harvest time. But if the busyness continues, it may help to ask, “What am I doing that Jesus doesn’t expect of me? Am I expecting more of myself than he expects of me?”

We need to accept the yoke of his kingship, the “royal law” of looking after our neighbours (James 2:8). But he’s not a taxing monarch. He gives his people rest:

Matthew 11 28 Come to me, everyone worn down and weighed down. I will give you rest. 29 Accept my yoke over you and let me train you. I’m gentle and humble at heart. You’ll find rest in your life. 30 My yoke is easy; my burden is light.


What others are saying

Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 27–31:

The word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. …

If I vainly crowd my day with conspicuous activity or let others fill my day with imperious demands, I don’t have time to do my proper work, the work to which I have been called. How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? …

I cannot be busy and pray. I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted, or dispersed. In order to pray I have to be paying more attention to God than to what people are saying to me; to God than to my clamoring ego. …

Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time.

[previous: Should we keep the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday?]

[next: The king who gives rest]

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

2 thoughts on “The blessing of rest”

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