Establish | The Importance of Being Restful
No matter how inspirational, effective, competent, respected or successful we are as individuals, we can never rise above the need for rest.
But it can feel so weak to talk about rest - especially if we’re young, ambitious and energetic! Do we really need to worry about it at this point in our lives?
The answer? The Bible is clear that we need to. God Himself rested during the creation of the world (I mean, fair play on this one) - and commands us to prioritise a 'Sabbath' of rest into our own lives. Rest is built into the rhythm of our lives: as the sun sets and the moon appears, as days turn to nights, and as weeks roll into weekends.
So: here are some short thoughts on what resting effectively really looks like - and how we can learn more about God by doing it...
Each of us reading will have different approaches to rest: different things that energise and drain us; different challenges in our lives (perhaps insomnia or illness) that might make resting really difficult - and I hope this short post reminds you of God's faithfulness whatever you're facing.
Equally, each of us will face different challenges in our work environments. You might be in the midst of exhausting night shifts; you might be attending early morning breakfast meetings and late night networking events; you might be commuting in heavy traffic for hours each day; or you might be placed in an office culture where you're expected to put in 60-70 hour weeks at a time.
All these things can be tough to deal with as Christians, but whatever your context or workplace, one key truth about the nature of rest is this:
1. Rest reminds us that we are not God.
The Bible is full of descriptions of God’s character, and His faithfulness and power. Psalm 121:4 says that God “does not slumber or sleep”. Psalm 24:8 says that God is “strong and mighty”. Isaiah 55:8-9 presses home that "God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours,” far beyond our understanding. We get the picture: God is GOD. He doesn’t get burnt out, or too tired. He is constantly present and with us everywhere we go, at all times.
In sharp contrast - we DO burn out. We do need sleep, and we do get tired. Rest (and more specifically, sleep) is not a sign of weakness or laziness. It needs to be a priority for us: for the sake of our health, relationships, faith and influence - especially in our workplaces.
Sleep is a sign that you trust God is in control. It’s a sign of strength: that you trust that GOD is God - and you are not.
God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps. John Piper
2. Treat yourself like a small child...
Whenever I’m babysitting some little kiddos, I don’t expect them to be super polite and energetic at every single point throughout the day. I try to make sure they get enough sleep, that they get time spent outside in the fresh air, and that they eat properly. I’m not angry or frustrated when they get tired at the end of the day and need to go to bed - because I know what their needs are - and I know what their limitations are.
Matthew 18:2 tells us to ‘become as little children’ to really understand the wonder of the gospel and enter the kingdom of heaven - by understanding our weakness and Christ’s strength. I wonder if it’s helpful to look after our own minds, bodies and souls in that same, childlike context: recognising that we need to come to God for spiritual nourishment (in His Word), for strength (through prayer) and for physical rest (sleep, food, drink).
In 1 Kings Chapter 19, we find Elijah fleeing for his life: panicking, afraid and totally burnt out. He prays that the Lord would take his life, and collapses in exhaustion. We then see God’s intervention. What does God meet him with? A podcast on how to be a highly effective person? A triple espresso?
No: God prioritises Elijah’s physical wellbeing. He simply provides Elijah with food, drink, and time to nap! (And not just once - but twice). God treats Elijah just like a small child - recognising His limitations and giving him the fuel he needs for the journey ahead. This is a big lesson for me not to try and push myself beyond my own limitations (and these fluctuate depending on the season of life I’m in). God is serious about rest, and we should be too!
3. How to rest effectively
From a snap poll amongst my friends, it’s clear that all of us are notoriously bad at resting. We might think we’re chilling by watching TV on the sofa, but actually we’re trying to manage three loads of washing, catch up on emails, paint our nails, clean the living room and reply to all our texts at the same time. This is not real rest.
I haven’t cracked this yet - but I’m fairly confident that if we are to really rest effectively and intentionally, we need to put aside distractions. Maybe it means setting a ‘curfew’ for our screens at some point in the evening or having a digital detox on a Sunday. It might be as practical as literally blocking this time out in your diary every week well ahead of schedule, so you are officially ‘off limits’.
For me, I’ve realised that having a bath is one of the only ways I can really rest my mind properly and wind down - as I physically can’t do anything else for that time! (It’s also sometimes a good justification for candles - though I’m not sure that specific piece of advice is in the Bible…)
4. Go forth and rest!
Rest needs to be a priority for us: for the sake of our physical, spiritual and emotional health, as well as for the sake of our relationships with others - especially in our workplaces. We should rest for the simple reason that God intended us to - He’s laid it out in His Bible and He knows what we need best.
It’s an amazing testament to a powerful God if we are firmly committed to resting, even in the crazy and stressful seasons of life.
So even when it feels hard to rest, look to the God who never slumbers or sleeps, and place your trust in Him. If you manage to let your mind stop spinning for a while, you can trust that He’ll most certainly keep the world spinning in your absence...
Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 whilst studying at Durham University, and has had the humbling experience of overseeing its growth ever since. She is passionate about communicating what it means to be in real relationship with God to girls and young women, and is committed to doing this through the work of More Precious. Lucy also has the privilege of a job she loves, working with the Resurgo Ventures team supporting innovative businesses with social purpose. She is married to James and attends Holy Trinity Clapham, where she sits on the Women’s Leadership Committee.