Ironically, I’ve decided to write this post in the middle of what is probably my busiest week in a while. But I’ve chosen to write this now because I enjoy writing for the blog, and in this post I want to talk about three kinds of rest that we need, one of which is resting by doing things that you enjoy. The other two are sleep, which I’d hope is a fairly obvious one, though one that we’ve probably all struggled with to some degree at some point, and resting with God, which I’ll explain when I come to it.
I’ll get this one out of the way first, because you don’t need to be a doctor to know that sleep is a pretty good thing. As I’m no doctor, I’m not able to talk about the medical side of things, but I do know from experience that going non-stop right up til you go to bed generally isn’t the best way to get a good night’s sleep! I know that something that many amazing Christians I’ve met over the years struggle with this. Often those struggles are through no fault of their own (medical reasons etc.), but whatever the reason for a lack of sleep, prioritising it is definitely a major factor in leading a productive, healthy life when awake.
- Enjoyable, active rest
This section is the one of the three that is pretty much just my own thoughts from what’s been working for me whilst I’m at uni. I don’t do the most full-on course, but I serve at church a fair amount and I’m now working two part-time jobs, so I’ve had to learn pretty quickly how much is too much (and some would say I haven’t worked that out yet)! However, one of the key things that I have discovered is that taking the time where you can do things that you enjoy, purely and simply, is massive in helping you recharge.
Now when I say something you enjoy, I’m not saying you can’t enjoy the stuff you do day to day. I’m lucky enough to enjoy my course, my jobs and helping at church, but I’m not counting any of them as rest. I think that this kind of rest needs to be unpressured, unstressed, and in your control.
I’ll give a couple of examples to show what I mean. When I’m back at home over the holidays, I play football once or twice a week. Now, football isn’t a physical rest at all, but it’s something that, for all my lack of skill, I love doing. It helps me relax mentally and it takes my mind off anything that might be stressing me out.
At the other end of the spectrum, I also love playing table-top games. These do give me physical rest, but you could argue that mentally they’re still exacting. I play trading card games a lot of the time, and board games as well (Trivial Pursuit was an amazing Christmas present, and I’ve also just discovered Settlers of Catan, which is an incredible game). These kinds of games do make me think, but there is no pressure on them beyond the game situation itself, and I find that I’m able to relax as I think. I enjoy having that puzzle before me that I need to solve.
I don’t know what this kind of rest looks like for you. Maybe it’s reading (another big one for me), fishing, sewing, drawing, rugby or something else entirely, but I can’t recommend enough that you make time for these things. I know that’s easier for some than others. Though I’m busy at the moment I’m blessed with a fair amount of flexibility in the hours of what I do. But even if you can only spare one evening a week, or a few hours at the weekend, I recommend using it to do the things you love – use your mind or your body for something that you genuinely enjoy. I don’t think you’ll ever regret using your time for those things.
- God’s rest
For a lot of Christians, this hopefully has some tie in with the previous point, as there’s no reason why reading the Bible, spending time with God etc. can’t be considered to be part of that enjoyable rest. In fact, they arguably should be considered part of that rest! But I also want to talk about how Jesus fits into this.
Jesus says these words in Matthew’s account of his life:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Now, rest is pretty important to God. Taking the Sabbath day-long rest was enshrined in law in the 10 Commandments, and the writer of Hebrews said this about what that means for Christians living under God’s new covenant with them:
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.
Let me break down what I think this means:
- This idea of Sabbath rest is still important for Christians…
- …but New Testament writings seem to portray it in a different way, as entering into something called ‘God’s rest’.
- Jesus said that he will give us rest (and remember, he also says that he is the only way, truth and life).
- So it seems that, for Christians, Jesus gives us access to God’s rest.
What is God’s rest? Well if we look at it in the story of the New Testament, and indeed the Bible as a whole, I think that we can see a few things. I think that we can safely consider it to be linked to God’s peace, and that it is a concept linked to security. A Christian, believing in Jesus as Lord, is secure in the knowledge that they are saved through what Jesus has done, that God has forgiven everything that they have done wrong, and that Jesus’s strength will support them through any challenges that might come their way (note: this does not mean that we won’t face challenges).
God’s rest is, therefore, the ultimate freedom from stress, worry, and constant demands on our time and energy. God requires only our love. Sometimes he will ask us to do things, and sometimes those things will be challenging, but because of what Jesus has done, we can rest secure in the knowledge that God has already met all of our needs.
God’s rest is the ultimate in rest, and as a Christian I believe that everyone would be infinitely better off for having it, but the more mundane forms of rest that I’ve mentioned are also important, and the reality is that God can help us get better at those kinds of rest as well! I’m still learning a lot about what this all means, and what it looks like practically, but hopefully this has been food for thought, and I hope you all find some time to rest in the week ahead!