The Command to Rest
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com Editor
Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. – Psalm 116:7
We humans aren’t as unstoppable as we’d like to think. Every night, we have to stop what we’re doing and close our eyes for a few hours. We aren’t capable of finishing our creations in a day, a week, or even a year sometimes. We must break off and sleep before then. Individually, we have to acknowledge our limitations and rest, even if inadequately, before springing up again for our work. Our progress comes in halting steps, our work never quite finished, so unlike the God who created the world in six days and then rested. Sleep is a physical humility, an acknowledgment of God’s greater power and our trust that he works and watches even when we’re unconscious. It means believing that he “gives to his beloved even in his sleep” (Psalm 127:2).
So what happens when we get so busy that we don’t rest?
I’m talking about physical rest as well as mental rest. We read lots of health articles about the importance of reducing stress, and plenty of spiritual growth advice focuses on not worrying. And of course the doctor is always telling us that we need a good eight hours of a sleep a night. But – and maybe it’s just me – sometimes it’s tempting to wear my lack of sleep, my busy schedule, and my looming responsibilities like a badge of honor.
We secretly glorify the people who do it all, no matter the costs. Sure, we all have busy seasons with a new baby or the project due at work. But often, I think my refusal to rest is a symptom of self-sufficiency hardening into pride. The longer I’m awake, the longer I can control my environment and my results. It means less trusting that God will give me what I need and more time scraping together what I need and desire. Often, it means getting so busy doing things for God that we neglect our primary relationship with him.
The command to “be at rest” isn’t just for our benefit. Rest is not a guilty pleasure we have to sneak. Instead, we need to think of rest as a grace-filled reminder that we are creatures of clay dependent on a much stronger God. Our energy levels wind down until we are forced to acknowledge that – surprise! – we can’t engineer our lives as much as we’d like to think. But that weakness allows God to make us a promise in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me… and I will give you rest.”
Intersecting Faith & Life: God can bless even our rest when we’re following him. And he wants us to rest as an acknowledgment of our human limitations. When we rest, we’re expressing our faith in God’s ability to bring to all things to completion.