Most of us have probably been around a toddler that was in need of some sleep. Their cute little cherub faces can suddenly morph, tired eyes and petulant lips turning them into diminutive monsters, whose vocabulary is limited to the word “NO!” And while I like to think that I am mature and wise, I admit that when I am overly tired, the toddler in me emerges. When we are worn out and weary, the worst sides of us appear. We forget to be thankful. We snap at those we love the most. We forget to trust God to provide for us. As Jim Smith notes in his book, The Good and Beautiful God, “The number one enemy of Christian spiritual formation today is exhaustion.”
For many of us, rest doesn’t seem like a spiritual discipline that will draw us closer to God. After all, in our culture, rest is almost a dirty word, bringing up associations of laziness and sloth. God helps those who help themselves, right? Rest and Sabbath seem like an unnecessary waste of time when there is always something more to be done. So we pride ourselves on our busyness, wielding it around like a badge of honor. Our default response to the question “how have you been?” is “busy!”.
Whether we know it or not, however, our busyness is standing in the way of a more full relationship with God and with others. When we rush from one task to the next, we can miss the nudgings of the Spirit or forget to marvel at the work of the Creator. Worse yet, our drive to stay busy can lead us to worship the false gods of productivity and achievement. We might find ourselves buying into the lie that we are what we produce, and our worth is found in what we accomplish. We stop seeing ourselves and others as image bearers of God and instead think of humans in terms of what they can do for us.
But this is not what is most true about us. The deepest truth about you is that you are made in the image of God, a God who rested on the seventh day and a God who calls his people to rest. We rest because God rests, and we rest to remember that we are not God. In scripture, God commands his people to set aside one day each week to simply rest. In Egypt, Pharaoh demanded more bricks and more work to build storehouses for grain, even with fewer resources to expand his empire and ensure that he would have enough. But when God frees the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, one of the very first things he does is require them to rest on the Sabbath. It is a weekly reminder of their dependence on God and of God’s faithful provision for them.
We need Sabbath rest, in this busyness-obsessed society more than ever. We need rest because we are humans and it is a necessity. We need rest because we are made in the image of God who rested and who provides rest for his people. We need rest because it renews our bodies and our souls. We need rest so that we can lay to rest the lie that we are what we do. We need rest to allow time to see and hear God. And we need rest so that we can remember that God is God and we are not.
So this month, I encourage you to prioritize rest. Let something go undone, trusting that God will provide instead. Take a nap. Read a book for fun. Go for a long, slow walk. Sit in the sunshine. Step away from your desk for 10 minutes. Go to bed early. Turn off that phone for the evening. Rest deeply in the knowledge that you are loved by God for who you are, and not for what you do.
Becky Frazier is the Guest Speaker for North Central Women's Retreat, Sabbath Rest, September 14 through 16, 2018. She is currently working toward her Master of Divinity at Lipscomb University and serves as the Ministry Apprentice at Otter Creek Church in Nashville, TN. She recently moved from Denver, CO but calls Texas home. She loves her church family, reading, hiking, and crocheting. She is a newbie to