Confession: I am a list keeper. I make lists at the start of the day, and throughout the day I check off the items one by one. I tend not to stop until everything is finished on the list. I guess I see rest as the reward for finishing all my tasks. The problem is, rarely is everything completed at the end of the day.
We all struggle with taking the time to rest as evidenced by the high numbers of people treated for stress-related illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, depression, and anxiety. In fact, an estimated 75% of doctor’s visits are for such stress related illnesses. A Gallup Poll revealed that 40% of adults get less than the recommended amount of sleep each night.
Doctors encourage us to rest from our work and get a solid eight hours of sleep. They offer many suggestions on how to relax our body and mind. They encourage healthy habits that keep our bodies and minds strong. These are all good things. We should rest our bodies and take care of them. After all, God created us, and we should steward the gift of our bodies and health well. But there are other reasons we should rest. In fact, God’s Word shows us that rest is a good thing.
Four Reasons Rest is a Good Thing
- Rest is a pre-Fall gift from God: When God created the world, He did so in six days and on the seventh, he rested. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2-3). We often think of rest as something that came with the Fall, as a result of our fallen and frail human bodies. But rest is a pre-fall gift from God. It is for our good and for His glory. We were created as God’s image bearers, and when we rest, we image our Maker.
- Rest reminds us of our rest in Christ: Yet because the Fall did happen, sin has saturated our work. It weakens our bodies with illness and fatigue. We are born sinners and need not only physical rest for our bodies; we need spiritual rest as well. When we take the time to rest, we are reminded of Christ’s work for us on the cross. His perfect work on our behalf has been given to us. Rather than striving to do what we cannot do—obey the law—we now find our rest in Christ and in his work for us. “For we who have believed enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:3). Christ has purchased for us spiritual rest.
- Our rest in this life is points forward to our eternal rest. “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9-10). Our rest today is practice for and anticipation of our forever rest. When we enjoy rest from our labors, it is a reminder that the thorns and thistles we battle each day will one day be no more. In times of rest, we can look forward our eternal rest with our Savior, where sin and sorrow will be a thing of the past. Our rest today will find its culmination in eternity.
- Rest gives us time to enjoy God and His gifts: The WCF (Westminister Confession of Faith) reminds us that we were created to glorify and enjoy God. In our labors each day, we focus on our tasks, solving problems, and completing our work. In our busyness, we tend to overlook and miss out on the good gifts God gives us. When we rest, we have an opportunity to enjoy God’s goodness and all He has done. In our rest, we can reflect and dwell on him. We can read His word and respond to it in prayer. Such rest feeds our soul, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2). Rest also provides us time to savor and appreciate the good gifts God gives us each day. From the food we eat to the laughter of our children, we can enjoy these gifts and respond in thanksgiving to our Father who gives us all good things. We can take the time to enjoy God’s beautiful creation and take notice of the intricate details of his handiwork. Rest helps us enjoy our amazing God.
Rest is indeed a good thing. It is a gift given from the creation of the world. Yet because of the Fall, we need it even more. Not only do we need physical rest, but we need spiritual rest. When we rest each evening, and on the Lord’s Day, we are reminded of Jesus’ work for us, gaining for us an eternal rest. And one day, all our rest will culminate in a final rest where we will enjoy eternity with Christ, free from weary and worn bodies, hearts, and spirits.
Don’t you long for that day?