The wonderful gift of rest

The wonderful gift of rest

Holiday time for most people in Perth has now come to an end, with school officially starting this week. I have also had the privilege to have a holiday for a couple of weeks. It is relaxing to break the normal routine, to be away from responsibilities and have a mental rest. God set up our world and our bodies to need a pattern of work and rest, and holiday time has made me think about the importance of this.

God built rest into creation. On the seventh day, God rested from his work in creation, setting up a pattern that would later be enshrined into law at Mount Sinai. The Sabbath, the day off from regular work every seven, was distinctive among the nations of the world. Breaks for festivals during the year meant further breaks from regular work. Before we start to think that the ancient people of God just swanned around resting and having festivals, the regular work week for most people would be sunrise to sunset, six days per week. And not behind a desk. There was a pattern of hard work and total rest, a pattern that reflected God’s example in Genesis.

We know this need for rest as well. We are made to sleep. We also need mental breaks from our regular activities. We get tired. When it has been a long time of sustained work with no holidays, we become less efficient and more negative about life. We need rest just as much as the ancient people of God did.

There is a theological reason for regular rest too, other than following God’s example. Resting reminds us that God is in charge of the world and we are not. However important we might be, we need to sleep, we need holidays, while God does not slumber or sleep (Ps 121:4). God remains working when we take a Sabbath break (John 5:17). Our need for rest reminds us of our frailty and limits and should be a comfort as we remember that God does not have those limitations.

We don’t need to feel guilty when we rest and have holidays. God knows we need them. If we never rest, never switch off from our regular work, we are rejecting a good gift God would have us enjoy, and setting ourselves up to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.