Wrestling with Rest

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” Genesis 2:2

By the look on her face, one might have thought I had just suggested she murder her own mother. It was that horrified, yet puzzled look that is often the response to a statement so bizarre that the hearer does not have time to mask her disgust with a fake, grimacing smile. What had I suggested? What could I have possibly said to conjure that distortion upon the pretty little face of this co-ed?

I suggested she stop. That’s it, really. I suggested she take an entire day where she did no work at all; a day where she did nothing to secure her own future, or inch closer to her own dreams. The thought was utterly terrifying to this highly driven student. After a moment she shuttered, and then wearily asked if I had any other suggestions to help curb her persistent anxiety.

Of course, the suggestion was not original to me. In the fourth commandment, God explicitly commands his people to cease from their work so they might worship and rest.

To be honest, I’m rather perplexed by the typical response to this commandment. It usually goes in a few different directions, but all tend to ignore the fact that this is an incredible gift. When I was in college I latched onto the Sabbath, but my heart was in the midst of a huge self-righteous campaign, so I rarely got the point. The Sabbath was just another form of self-worship. I rarely ceased from my work so that my physical rest might renew my heart and mind in the rest that was accomplished for me in Christ.

The goodness of our God to give us such a thing is amazing, really. He says to stop working for an entire day—to just stop. And while we cease from our portfolios, budgets, various decisions and to-do lists, our minds have to rest in the fact that He is God and we are not.

I know that in my own life, this is why the Sabbath is beautiful and yet difficult—because it is really all about trust. It is a weekly reminder and test of where my faith rests.

Too often that is a rude awakening. The Sabbath often opens up our hearts and shows us that with our lips we say we believe that God is sovereign—that he loves us, but our lives are often a constant, anxious struggle to secure our own destiny and identity. To cease from our labors is to concede that we are dependent, and to once again realize that much of our paranoia and anxiety is the direct result of the mistaken idea that we can secure our own future if we just work hard enough.

Eugene Peterson says it well, “The Sabbath is about God interfering with all the things you think you need to get done, so that you can focus on what he has done.”

Today, stop and take some time to remember the many ways that God has been good to you. Take a break from your ‘doing’ so that you can remember the one who does all things well.

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