"Rest is a necessary part of useful action. It is not something to be overlooked, neglected, or denied." - Alistair Begg
I came across this quote some time ago on Facebook, and it really struck a chord with me. This idea of rest is one I've been pondering for a while. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I have been pondering the lack of rest, or resting, or restfulness that characterizes life in 21st century America.
I spent some time resting last week while we were in Florida. In recent weeks I've done a lot of resting as I have been dealing with some health issues. I did a lot of resting in the weeks and months following my stroke. But for most of us, in the hustle and bustle of daily living, rest is something we don't do.
What does that word rest actually mean?
Rest: (noun) the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep; refreshing ease or inactivity; relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs; mental or spiritual calm, tranquility.
(verb) to refresh oneself, as by sleeping or relaxing; to relieve weariness by cessation of exertion; to be at ease; to be quiet or still. (definitions taken from Dictionary.com)
Would anyone dispute that people are very busy these days? Over-worked. Over-tired. Stressed. In need of some rest and relaxation.
Unfortunately, people don't seem to know how to rest any more. And somehow we have come to equate being busy with being productive. Which is not necessarily the case. As a culture, we're always on the go. Always busy. Always in a hurry. Always have too much to do. And if we aren't busy and in a hurry and on the go, we seem to think there's a problem. That something is wrong with us or wrong in our lives because we aren't busy enough. We complain about being too busy and we complain when we aren't busy. When we don't have every minute of every day filled with some activity, we complain that we are bored. And somehow we have convinced ourselves that if we take time to rest, there is something wrong with us. That we must be deficient in some way if we admit a need for rest and relaxation. That we must be terribly lazy if we choose some down-time.
None of that is actually true. But we have convinced ourselves that it is. And so the result is that we don't rest. We don't allow ourselves time to rest. Maybe we don't even know how to rest.
But our bodies were designed to need rest. And not getting enough rest has consequences. Among these consequences, according to webmd.com, are illness, including serious illnesses like heart disease and stroke; forgetfulness; depression; weight gain; aging skin; and a host of other things. So it would seem that this might be something we should pay more attention to!
We need to learn how to rest. I'm not just talking about getting a certain number of hours sleep each night, although that is certainly important. I'm talking about resting. Relaxing. Building some leisure into our schedules. Being intentional about resting and relaxing. Taking some time to do nothing. To take a nap. Or read a book. Or daydream. Time to rest.
Beyond that, we need rest in more than just a physical sense. We need to learn to rest spiritually as well.
"Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him." (Psalm 37:7 NASB)
The word that is translated rest in this verse means to be silent, to be still, to stand still. It depicts the state of being motionless. It indicates the absence of emotional distress and the ability to be quiet and relax.
That kind of rest comes from knowing who God is, by having confidence in His character, by not only believing in God, but by believing God. By trusting Him. It comes from a settled assurance that God is who He says He is, that He has done everything He says He has done, and that He will do everything He says He will do.
Rest. We need it. Both physically and spiritually. But it doesn't always come naturally to us. We have to be intentional about resting.
We have to learn how to rest. The first step is to be still.
"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10 ESV. emphasis mine)