As I type this, I'm enjoying a relaxing Labor Day morning.
The house is quiet; the kids spent last night at their aunt and uncle's.
It's a good day.
Sitting in my office getting caught up on various small tasks, I'm reminded of the importance of taking time to rest.
And as I reflect, I am amused at the fact that one person's method of resting and relaxing is another person's work. Ha! Isn't that funny?
For example, I find it totally relaxing and recharging to sit here and type out my thoughts on this computer. For other people I know, this would be the absolute opposite of relaxation. They have to use a computer for work and when they are at home, they don't even want to see a computer.
Similarly, some people like to garden or woodwork in their down time. To me, those sound very much like work!
Regardless of your personal relaxation methods (sinful activity excluded, of course), the important thing is that we take the time to rest.
Here are five quick, biblical reasons why everybody needs regular rest.
Reason #1: GOD rested and He said rest is important.
In the Genesis creation account, GOD spent the first six days working.
On the seventh day, He set an example for humanity to imitate: He rested.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 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.
(Gen. 2:2-3 NIV)
Of course, honoring the weekly Sabbath later became one of the Ten Commandments in the Law of Moses.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
(Ex. 20:8-11 NIV)
In Jesus, the Sabbaths are fulfilled, so Christians are not bound by the Law's requirement to keep the Sabbath holy.
As Paul wrote the Colossians:
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
(Col. 2:16-17 NIV)
But the principle of regular rest remains one that Christians should imitate.
Reason #2: Your body is weak and needs to recharge.
Sometimes we can get into a routine where minimal rest feels "normal" to us over a long time.
I've known people who slept only a handful of hours each night and worked hard six or seven days a week, all the time. This leads to burnout and health problems.
Jesus, being subjected to human limitations, got tired and took time to rest.
Recall the occasion where Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. When the storm arose, Jesus lay asleep inside the boat on a cushion.
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
(Matt. 8:23-25 NIV)
When Jesus was in anguish in the Garden and asked the three apostles to pray with Him, they continually fell asleep because the flesh is weak.
37 Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
(Mark 14:37-38 NKJV)
So take time to rest so that your body is ready for action and productivity.
Reason #3: You make poor decisions when you're tired.
A wise person once told me to avoid making major life-impacting decisions late in the day. Sleep on them, whenever possible, and ensure you are refreshed before you make big decisions.
Vince Lombardi is famous for correctly observing, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all."
When we don't regularly take time to rest, bad things happen.
We say things we don't mean—or say things we do mean, but shouldn't have said.
We make impulsive choices, often selecting what's easier as opposed to what's best.
A great example of this is Esau selling his birthright to Jacob because he was tired and "starving."
29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)
31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
So Esau despised his birthright.
(Gen. 25:29-34 NIV)
So Esau made a tremendous financial (and spiritual) blunder just because he was too hungry to fix himself something to eat. His short-sightedness cost him a lot.
Reason #4: You can't effectively serve others when you're exhausted.
In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a famous research paper entitled "A Theory of Human Motivation" in which he outlined a hierarchy of needs.
Below is an image of this hierarchy (source).
Maslow explained that a person cannot function properly when their basic needs are unmet.
This makes common sense, doesn't it?
If a person is starving to death, it's difficult for them to care much about how someone else needs a ride to a doctor's appointment.
At first, rest may seem to be a selfish action because it is self-focused. The reality, however, is that, when properly viewed, rest is an essential enabler to being others-focused.
GOD absolutely wants us to give ourselves in service to others. But in order to focus our attention on others, we must first be healthy ourselves.
Reason #5: Rest enables you to reflect, realign and refocus on what is important.
A tremendous benefit of rest is that it enables us to mentally reflect on what is happening in our lives.
- Am I headed in the right direction?
- Do I need to make changes or adjustments in my life?
- Am I properly fulfilling my roles? Does one area of my life need more / less attention?
- Am I further along spiritually today than I was five years ago?
- What should I focus on next?
These types of questions often don't enter our minds when we are constantly busy. But when we slow down, we have time for self-reflection.
Periods of meditation and self-reflection often lead to our most significant contributions and life accomplishments.
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
but the folly of fools is deception.
(Prov. 14:8 NIV)
So let's commit to taking time to rest and relax, for the benefit of everyone, including ourselves.