‘Tis the season of vacation time. Or, at least looking at the time-off we have left at work and wondering how we are going to use it. More likely, we’re wondering if we are going to use it and how much we’ll be leaving on the table. One piece from the Washington Post a while back wonders, “What Does America Have Against Vacation?”
Apparently, studies reveal that our nation is not great at resting. One study referenced calls us the “no-vacation nation.” Another comments that we have improved a bit over the last 5 years, but that we still “under-perform” globally when it comes to taking time-off. What a concept! Under-performing at rest!
“How’s rest going?”
Does that question even feel strange? What would that conversation even look like?! (It might be good for us to test it out and see where it might take us.)
“How’s work going?” Oh, yes. That’s more familiar.
And yet, for those of us who trust God and name Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, our God is clearly a God who highly values rest. He calls us to have a good rest ethic, not only a good work ethic. In fact, we are meant to work out of our rest in God and with God.
Think about it. God creates everything in 6 days in Genesis—human beings on the 6th day. What is the first day that Adam and Eve spend with God? “Get to work in the Garden!” Nope. Resting in the work of God with God on the 7th day, the Sabbath. They were meant to work out of God’s rest. They were not merely useful for work. They were valuable and worth rest and recovery.
And, consider who the first audience was of the book of Genesis. It was the wilderness generation between the Exodus and entering the Promise Land. They were liberated from the oppressive slavery of Egypt under a tyrannical Pharaoh. It begged the question: who is this God that freed us and overcame Pharoah? What a wonder to find that the True and Living God was not an enslaving tyrant but the Father of loved children who insisted that they rest and recover weekly in addition to longer rests during yearly festivals. They were meant to work out of God’s rest. Both work and rest in God and with God were meant to bless.
Furthermore, in the gospel of Christ, do we work and strive to cross the finish line of eternal rest in salvation? Nope. Christ has worked on behalf of our salvation that we rest in and with Him. We, too, are meant to work out of our rest in Christ. He has dotted all of the i's and crossed all of the t’s, so that you and I can love and serve from a secure rest and freedom rather than the fear of measuring up or not.
So, of course, Jesus would say and mean: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)
We’ve seen a biblical principle of rest, a few places and patterns of it, an invitation from Christ toward it, but how might you and I step into that invitation?
There is one Psalm that is entitled a “Song for the Sabbath”—Psalm 92. I would recommend sitting with that whole Psalm a while and see what God has for you. But, notice this for starters: “For You, O Lord, have made me glad by Your work; at the works of Your hands I sing for joy.” (Psalm 92:4 ESV)
Take time to rest and watch God work. Love Him. Enjoy His work.
Sometimes I realize I am a bit frazzled and striving in some way, and I just find a place to sit and pay attention to God’s work in creation. I start noticing all of the activity of life that I am not the center of—God is. Sometimes I wonder at how still and peaceful I feel and yet the Earth is whirling and orbiting without my permission or direction—that’s all God. Even after a short “worship break” I can return to work with a different, more restful spirit.
Sometimes I will take time to thank the Lord for people, places, and things and try to maintain that spirit throughout the day. For example, to take some fun experiences during some vacation time and not only enjoy them but also be mindful of the goodness and work of God as I go. It takes all of the physical, emotional, relational enjoyment and adds a spiritual enjoyment and appreciation, as well.
Sometimes, I will let myself reflect on the last season. “Where have I seen God working?” I’ll consider that for myself as well as for loved ones and friends. A day off or two or longer vacation times are great opportunities to reflect and watch God’s work with gladness.
One way or another, let’s rest. Let’s rest not just by taking a break from work but also by watching God work.