Currently, most of the world is being shaken by a horrible pandemic that has infected thousands and taken the lives of many others. The State I live in is currently on lock down and we can only leave our houses for essential needs. Typically crowded and bustling streets are empty, businesses are closed until further notice, important events and gatherings have been canceled, and schools and colleges across the country have been shut down for the year. Within just a few weeks, the entire world has somehow slowed to a complete stop.
Believe me, while this article has been in the works for a while, I had a completely different plan for approaching it. I never imagined that we would be in this current state right now. However, this is the new reality we face as we step into uncharted waters.
We haven’t lost control of our lives
Though this time is challenging, I believe that God is using it for good. I love how Lecrae puts it: “We haven’t lost control of our lives, we’ve lost the illusion we were ever in control.” That’s the thing. God is and has always been in control. We don’t sustain our lives, he does. We’ve become so good at working, hustling, and making a name for ourselves that we’ve failed to recognize that every good and perfect gift comes directly from God himself. Sometimes it takes something much bigger than ourselves to remind us of the truth that we are not in control. We have never been.
God’s grace and mercy sustains us
The need to hustle and work endlessly comes from a false belief that we are in control of our own lives. Many of us struggle deeply with slowing down and cultivating a heart of rest. Our society has been built upon the hustle and the desire to be self-made. The American Dream, right? If I work hard enough, I can receive the things I desire.
But, that’s not the reality of life. The truth is that God provides for us. It’s a fact that we are sustained by his grace and mercy.
Contrary to popular opinion, rest is not just something you do after working tirelessly. Rest is a lifestyle and a practice to pursue each and every day. Our lives won’t get better when we achieve more. It gets better as we get to know Jesus more. The hustle will never be able to satisfy the deep desires of our heart.
What’s the problem with hurry? Why do we need to slow down?
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.Exodus 23:12
It’s no accident that rest is woven into the Ten Commandments. It’s so important that God commands us to do it. Truthfully, we often skip over this commandment – we think that Jesus abolished the Sabbath. But, he didn’t. While we don’t have to practice the Sabbath the way the Jewish people did back then, it’s important to keep the idea of Sabbath in our lives.
Hurry has a lot to do with our heart posture
On the seventh day of creation, God rested, or ceased from creating. God did not need to rest; he doesn’t get tired. However, I believe he rested to teach us just how necessary rest is.
Believe it or not, hurry has a lot more to do with our heart posture than it has to do with how busy we are. We make ourselves busy because of our desire to control what’s actually out of our hands.
The Hebrew word shabbat is translated as rest, and literally means to stop. It’s taking the time to stop and focus on something greater. It’s recognizing that the world won’t end if we stop for a moment because God still faithfully takes care of us.
Practically, our bodies are not meant to work on overdrive. We are humans, not machines. This is why we need sleep. Sleep is one of God’s many ways of refueling us so that we can be successful in where he wants to take us next.
If we’re constantly in a hurry, we have no time to be filled up by God. Make no mistake, our sustenance comes from God and God alone. We need to regularly stop and make time for God to fill us up.
Two types of rest & why both are equally important
So, we just spoke about why hurry is a problem and why we need to slow down. When I mentioned rest in the earlier part of this article, I told you about shabbat rest. We must regularly stop and allow ourselves to become refreshed by the presence of God. For the Hebrew people, this shabbat took place on the seventh day of every week. Whether you choose to shabbat on the seventh day or some other day, it is important to have regular rhythms of rest in place in your life.
However, there is another type of rest that is equally important to shabbat rest.
It’s the Hebrew word nuwach, which simply means to settle in or dwell.
Exodus 23:12 can actually read this way:
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall stop and cease from your work; that your ox and your donkey may settle in or dwell, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.
Missy Tanako, of The Bible Project, describes shabbat rest as “clocking out at the end of a shift.” The work is complete, and you’re done for the day. However, nuwach, she says, is like “sitting in front of a fire with a loved one or unpacking a suitcase while staying at your grandmother’s house for the holidays.” Nuwach rest is about being restfully present.
While Shabbat rest happens on a specific day of the week, Nuwach rest is a lifestyle. After ceasing from our work, we settle into a place of rest.
It is important to stop when the work is done. Too often we create endless to-do lists of tasks we can never finish. We never stop, we just keep going until the inevitable happens – we burn out.
Due to unfortunate events, our world recently had to Shabbat. Cities that never sleep are empty and businesses that were once booming are empty. While this is painful for the world, there is also an opportunity for a beautiful refreshing as we re-learn how to be restfully present once more.
Why is rest important to God?
When I was volunteering at summer camp, we did a series of trust falls with our group. We were told to put our arms across our chest and gently fall into the arms of the person standing behind us. Truthfully, the trust falls were more like trust leans and the distance between the person falling and the person catching was very small. However, I remember feeling so afraid. Even though it was only for a few short moments, I did not like the feeling of falling back and waiting for someone to catch me.
Rest is important to God because it has a lot to do with how much we trust him. How we rest says a lot about who our allegiance is to. Do we worship God, the creator of the universe, or do we worship our work? Ironically, the work that only God can give us the energy and strength to do.
Will we trust God when things don’t make sense? Or when it feels like we’re spiraling out of control? Can we trust that even when we have rested from our work, we will be completely provided for?
Sin as burdensome toiling and work
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus invites everyone who has been burdened down by the heavy labor of sin to come and receive rest. Sin is indeed a burden. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, the curse that came upon them was the necessity of toiling.
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.Genesis 3:17
Ever since, mankind has been toiling and struggling with sin and shame. We struggled to enter into God’s rest because sin robbed that from us. Jesus came to free us from the burden of sin.
Practicing eternal rest in a temporal world
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.Hebrews 4:9-11
The beautiful reality is that there will be an eternal rest for sons and daughters of God. When Jesus returns, we will finally rest from our work once and for all.
The author of Hebrews reminds us how important it is to strive to enter the eternal rest of God. Ultimately, what we do here on earth is just a shadow of the things to come.
We practice rest here on this earth in anticipation of the eternal rest to come. Though the culture of this world is one of hustle and endless work, we can be the difference. We can choose to rely on God as our source of provision. We can choose to live as people fully aware of the truth that we are not self-made. Every blessing we have comes from God.
Yes, it’s important to work hard. Working hard is not a bad thing in and of itself. But, please know that the world won’t stop turning the second we stop working. God is the one who does not sleep. He is the one who keeps the world turning, not us. So, we are free to practice eternal rest in this temporal world laying down our burdens at the feet of the cross and making Jesus Lord of our lives.
Rest does not mean we do no work but instead informs how we work
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.2 Thessalonians 3:10
The Bible has a lot to say about laziness, and it’s not good. Rest does not mean that we are lazy. Instead, it means that we know the importance of balance. We know when it’s time to work and we know when to stop. We know that even as we work, our provision really comes from God.
An attitude of rest means that we work for the Lord and not for ourselves. We work out of love and a desire to serve him. Our work is not about building our own kingdom, it’s about building his. That’s the key.
Rest as a mindset
Hear me on this. Rest does not mean that you do more bible journaling, go to more spa’s, watch more Netflix, sleep in later, or drink more tea. Rest is not about the things you do. It’s about stopping and settling into the presence of God.
We rest because we know that we need the Lord to survive. We lay down the works of sin and the flesh because we know they are burdens. Please understand that works do not equal hard work. Works are self-satisfying. Ultimately, works are about us. When we live out of works, we rely on ourselves instead of relying on God to sustain us. Works ultimately lead to burnout because we can only successfully sustain ourselves for so long.
What are some practical ways to slow down and cultivate a restful heart?
- Be present in the presence of God
- Allow Jesus to be the Lord of your life, leading and directing your steps.
- Stop comparing. Comparison feeds us a lie that we are not enough and therefore need to do more to become enough. In Christ, you are enough.
- Trade your need for control for trust in God.
Rest is not just a random trending topic. It’s important and it is the way of the kingdom. As Christians, we have the privilege of abiding in God’s rest, laying down our burdens, and experiencing his peace. Let’s not miss it by following the ways of the world. Instead, let’s pursue God wholeheartedly as he lovingly provides for us and leads us in the way we should go.
Founder, Daily She Pursues
Shanté is the founder of Daily She Pursues. She is passionate about teaching women how to pursue the heart of God by studying his word, spending time in prayer, and committing to a daily walk with the Lord. Shanté is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies at Liberty University and some of her favorite things include tea, journaling, art museums, essential oils, and thrift shopping.