Rest: A Place to Find Ourselves
Tim Willard & Jason Locy | December 26, 2014
Most of us think that rest will just happen. We'll catch a nap on Saturday or sleep in on Sunday. We'll download a popular pastor's recent sermon and pray over our coffee—praying to just hang on for this "season." It's almost over. Then we'll get some real rest and really dial into God and all that.
We all deal with seasons of life. But fast and furious seasons of life should not negate the rhythms of Sabbath and continual prayer in our lives. In order to keep our sanity and health and spiritual vitality, disciplined living is essential. And disciplined living begins with Sabbath rest.
What does it mean to rest in God? God rested from His creation work on the seventh day. We, therefore, should follow suit. We take time off from our work and do something else relaxing, or we do nothing at all. But Sabbath rest does not necessarily mean we become sedentary for a day. In fact, Sabbath rest is less something you do and more a place you go; or put another way, a way that you are. The writer of Hebrews says, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (4:9). Israel, because of their lack of faith, did not enter into the promised land and so did not enter into God’s rest.
When we fail to enter into God’s rest, we live in rebellion and anxiety. We all know what that means for our work: stress. But when we learn to trust in God's provision and leave our projects for a day, we find that place where God rests. It’s a place of “quiet alertness,” as author Richard Foster puts it.
WHEN WE REST, WE HEAR GOD
A Sabbath rhythm is an act of trust. It’s an active and deliberate decision to obey God, weekly. But not only weekly. You can practice Sabbath each day as you take time to retreat in your mind and heart, leaving space for reflection upon God's Word, expressing thanks for His provision, asking Him to be your teacher daily and trusting in Him as your friend.
Without regular times of rest we run the risk of allowing culture’s noise to overwhelm us. Not only overwhelm us, but to even define us. In the sports world athletes rely on muscle memory, the more repetition they receive at a given skill, the sharper that skill becomes; the more molded into that position or sport they become. It’s the same for us. If noise and busyness repeat and repeat and repeat each day, we develop a sort of muscle memory--we become what we incessantly do.
Too easily we crowd our schedules with our dreams and to-do lists. These are not bad in and of themselves. But they become bad when they become our idols. When was the last time you took a real Sabbath? Took a hike? Played with your kids all day? Had early morning breakfast with your spouse? Spent an afternoon reading the Scriptures, confessing and giving thanks? Took a real break from your work to enjoy God?
Sabbath rest not only helps us regain our physical composure and focus on God, it also allows us to finally listen to His voice. More than anything, this has challenged and encouraged me the most. When I rest during each weekday, taking time for silent prayer and just breathing, I am truly able to hear His voice more clearly.
Quiet places, places of play, places of stillness, places of connectivity with God and loved ones--these places help us hear God’s voice more clearly. When we hear him, we hear him call us. We hear him name us--it’s God’s voice that defines us, not the noise of the world.
When I get to my Sabbath day and find myself playing with my girls or fumbling around my truck engine, I hear God more clearly. These times are not always times of great epiphany either. Often they are times of confession and conviction—when His truth bears down on me, crushing me. Most important about these times: we must intentionally cultivate them.
Once, I faced a ten-hour travel day from Belfast to Atlanta with an L.A. trip waiting just a day after my return to the south. So I rose early and walked to Queens University in the Northern Ireland rain. I was winded and tired, but the time with God was sweet; full of “Thank You” and praise as the blue glow of the morning swelled. What a way to start the day!
OUR QUIET ALERTNESS
When we Sabbath we are not taking part in mere ritual. We are joining our Heavenly Father in a place of quiet alertness. And in that rest, in that quiet, He speaks.
Scholars say that when God rested on the seventh day it was not an actual twenty-four hour day. Rather, it continues even now. God is still in Sabbath, and He is waiting for us. We can join Him now in the temporal each day, each week, as we look forward to the time when we will enter into His eternal rest—the restoration of all things.
The more we join Him in this place of quiet alertness, the more we discover how deeply we are known. The more we know about the person He’s made us to be. Brennan Manning once described how many Christians feel in their quest to be known. “God calls me by name,” he writes, “and I do not answer because I do not know my name."
May we do the right thing and take the needed time in quiet and rest, so that as we listen to the silence we will find ourselves hidden in the majesty of Christ himself.