Rest: A Remedy, a Relief, and a Gift

Rest is a radical practice.

In our hyper-scheduled culture that worships productivity, it’s easy to slip into a negative attitude toward those who promote a more rest-filled lifestyle, but The Radical Pursuit of Rest is not seeking to add one more thing — resting! — to the already full do-list.  Author and professor John Koessler asserts that rest is not so much about what we do as it is who we are and how we see the world.

Therefore, it is not a contradiction for the author of Hebrews to say, “make every effort to enter that rest,” for it is a gift that comes to the believer, but . . . it is also possible to fall short of it.  To those who are weary and burdened, Jesus offers a rest intended to dethrone performance and productivity, a rest that comes through relationship with God, who was, after all, the first to rest.

The truth is that “God is always at work in His creation, but He is also always at rest.”  Since both our rest and our work have their beginning in God, both are gifts from Him, and one is enhanced by the other.  The Radical Pursuit of Rest involves a four-fold understanding of rest:

  1.  Rest is a place — Hebrews 4:1 speaks of entering rest and falling short of it, “but if rest is a country, it is not our native country.”  This is certainly true of my own uncomfortable relationship with rest.  It takes an act of the will to quit spinning the plates and to enter into a time of rest that is consistent with my confessional theology that God is holding together the galaxies and the molecules — without my assistance.
  2. Rest is a practice — Once the believer relocates into new life, the finished work of Christ serves as fuel to energize rest as well as work.  There are behaviors and mind-sets that must be relearned because our culture equates rest with play, and often with activities that are more stressful and energy-draining than our work.
  3. Rest is a standing — Rest comes to  us as a gift, but at the same time, we must position ourselves in such a way that we are able to receive it.  Action is not incompatible with rest, making the spiritual disciplines a good starting place.
  4. Rest is a person — Since God is always as rest and always at work, He offers Himself as a “place of repose” through relationship and a right understanding of grace and forgiveness, peace and purposefulness.

The Radical Pursuit of Rest presents an important distinction between the Old Testament Sabbath, which looked forward to a promise yet to come, and New Covenant Rest, which looks back to a promise which has been fulfilled.  At the same time, there is a posture of faith that they hold in common:  the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25) threw the people into a level of dependency upon God for provision that Jesus admonishes New Testament believers to cultivate in Matthew 6.

The “What shall we eat?  What shall we wear?” questions are legitimate concerns if one is pulling back from the very activities that generate a secure living.  Sloth, however, is not on the agenda.  As “rest’s dysfunctional relative” it serves to clarify further the nature of what rest is NOT; i.e. detachment, apathy, or a fearful holding back from action.

Rest is also NOT complacency.  Desire is a natural part of the human experience and is compatible with rest to the extent that one can remain at peace with God’s assignment relative to those desires.  Pride and envy have no place in Kingdom-oriented ambition, and ambition for its own sake forgets the nature of God and His call to a life of servanthood:

“If the primary aim of our ambition is to be noticed, we ought to recall that we live within sight of the one who sees the sparrow fall to the ground.”

My understanding of work and rest has a thunderous impact on my practice of prayer.  Like John Koessler, I admit that “I am more comfortable working than I am praying.”  It turns out, however, that prayer is crucial if I desire to work from a position of rest, for rest holds my heart in relationship to God, not merely as my operations manager or CEO, but as my Lord and Master.   Coming to God for rest through the discipline of prayer establishes my thinking in the present . . . “I am here in this moment.  God is here, also.”  Mindfulness slows the racing clock and the silence becomes a fertile place rather than an awkward and stumbling conversation.

A biblical theology of rest will deepen my longing for a healthy relationship with technology, and will also clarify my understanding of worship which Koessler defines as “an exercise in sustained attention that requires us to train our vision to see reality as God describes it.”  This reality check turns common practice on its head for “worship is not a feast we lay out for God.  It is the table on which God spreads his feast for us.”

Silence and solitude, attentiveness toward God and mindfulness of his presence, taking the yoke of rest that Jesus offers all lead to a radical perspective on this world that affects even my view of leaving it behind.  Augustine was on the right track.  The God who Himself rested and who offers rest as a gift has “made us for [Himself], and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in [Him].”

//

This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of Intervarsity Press, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

25 thoughts on “Rest: A Remedy, a Relief, and a Gift”

  1. Michele, I never thought about the different aspects of rest. As I was reading through, it brought me such encouragement to think upon rest in the true Biblical sense.

    This book sounds like a very interesting and enlightening read.

    Thanks for sharing about it.

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  2. Michele, I do loved this. So often I had thought of rest as being inactive. But rest is the activity of trusting God to take care of all things on our behalf. We must actively wrestle our thoughts, hearts and bodies in order to come to that point of surrendering to rest. Grateful to have been neighbors this morning 🙂

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  3. This sounds like an insightful book! I love how you wrote “Jesus offers a rest intended to dethrone performance and productivity” and how rest and work are both gifts from God. I need to remember to practice it, not just think about rest as only a physical sleeping 🙂 Thank you again for a wonderful post, Michele!

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    1. I had never thought of it that way either, Laura. It’s so easy to forget that Bible time people had the same needs and feelings that we have today. Praying right now for your husband’s work situation.

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  4. Rest–that sounds very appealing to me right now. I’ve been working hard this weekend to prepare for several days of rest ahead. 🙂 Looks like a good book about many different types of rest. Thanks for sharing, Michele.

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  5. This sounds like a great book, as well as one that I need to read and apply. I am guilty of falling into the productivity trap far too often. I really like that four-fold definition of rest. What a great perspective. Wishing you a blessed and restful week.
    -Jed
    Your blogging friend and neighbor at #inspirememondays 🙂

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  6. Love this review on rest, Michele! I have read a number of things related to this topic, but this book takes some additional dimensions and fleshes them out in a way that challenges me to look deeper. One more book that I think I need to read! Thanks so much!

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  7. Rest as a place ~ how interesting. I’ve never thought of it that way before, although those verses have flowed past these eyes several times. I love how God can open our eyes to yet more of His Word. Visiting today via @testimonyTuesday.

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  8. So much wisdom here and some of it so deep that I’m honestly having trouble absorbing it. 😉 I will have to reread your words here, Michele. But I totally agree that rest is something God designed for us to make time for and do. I try to carve out specific times of rest in each day and week. I know that gives me the energy I need to keep pressing forward as well as making more productive when I am not resting. Great thoughts, my friend!

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  9. Your post brought me back to a favorite verse, Isaiah 30:15 – “Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved.” I love the idea of rest being a place – that we can pursue and seek. So necessary. Great insights here today, Michele – worthy of further reflection. Glad to be your neighbor at #onewordcoffee.

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  10. Looks like a lovely book – I especially appreciate the idea that our culture equates rest with activities that are often stressful and draining (for some). Sometimes I find the weekends are more tiring than the weeks and that’s not a good thing. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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