Last weekend, I had the privilege of being a leader at our annual youth camp. We had a lot of fun, got a little sunburnt (at least, I did. And gained a few more freckles) and we focussed on a theme that I think is incredibly important. Our theme for this year was “Rest and the Sabbath Day”. I was asked to give a talk on the topic, so below is my thoughts, gathered in written format.
(Just as a note, I am writing this for Christians in particular and I will be mentioning the Bible/God frequently. However, if you are not Christian or not religious, I still think many of these things apply, I’m just approaching it from my own point of view)
For our generation, rest is more elusive, and yet more important, than ever. We live in an overstimulated world. We live in a world where we’re constantly connected–via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email and text message. These apps give us incredible insight into the lives of casual acquaintances and we’re left with no privacy and a constant comparison between their “perfect” lives and ours.
The fact is, we’re all stressed in this world (if you’re not, you’re probably a superhuman). We stress about grades in school, we stress about exams, we stress about our HSC and ATAR (and whatever it’s called in America), we stress about our work, about our creative endeavours. About anything and everything, basically.
In the interest of being honest with you guys, I haven’t been feeling well lately. Exhausted, with headaches and muscle aches and a host of other symptoms…eventually, my doctor diagnosed me with burnout/chronic stress.
Unfortunately, I’m a cynical Australian and I immediately started questioning the doctor. I mean, come on. I’m nineteen, don’t have a full time job, don’t even have a part time job, I live at home, I don’t worry about rent or bills or, or, or….
Turns out, stress doesn’t really have to do with any of those things. Yeah sure, they do exacerbate it, but they don’t cause it. I believe the root of stress is the lack of rest and the lack of trust in our society.
What Is Rest? And Why Should We Pursue It?
In the very beginning, God ordained rest.
And on the seventh day, God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in Creation.
This passage is from Genesis 2, the second chapter of the whole Bible. God rests, not because he’s tired, but because he is setting an example for us.
Later on, in Exodus 20, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments and the Fourth Commandment is “Keep the Sabbath Holy”.
Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Six days shall you labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
The thing that strikes me in both these passages is this rest is holy. It is literally one of the ten most important things God wanted us to do. Rest is an essential part of who we are as beings made in God’s image.
In our fast paced world, where we’re on the go 24/7, we never have an opportunity to rest. We live in a society that denies us our humanity through its insistence that we are always there, always present–at school, at work, at extracurricular activities, at church, etc, etc. We’re always working.
Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Work is also holy. It was a part of God’s original, perfect plan. It became cursed during the fall, but God still commands us to spend the majority of our lives working–to feed our families, to become educated, or for the service of others and the glory of God. We are to spend six out of seven days working, however, too often we find ourselves working seven out of seven days.
How Should We Pursue It?
Since we were freed from most of the Old Testament’s Laws, I personally don’t believe that there is any particular Sabbath Day. For most of us, including me, our day of rest is Sunday. But others need to work on Sunday and can’t have it as a day of rest. Whatever it is for you is between God, you and your lifestyle.
But rest is essential to our wellbeing, a day–or even a few hours–of rest is incredibly important to keeping ourselves healthy, both spiritually and physically.
It also isn’t selfish to rest. For a good part of my teenaged years, I’ve felt guilty about reading a book, or listening to music, or watching a movie. How is that advancing the Kingdom of God? And this mindset is, often unintentionally, propagated by our churches, pastors and people we look up to. But resting isn’t selfish. Taking time out to spend time with your friends, or family, or to read a book, isn’t selfish. Of course, you shouldn’t be wasting time, and sometimes it’s hard to draw the line, but it is important to take time out to be alone, to be with friends and whatever else recharges you.
So, how do we balance? It’s different for everyone, because everyone is different. But to finish up this post, I’m going to lay out a few ideas in order to help you guys rest in a way that benefits you, your community, and ultimately the Glory of God.
- Spend time in prayer
- Enjoy nature and praise God for his Creation
- Be still and hear God’s voice
- Meditate on his word
- Begin a prayer journal
- Identify areas that cause you stress (worry about the future, fear, lack of peace or hope) and begin a Bible study focussing on those themes
Rest Emotionally and Mentally
- Turn your brain (and your phone) off
- Take a social media hiatus
- Listen to your favourite music
- Spend some time on a hobby
- Read a book
- Watch a movie with your family
- Invite your friends over for an activity you all enjoy
- Take a walk outside
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Drink water
- Drink less coffee (and anything with too much caffeine)
- Eat well
- Take a day off activities
You, my friend, are God’s wonderful creation. Don’t burn yourself out over work, when God has also ordained rest as holy.
What about you guys? Do you have a good work/rest balance? What are your favourite ways to recharge?