As a child I remember being told “The more God gives you, the more He expects.” Sounds innocent, right? Not with my twisted brain. It made it feel like I was stuck in a permanent debt to God always needing to do something more and better because He gave me great family, friends, and home. I mean how many children are lucky enough to come home from school to the house smelling like freshly baked cookies? I had it pretty sweet… lame pun intended. Add to this the fact that unlike my brother and sister who struggled with bullies growing up, I was particularly lucky. My sister’s grade 3 teacher even said to my mom, “You should be glad your daughter doesn’t get along with the girls in this class because they’re nasty.” When it was my turn for school, my class was filled with great kids; some of whom I’m still friends. Clearly God must have expected a lot from me if I’m being fueled with love and baked goods. Like the words in the movie Saving Private Ryan, “Earn it,” I’ve felt this need to “earn” all I’ve been given. I’m sure you can imagine this kind of thinking drives a person a bit crazy… or a lot crazy depending who you talk to about me. Even now when I’ve been studying and practicing counselling for over 11 years, I hear stories of what former schoolmates are doing and I can’t help but question myself: Why haven’t I done more? Why aren’t I more successful? How disappointed is God with me? I continually have to fight my childhood thinking of ‘earn it’, and will likely continue on some level the rest of my life because it’s so engrained. One of the biggest problems this idea causes is it becomes very difficult to relax and rest when I feel like there’s always something I should be doing. In some ways, I’m afraid to rest because it feels like laziness. Fortunately, I know that feelings can be liars, which means my feeling that rest is laziness can be wrong, especially when I know when people have proper rest we can be more productive than if we’re exhausted and slower thinking, which leads to sloppy mistakes. More importantly, rest is expected by God. It’s one of the most important lessons God wants humanity to realize. Life isn’t supposed to be just about work and achievement, especially when we’re told “But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless–like chasing the wind.” (Ecc 2:11). How do I know God wants us to rest? Good question imaginary person. Here are a few reasons:
God Rested: The first chapter/story in the Bible says that God rested on the 7th day. Did He need it? I doubt it. I don’t think God was like “I’m soooo tired; where’s my Snuggie and Sun Chips?” No, He just wanted to show humanity how we should be living. Do a little each day (not everything in one day, which He could’ve done), and then rest on the seventh. He also doesn’t want us to be lazy and rest all day every day.
The 10 Commandments: The 4th commandment is to take a day to relax from your normal life. Thus, if you are labourer, sit or if you sit all week, go for a jog on your “rest” day… oh and turn off your work phone and email for a day.
Sleep: Our bodies are made to need sleep. You get loopy if you don’t.
Eating: Our bodies get hungry and force us to stop doing what we’re doing in order to refuel, which is no different than a car needing to fill up on gas.
Bathroom: Our bodies have been designed to take mini breaks throughout the day even if we fight sleep
and eating. Going to the bathroom becomes a priority when we have to go.
Muscles Healing: Anyone familiar with exercise knows the need to have rest days for our bodies to recover and get stronger. Working out too much can actually reduce proper muscle growth.
The Sabbath Year (Shmita): As taught in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) Jewish farmers are meant to give the farm land a break, which essentially gives the farmer a break for a year (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmita). That’s one rule I wish we still followed.
Jesus took breaks: Think how many more people Jesus could heal if he didn’t sleep and stop to talk just to his closest companions. Jesus could have achieved so much more as far as healing and helping goes, but as He said “There will always be the poor.” We aren’t meant to help everyone, just some people.
This week may you find time to rest, and consider how you should rest in the future.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people