My husband calls, and I irritably report that I watched a Fed Ex truck as it sped past our house. “But it didn’t stop.” And then he explains, “That’s because you’re waiting for UPS, not Fed Ex.” Ugh.
I find it ironic that I am stuck at home, impatiently waiting to sign for an important delivery, on a day when I intend to write about rest. And now the inability to go anywhere has me restless and twitchy. Obviously I write as a learner and not an expert.
As I wrote in Part 1, I tend to place more emphasis on my productivity for God’s kingdom and less emphasis on my position as a daughter of the King. But when my soul feels scattered amidst my commitments, I know deep down that this isn’t Jesus’ way.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (Words of Jesus, Matthew 11:28 – 29, as phrased in The Message).
I’m learning that Jesus exemplified the difference between working for rest and working from rest. I usually work for rest, meaning that I persist in my duties until I finally achieve a semblance of order, empty laundry basket, or someone’s approval and then I take an exhausted break.
Jesus, on the other hand, chose an unforced rhythm of working from rest. He set apart time for stillness, prayer, and solitude even as impatient crowds waited for miracles (see Mark 1:35 – 37). By choosing the essential over the urgent, Jesus submitted to His Father’s pace and priorities. And out of this deeply rooted relationship with the Father, Jesus “completed His work” in three years of ministry (John 17:4).
Our culture believes that we must do more to produce more, but Jesus shows us the better way:
Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does (John 5:19).
I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
Jesus’ example calls us to live with obedience and dependence, trusting our Father to work in and through us what we could never do ourselves. Ultimately our accomplishments are His doing, the outcomes of the time and skills that He’s given. When we acknowledge that our days are His, we receive time as a gift and not our own possession. As we follow His initiative, He replaces our striving with His sufficiency. And when we accept the truth that He is God and we are not, we embrace His boundaries as gifts. When God tells us to rest, we never need worry that His work will go unaccomplished.
The Sabbath is one such boundary which God set into place because He created us to work from rest. On the sixth day, God created Adam and appointed him the work of naming the animals. With all the wonders of the Garden and its inhabitants, Adam must have been eager to dive into his responsibilities, but his first complete day of life was a day of rest with God. On the seventh day, God created rest and called Adam and Eve to join Him.
God’s creation of rest wasn’t born out of His need to take a break but out of His authority to set boundaries and a rhythm of relationship.
The Ten Commandments appear in Exodus and in Deuteronomy. While the Sabbath commandment in Exodus is grounded in the creation story, in Deuteronomy it calls the Israelites to remember and worship God in their new freedom:
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day (5:15).
These former slaves had been trained to continually appease their taskmasters. Calling them to rest was God’s way of showing the Israelites that He loved them not because of their productivity but because they were His possession. The Sabbath is the principle of receiving – not achieving – God’s love and favor.
I’m learning that a Sabbath heart isn’t simply about how I spend Sundays. At the core of my rest-issues, I believe, is my willingness to let God be God and my confidence in who He says I am. True rest isn’t the same as doing nothing; it is a humble & purposeful stance of remembering who God is, worshipping Him, intentionally setting pace with Him, and learning to hear His voice.
Several weeks ago, I shopped in a gift store that sells chalkboard signs with clever sayings. My favorite one said:
“Yesterday I cleaned. Which is dumb because we still live here.”
You know, that little sign has given me a lot of freedom. I am making a home with my people – and pets – and we are real-life messy. If I wait until the taskmaster in my head is satisfied, I will never rest. But if I learn to live from rest, I see my life happening in a context of real people and real challenges and real joys. These are gifts, and I want to pause and savor these years before they disappear like a Fed Ex truck before my eyes. This happens only if I can see myself as a receiver, not an achiever.
Sabbath rest isn’t a reward for an accomplished task; it’s a pure gift, and to receive it, I don’t need a clean house; I need a surrendered heart.
As a Christ-follower, a busy schedule doesn’t validate my worth. If you have received Christ as I have, you are God’s child, God’s heir. There is nothing we can do to change His love and acceptance of us. God writes our eternal story, and He promises to carry on a good work in you and in me that He will bring to completion on this side of Heaven. And that’s just the beginning!
When I truly believe that Jesus is sufficient and sovereign, my effort to scatter seeds for the Gospel is impacted in a sacred way. I become content with the fields He gives me to sow, no matter the size.
Confidence in His purpose and provision allows me to rest, surrender, open my hands, and trust that seeds will fall as they may, yielding a fruitful harvest wherever God directs my steps.
For the times when you feel scattered, I share a prayer written by Emily Freeman. May we meet the One Who Holds All Things Together with these words from a fellow receiver –
When it comes to our work, we confess our desire to grow, determine, fill, and control. Remind us these outcomes belong to You. Instead, may we simply plant, act, build, and offer, releasing the outcomes into Your hands because they are not our business …
We want Your presence to be its own reward.
Resources for cultivating a Sabbath Heart:
This article by Pastor Andy Lewis introduced me to the concept of working from rest – Sabbath: Living From Rest Rather Than For Rest
Breathe: Making Room for Sabbath by Priscilla Shirer
The Rest of God: Restoring your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan
Your Sacred Yes by Susie Larson
Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles E. Hummel
What the North American Church Needs to Know About Rest by Emily Wierenga
Sabbath Hearts @ feminagirls.com
How Can We Rest in a World When There is So Much Need? by Hillary Rector
Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman