Rest is a hard thing to come by these days. There has always been the promise that technology would give us back more time. Yet this does not seem to be holding true. The “better” technology gets, the more we are simply packing additional things to do into our days. Instead of allowing us to rest, we now face the challenge of being better multitaskers. This of course is a myth which has led to problems with focus and mental health. No amount of life hacks is going to save us.
Beyond the promises of technology, we now live in a hyper individualistic and hyperactive culture. If you have kids, their multiple extracurricular activities seem like a full-time job. If you are single, it’s taboo to relax because there’s FOMO (fear of missing out). Even if you shake off that bad case of FOMO, rest materializes into binge watching an entire series or escapism on social media. Is this anyway for a disciple of Christ to live? Ronald Rolheiser put it well:
“Today, a number of historical circumstances are blindly flowing together and accidentally conspiring to produce a climate within which it is difficult not just to think about God or to pray, but simply to have any interior depth whatsoever... We are distracting ourselves into spiritual oblivion... pathological busyness, distraction, and restlessness are major blocks today within our spiritual Iives.”
In other words, our world and lifestyles are counter to following Jesus. Below are some practices and things to think about as we try to find rest in this busy world. We are not recommending that you do all of them. Rather practice those things that can help bring life rather than legalism to your soul.
Let's Talk About Your Time
Probably the best place to start a conversation about rest is to talk about the use of your time. Psalm 90: 12 states “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” In other words, what you do with your time matters to the kingdom of God. Try these:
Time Mapping Use the worksheet here to take inventory of your day and reflect on it.
Boundaries Pray and list out what boundaries you should have around your time to pursue the life God has called you to.
Schedule “Me Time” “Me time” can be selfish, but if exercised with wisdom it can be life giving and Biblical. Even Jesus went off to be alone (Luke 5:16) .
Consider reading Ordering Your Private World.
Let's Talk Your Time with God
More important than “me time” is “God time”. While we believe that personal time is important, spending time with God is paramount to relax. Think about it. What you consume consumes you. To that end, if you soak up scripture those truths become a part of you. Part of that truth is God’s promise of peace, hope, and rest. In addition to scripture, time spent with God in thought and prayer reminds us that we serve a loving Father who cares deeply for us. He cares and he is in control. Again resting in these truths brings peace. Consider the following practices:
Psalm a Day Work your way slowly through the Psalms by reading just one Psalm a day.
11:28 AM “Easy and Light” In Mathew Jesus says:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Set an alarm or some form of a notification for 11:28 a.m. and label it “easy yoke”. This is just reminding you to take a minute and meditate on the promise that Jesus is “easy and light”.
Prayer Walks Many people enjoy sitting or kneeling when it comes to prayer and that is great. However, some people pray better with movement. In fact as we talk about rest, one of the best ways to relax is to burn energy through movement. God can use movement like walking or running in conjunction with prayer to give us the gift of rest.
Sit with God and Music Most of us don’t like to be still and just sit with God. However, sitting before God and listening is important. Will you hear an audible response from God? While you could, it’s most likely that you will feel God’s presence through your emotions, thoughts and sensations. This stillness is uncomfortable to most of us. Yet something that can aid in this time of listening is music. It’s a gift that God uses to guide our minds during this time. So spend some time sitting silently with music. Here is a Spotify playlist to help you with this practice.
Consider reading Sacred Rhythms.
Let’s Talk About Your Recreation
Jesus loves fun. The God who created the universe and you is playful. In you he created the capacity for joy expressed with this fun and play. Being spiritual doesn’t equate to being dry. To avoid stress consider the following ideas:
Flow Have you ever gotten so engrossed in a hobby that you lose track of time? In the book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi unveiled his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow. Flow is the state of mind we experience when we remove most of the obstacles in the way of us being fully engaged in an activity. There are certain hobbies and activities that enable us to pray, think on God, and allow the Holy Spirit to straighten out our minds. We would encourage you to figure out what those activities are (biking, gardening, playing guitar, etc.), stop multitasking, and enter into this state of flow for rest.
Replenishment Cycle There are ways in which we need to engage physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and intellectually for rest and replenishment. In each of these categories we need to figure out a healthy level of frequency like daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. For example, in the relational area of your life you may need to set a weekly time with your kids to play outside for their benefit and yours. Another example would be maybe you are refreshed through time on the water so you might set a monthly goal to go fishing for emotional and spiritual refueling. Everyone has different things that fill them up in different areas. Consider working through this worksheet to figure out and plan your replenishment cycle.
Read Why We Play.
Let’s Talk About Sabbath
Finally let’s talk about something uncomfortable, sabbath. Right out of the gate let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: most of us don’t know what it is, what to do with it, or ignore it all together because we don’t want to obey it. Before we discard it, let’s read Deuteronomy:
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 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.
Here’s the deal, sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. It’s also the longest of the commandments. At this point let me lower the temperature in the room because I am sure these truths are not helping you find the peace we keep talking about. Relax. The point of the sabbath is not guilt, it’s rest. While we can’t ignore sabbath, it was meant to serve us, not us to serve it (Mark 2:27). Some theologians argue that we should observe a 24 hour day of rest like they did in the Old Testament. Others argue that it is part of the old covenant and no longer applicable. While that debate is the subject of a theological book and not a webpage, we think it is safe to say that:
- Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments so while it can be practiced differently today, it can’t be completely ignored.
- Rest was modeled by God (Genesis 2:2-3) so it should be important to us.
- We should practice some weekly extended time of rest to obey God’s command and break free of the bondage of busyness. Activity, even good activities, can be idolatry.
To learn about sabbath, go to Practing the Way.
Also consider reading Subversive Sabbath.
These four areas around rest are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other practices a Jesus follower can implement to rest well. Even looking at this list of just three can feel overwhelming which is ironic. Imagine that. A list of things about rest that stresses you out. Here is the point: just pick one practice from one area above that brings you joy that is manageable and work it! Don’t become overwhelmed. While a life of following Jesus involves disciplines and practices for spiritual growth, you are “saved by grace through faith and not works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God loves you. You are not earning your way into heaven. You are just learning to slow down, enjoy Jesus, and become more like him. Obedience with rest should be birthed out of grace so relax.