When you hear the word rest, what comes to mind? In a culture where the world wears busyness as a badge of honor, how can we live under God’s banner of love? Some of us find it hard to simply breathe, struggling to just keep up. Others of us feel too burnt out to even think about rest. We’re in survival mode. Exhausted.
And if we’re honest, even though the idea of rest is supposed to be refreshing and inviting, our works-based church culture has turned rest into another spiritual checklist that stresses us out. Yes, keeping the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, but God’s heart for us to rest isn’t designed to be an added millstone of guilt around our necks, to get to His goodness.
Unfortunately, in some Christian circles, the response to people burned out is this: It’s your fault. You’re not resting.
Jesus’ response to our lack of rest is shockingly opposite to these condemning voices.
“Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
Jesus understands our humanity. Jesus Himself experienced exhaustion and loneliness. He’s tasted weariness, anxiety and stress.
God’s heart for rest goes deeper than what we can do for Sabbath. True Sabbath is returning to who God created us to be. Accepted and beloved, just as we are.
Jesus invites us to rest. But what would that look like?
A few years ago, I began an investigative journey through the Bible to see what God has to say about rest. The ah-ha moments I discovered changed my life, resulting in two books sharing my experience, Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace.
Rest as Beautiful Ambition
Doesn’t rest sound inactive? I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions called out in the New Testament. The other two are to preach the Gospel (Romans 15:20) and to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9).
The Greek word used for “quiet” is hesuchazo: to rest, cease from labor.
I was so intrigued, I looked up verses in the Bible where rest was the root word.
Here are 8 Surprising Ah-ha Moments About Rest In the Bible:
1. Rest is emotional honesty.
“Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden … and I will give you rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28
Jesus doesn’t say, “Come to me happy, cheerful and optimistic.” It’s the opposite. True rest is radical because it’s honest. We can come to Jesus, regardless of how we’re feeling: distracted, numb or discouraged.
In this place of honesty, Jesus can give you the emotional rest of safety and understanding.
2. Rest is a return to your true identity.
The world loves to label us by what we can do, who we know and our past or future potential to perform. Just as God was calling Israel to return to him, He’s calling us to say no to the roles and responsibilities others try to place on us—and say yes to who God created you to be—and return to a place of rest.
Brennan Manning says, “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” What different choices would you make, if you gave yourself permission to let go the expectations other people push you to be or do?
3. Rest is relational vulnerability. Rest is experienced with a real person.
It’s easier to connect online with a gazillion people, but studies show our generation is the most digitally connected but still struggles with loneliness. What feeds the soul is relational vulnerability: the longing to be known.
Even God Himself had to come to us as a real person who said “Hello,” smiled, ate and cried to show us He loved us. Rest is an experience of being known.
Get together with a confidante and share the deep things going on in your life.
4. Rest is radical and counter-cultural.
Danish theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “If I were allowed to prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence.” He said that because of the noise saturating us, even if the word of God came to us, we wouldn’t be able to hear him.
We can’t drop our jobs and move away from our family and friends, but we can inject pockets of rest, to pull away from daily routine. Even Jesus told His disciples to leave and escape the masses by boat, even though needs were still unmet!
Could God be prompting you to “leave by boat”—to take a radical break from your routine to get some rest and enjoy silence, so you can hear God’s whispers and hear his nearness again?
5. Rest isn’t failure. Rest is spiritual intimacy.
Elijah had done everything he knew to do—even defeating the prophets of Baal. Yet, his problems did not go away. Stress broke Elijah’s spirit. In despair, Elijah woke up to find fresh bread baking on hot stones and water—left just for him.
Not only that. God sent an angel—to touch him–twice. God knew Elijah needed physical rejuvenation first—in order to hear His gentle voice, whispering in a gentle breeze.
God didn’t say, “Well, I’ll just move on to use someone else.” It’s the opposite. God loved Elijah deeper. Could God be inviting you to deeper intimacy through rest?
Sometimes it takes greater faith and courage to admit we’re tired and we need to reassess why we’re doing what we’re doing. God welcomes soul searching. He’s loves being with us on that intimate journey.
6. Rest is God’s beauty in nature.
“The whole earth is at rest and is quiet; They break forth into shouts of joy.” – Isaiah 14:7
Rest brings our bodies and senses to rest.
7. Rest is sleep.
“He enters into peace; They rest in their beds, each one who walked in his upright way.” – Isaiah 57:2
It’s a luxury that burning the candle at both ends fails to afford.
8. Rest is giving yourself grace to receive all the good, instead letting in guilt.
Move as God prompts you, inspired by His goodness, rather than fear of guilt. Trust God one day at a time. His guidance comes like manna. No more. No less. Just for today.
One last rest inducing tip to add. It’s not in the Bible, but I think it’s still a good one.
Brew a daily cup of coffee or tea. Drink slowly. Enjoy.
is author of the 40day soul detox Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Klove, Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons.