I don’t need to interact with very many media sources or people to hear about the challenge to so many have in getting enough rest. The challenges opposing it come from a laundry list of sources depending on who you are and what season of life you are in.
Those who are younger seem to be operating near the speed of light many days between work and play, responsibilities and a wide variety of leisure activities. Leisure is designed for fun and still can consume a great deal of time and energy apart from work or school.
Ask any young mother how her week is going and you may need to ask for a glass of lemonade for refreshment by the time she tells you all that is on her calendar. It can matter little whether or not she works outside the home full-time, part-time, or not-at-all. If she is a mom and handling all that goes into that role, enough rest can be a goal that keeps slipping out of view.
Mid-life doesn’t bring a great deal more rest options for many. Work responsibilities continue to grow as you move “up the ladder” and middle school, high school, and even college age children involve a lot of time and energy.
When you become a “senior” citizen, some think you have “all the time in the world on your hands.” Unless there are health problems, most seniors stay very active in a myriad of ways between helping adult children and grandchildren, volunteering in ministry and other community organizations. It’s not unusual to hear an active senior say something like, “I don’t know how I had time to work before I retired.”
Certainly it’s true that some of the problem with our quest for rest comes from our own choices as well. Too many of us have a hard time saying “no” to things (especially if they are things we enjoy or someone who needs us). We are also prone to define ourselves by what we do and how we do it. That pushes us to keep going.
But this isn’t about giving you a list of things to do about self-care, even though I could easily do that. I know many such lists and tips are out there and they are helpful to the degree we implement them, but there is a deeper core issue that goes beyond time management, sleep routines, and boundary setting.
That issue got stirred up while reading and reflecting on passages in Hebrews 3 and 4. The writer lays out the source of the problem that starts with the condition of our hearts. As he retells some of the history of Moses, he notes the problem of “hardening of your hearts” and “rebellion.” The Passion Translation of a portion of Heb. 3:10 says: “They wander in their hearts just like they do with their feet and refuse to learn my ways.”
Later in that same chapter, the writer goes on to make it even clearer for us. Check out Hebrews 3:19 (TPT):
“It is clear that they could not enter into their inheritance because they wrapped their hearts in unbelief.”
I believe in Him, but if that is true some of the evidence will be faith and trust that clarifies my identity, gives me peace in the midst of uncertainty, and buoys my confidence not only in big challenges, but also in the dailyness of life.
Perhaps we miss that underlying core principle and truth when we feel driven to be and do more than the Lord has asked of us. Maybe we get wooed into the world’s view of success and the grind of daily life that creates. Maybe we lose sight of the Lord and anxiety becomes a companion that impedes good sleep and rest.
In the midst of considering this, our pastor’s Sunday message jumped out to confirm what I was pondering in Hebrews. He reminded us of something significant in the book of Genesis (even though he is teaching through the Gospel of John).
When we read the Genesis account of creation, “something special happens on the seventh day − REST.” The pastor added, “Man’s first day in the presence of God is a day of rest…then work. Learn how to rest first or your work will not be significant. If you work first, you will not rest.”
It confirms so well what the writer of Hebrews is telling us. The heading of chapter four in some translations is “The Faith-Rest Life.” Hebrews 4:11 (TPT) admonishes us this way:
“So then we must give our all and be eager to experience this faith-rest life, that no one falls short by following the same pattern of doubt and unbelief.”
It can be easy when I/we are busy to not take time to rest in the Lord’s presence at the start of the day. I can plead guilty to days like that, but I can also state resolutely that when I do (even if it is shorter than I might wish) it almost seems as if the Lord multiples the time that day. He helps me order my day even if that was not a specific prayer request.
So be sure to follow all the excellent lists of how to attain more rest, but remember the key starts with our heart, our faith, and our trust.
A Bible footnote related to this reads:
“What is the antidote to the poison of unbelief? It is mutual accountability and daily encouragement of one another.”
It’s also the pattern the Lord set out at the very beginning and echoes throughout the Bible that our pastor pointed out: “REST FIRST, then work.”