“I’ll rest when I die” was a phrase one of my congregants used whenever he was encouraged to stop moving for a while and rest. He is now gone, having died at a relatively young age. It is common in American culture to define rest as an almost optional act. Indeed, we do not look on it as an act at all. Many people feel guilt when they sit still, living with the belief that if they are not constantly busy and doing something that they are lazy.
The kind of rest that the author of Hebrews was talking about was not just a future time of finally sitting in some kind of celestial recliner after a life of constant work. “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” It is not just contemporary people who have a problem with Sabbath; the ancient Jews did not always practice it with strict observance.
I think we need to ask ourselves why we have this tendency to interpret “rest” as only occurring after a lot of hard work has happened. If Sabbath rest has relevance to us now, perhaps our cultural model of work>rest is really to be reversed as rest>work. God created humans on the sixth day. God rested on the seventh day. So did Adam and Eve. That means the first people rested before they even had a chance to begin working the garden that God created.
Maybe instead of inventing new ways to overfill our schedules and erase any margin from our day to day existence, we ought to create ways of ruthlessly eliminating hurry from our lives. It just could be that our society’s epidemic of obesity, disease, and disorders come more from our inability to rest than anything else. God does not only call us to an active Christian life; he calls us to rest, as well.
God of Sabbath, just as you rested on the seventh day, help me to alter my life in such a way as to engraft new avenues of rest into my busy schedule. In doing so, may I connect with you more deeply and find greater health and fulfillment in myself and my relationships. To the glory of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.