The Grace of Rest

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
-Psalm 23:1-3, NRSV

Sometimes, all we need is rest. This sounds counter-intuitive to us. The culture of our nation does not allow us to rest. It tells us to keep going and going and going and going. We sleep because, eventually, our bodies won’t let us continue. That is if our minds don’t keep us awake with worry and planning and thinking about everything. However, sleep is not the same thing as rest. We don’t just need sleep. We need rest. 

That’s what it means to lie down in green pastures as in Psalm 23:2. This type of rest is so important that God initiates it.  David does not say God asks him to lie down. David does not say that he decided to rest. David says that God “makes me lie down in green pastures.” The key to surrendering to this type of rest is to remember that God is our Shepherd and there is nothing that we need that God cannot provide. 

While we may sleep every night, how often do we truly rest? Think about the last time you slept and truly allowed yourself to sink into it to the point where you slept through the alarm clock. I’m not talking about pressing snooze continuously until you wake for the day. I am talking about the kind of sleep that babies do when they finally stop trying to stay awake. I mean the kind of sleep that kids do after they have played the day away. I mean the kind of sleep that God asks us to do in Sabbath rest. 

The only way we can truly sleep and rest the way God intended is to stop, that is to cease all that prevents us from resting. For some of us, it is mental (worry, fear, planning, strategizing, rationalizing, overthinking, catastrophizing, etc.). For some of us, it is physical (working, moving, gathering, doing, running, cleaning, cooking, keeping busy, etc.). For some, it is social (helping, meddling, changing, correcting, talking, gossiping, being mini saviors, etc.). For all of us, most times, to ask us to stop doing to focus on just being is terrifying. We ask ourselves, who am I if I am not doing this thing that makes me who I am? We forget that we are who we are because God created us to be the children of God, the creation of God, the image and likeness of God. 

What would it mean if our entire existence is focused on worshipping God? Worship is not just a Sunday thing. It is an everyday thing. That in essence is what Sabbath is all about. It’s not just one day of the week. It is a lifestyle, a way of being in the world. Abraham Heschel said, “The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.”

As Christians, we are great at treating our Sabbath (Sunday) like an interlude to our week. We spend the entire week toiling away to the point where Sunday is just a speedbump to Monday. What if it were a roadblock to the tyranny of the urgent? What if instead of dreading Monday, we have done Sabbath so well that Monday is just another chance in the week’s preparation for the climax of Sunday? What would our lives look like if we reorganized it so that every day is form of Sabbath rest? What if we truly believed and understood that the Lord is our Shepherd and that our primary job is to just breathe and be in Christ Jesus?

Prompt for Thought: Where in your life do you need to experience the grace of God through real rest? How can you embrace fully daily Sabbath in your life?

Prayer for the Journey: God, we thank you for the grace of rest. Show us your mercy when we overextend ourselves by focusing too much on doing and not enough on being. Show us your love when we don’t think we are doing enough, fast enough, for enough people, in enough places. Help us to see that because you created us, we are enough just the way we are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.