One of the hardest things for me to do is rest. It’s so necessary, but it’s also difficult when you want to accomplish all of these different things. I can get so focused on doing that I forget that just being and taking care of myself is a worthy and vital goal. I’m glad that the Lord knew there were going to be plenty of people in the world like me who would want to work themselves into the ground instead of resting and trusting. He isn’t surprised when we forget the importance of the Sabbath, but continues to lovingly draw us back to himself.
In Nehemiah 13, Nehemiah heads out of Jerusalem for a bit to visit the King once again. When he returns after being away for a while, he sees that the people who, just one chapter earlier, had been so sold-out to the Lord, had turned their backs on the covenant they had made. Cue all of the face-palming.
“In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”” Nehemiah 13:15-18 (ESV)
When I read this passage, my first thought was, Nehemiah, calm down. It’s not that serious. To me, calling the action of not keeping the Sabbath “evil” feels like an overreaction, but it’s not.
Nehemiah’s indignation and outrage at the people’s disregard for the commands of God was appropriate, my excuses are not. Because neglecting the Sabbath isn’t an obvious sin, it’s easy for me to overlook it. Since my refusal to rest doesn’t appear to harm anyone, I can easily compile a list of excuses that I feel are very valid. But disobedience, no matter how innocent or harmless it might seem is still inappropriate.
While I’m sitting here thinking about these verses, I’m wondering how my life would change if I truly embraced God’s instructions to rest. Maybe I would be more intentional with my time, more creative in my pursuits, and more mindful in my relationships. Maybe taking a day of rest would help me operate from a place of rest more often, instead of just focusing on achieving or working or running or whatever else I spend my time doing. Maybe if I rested more consistently I wouldn’t wear myself out as much.
I’m reminded once again that God’s ways are higher than mine and his thoughts better than mine. My need for rest is an invitation to trust him even more and the truth is that my life would probably look vastly different if I chose obedience in this area more often. I suspect that rest is a lot more vital than we think and could completely change our lives if we were willing to give it a try.
Do you struggle to rest?
How can you work from a place of rest today?