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The Life-giving Power of Rest

I feel like I’ve spent my twenties in a dead sprint. I went from a demanding first job out of college, to grad school for a couple of years, to working full-time while finishing up that degree. On top of that, I got married and moved back and forth between Columbia and Chicago five times (!!) in five years.

I am twenty-eight and exhausted by my transient, break-neck pace of life. I’ve been working hard to establish myself in work, in relationships, in community, in my faith. And it didn’t seem like it would ever slow down.

Until Coronavirus hit and everything had to slow down.

For the first time in years, my life felt like it came to a full stop. (Or as close as I’m realistically going to get). No traveling, no weekend plans, no busy weeknights. No figuring out how to manage our time between new friends, old friends, work friends, church friends, out-of-town friends, my family, my husband’s family… it was just me and him in a little apartment together working on whatever we had in front of us.

The disruption in our schedule revealed just how full our schedule was.

We’d said yes to so many good, fun, important things that we care about and enjoy, that we’d lost control of our lives. Our days has flown by for years in a never-ending stream of commitments on the calendar. Commitments that were all wiped away by a global pandemic.

This has been an unbelievably challenging time of upheaval, uncertainty, and fear for us and for the community. However, I’ve also seen God show up in my own life in ways that I’m not sure I would have noticed otherwise. This forced slowing has revealed how much I’ve been aching for rest.

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27

When Jesus first said these words, he was speaking to people who thought too much of the Sabbath day. They focused more on the command to keep it holy than on the heart and purpose behind the command.

See, God doesn’t just order us to do things out of some arbitrary power trip. No, God created us. He loves us. And because he knows us better than we know ourselves, he knows precisely what we need to thrive. When we thrive, when his creatures are living to the fullest, God gets the glory.

It’s a win-win.

We live our best life. And God delights in us living our best life. And we delight in delighting God and also in living our best life.

Sounds amazing, right? This is the way God wants his creation to be.

So when Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for man, we’re reminded of what is always true. The commands God gives us are for us. They exist to show us what we need to thrive.

To borrow from John Mark Comer, a pastor and author in Portland, the Pharisees in Jesus’s day need to be reminded that “man was not made for the Sabbath”. We do not exist to slavishly obey God’s laws. However, many of us today need to listen up to the other part of Jesus’s words:

The Sabbath was made for man.

The reality is, many of us live like we don’t need Sabbath. And, since our actions reveal our beliefs and priorities, many of us live like we don’t believe God really knows what’s best for us. We read the life-giving, soul-filling instructions that come straight from the one who gave us life and filled our souls in the first place… Then we set them on the back-burner as a suggestion to maybe get around to if we find ourselves with extra time.  

For me, this season of Coronavirus-induced slowing has shown me how ridiculous that view of the Sabbath is. God built a break—the very thing I’ve been craving for years—into the rhythm of our daily lives. He knows we need a break. He’s been trying to give it to us once a week for thousands of years!

What if, instead of saying yes to all the awesome things we could fill our time with, we said yes to the gift God offers? Or if we believed with our lived-out actions that God (the one who made us) knows what we need better than we do ourselves? Imagine if, instead of just longing for a break and no-pressure time to recharge, we took it?

Picture all the best parts of the slowing of a global pandemic, without the horrible fear and uncertainty and loss. “The Sabbath was made for man” to give us this very rest. All we have to do is say yes.

Are you looking for some practical tips on how to hold onto this slower way of life? Check out this episode of Ten Minute Bible Talks where Keith and Patrick encourage listeners to fight the urge to fill their schedules back up. Or, sign up for this ten-day email devotional on the same topic.