Every Monday in July, I will be sharing a different mindset that has helped me pursue God’s call on my life. In this blog, I’ll be talking about rest.
Leadership isn’t easy. Leaders have to go through difficult areas before anyone else. Then, they have to bring the people they lead back through those areas! The more you’re in charge of carrying, the more important it is to know how to put it down at regular intervals.
It is tempting to acknowledge and quickly dismiss the need for rest. We tell ourselves that our work is too important, too many people are depending on us, or that we won’t ‘make it’ without an inordinate amount of sweat equity. Learning how to work hard and let go—how to do our part while maintaining dependency on God—is likely one of the hardest balances we will aim to strike in our lives. However, when you find that sweet spot there’s nothing quite like it.
I implore you to challenge yourself in this area. Rest isn’t weak; it’s wise. Here are 4 reasons why:
Why You Need Rest:
1. You Were Made For It
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.” Genesis 2:1-2
Genesis 2 tells us plainly that God rested. If Scripture makes a point to mention that the Creator of the universe rested from His works, shouldn’t we humbly realize that we need a break, too? We are made in God’s image, which means that we are best off when we mirror His ways.
God gave us a cadence to abide by from the beginning of creation: we work six days, and we rest for one. This isn’t a legalistic demand—it’s a recipe for human flourishing. The research backs up the Bible. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that working more hours means less productivity. The most productive countries are Germany and France, and they both mandate at least 30 days of vacation per year!
A major way that Christian leaders can be counter-cultural in a world that’s all about quantity and speed is to simply slow down. Exhibiting and encouraging rest is one pathway to show, not tell, our confidence in God as opposed to our own strength. Learning to create rhythms of rest in our life is just as important, if not more important, as working hard. It reminds us that we are partners with God—not God Himself.
You can’t force creativity. The TED speaker and author of The Art of the Impossible Steven Kotler says the real secret to generating more creativity in the workplace is no time: alone time when you are insulated from the world’s noise and demands.
He explains, “Pressure forces the brain to focus on the details, activating the left hemisphere and blocking out that bigger picture. Worse, when pressed, we’re often stressed. We’re unhappy about the hurry, which sours our mood and further tightens our focus. Being time-strapped, then, can be kryptonite for creativity.” So, in a way, our innovative potential depends on us doing less.
Creativity requires space. When we cultivate the space to do nothing, we create room for new ideas to flood in. (Note: doing nothing isn’t synonymous with watching t.v., scrolling through social media, or even reading. If we’re stuffing ourselves with someone else’s creative material, how are we supposed to generate our own?)
Rest teaches us that we’re not in control. This is especially true for people with control issues! Think about it—high-producing individuals often have trouble resting because they feel like there’s something else they should be doing. At their core, they fear that if they don’t spend every second productively something will fall apart. However, if they choose to fight through that discomfort and rest, they typically realize that everything turned out okay on the other end. The universe does not rest on any one individual’s shoulders.
Similarly, rest helps us get a 30,000-foot view of what actually matters. Stress is an emotion. When you rest, you remove yourself from intense emotional realities and head-spaces. The result is perspective. What seems intensely important in the heat of the moment usually doesn’t carry as much weight as you think. Rest is the spiritual antidote to the idol of workaholism!
Whereas exhaustion steals our joy, rest renews our passion. This isn’t a hard one to figure out. In rest, we pause from the race of constantly moving forward to become exceedingly present.
I love this quote by author John Mark Comer: “Love, joy, and peace are at the heart of all Jesus is trying to grow in the soil of your life. And all three are incompatible with hurry.”
Rest is meant to be a celebration. That’s why God rested on the seventh day—not the first. It was the pinnacle of His creative process—a day spent reflecting and celebrating. We are invited into that same joy every week through practicing the Sabbath and setting aside daily pockets of rest.
How to Rest
True rest isn’t synonymous with doing nothing or binging a TV show. It’s much deeper than that. Rest is a process that, at its core, is meant to connect you with God and your own self. I’ve found that adjusting to the rhythm of rest is a twofold system.
This does have a technological element, but that’s not the whole picture. Unplugging involves getting into a space where the noise of the world gets quieter. You turn off the constant stream of content, and you don’t try to create any of your own. Your responsibilities cease, and you can be still before God.
I think that people need to have a physical space or two where they feel connected to God and disconnected from just about everything else. For me, the time is the morning, and the space is the hot tub. I’ll take time to meditate, pray in tounges, listen to God, and read the Bible on my phone. It is often my absolute favorite part of the day.
2. Plug Back Into Meaning
After you detach from the chaos, you can attach more deeply to God. That’s why step two of true rest is plugging back into meaning. When God rested on the seventh day, He celebrated and enjoyed the world He created. The implication is that He endowed the universe with meaning. Through rest, we create the space to reflect on that meaning. We take a break from trying to grow. Instead, we reflect on the growth that has occurred in and around us. Don’t force this reflection. If you make a practice of quieting your soul, it will happen naturally. Remember, rest is a celebration!
When you recognize the meaning in something, it becomes pregnant for what’s next. You become excited and motivated to go back to work. This has happened to me on several vacations. I’ll be walking along the beach a few days into my break and suddenly get really excited to get back into my routine. Even though I am loving the sunshine and ocean, the rest has energized me to return to the season God has called me to steward.
If you have a difficult time discerning whether or not something is true rest, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is this activity life-giving? In other words, do I feel refreshed and renewed after doing it?
2. Does this activity feel like worship? Am I more connected to God, and therefore myself, afterward?
The wonderful thing about creating your own rhythm of rest with God is that you begin to look forward to it. It’s not forced or awkward; instead, you begin to feel as I imagine Adam and Eve did when they were walking with Him in the garden during the cool of day. What are your favorite ways to rest? Let us know in the comments! It’s always inspiring to hear other peoples’ ideas about how to creatively rest!