My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2 NIV)
Everyone needs rest. Whether it takes the form of a weekend getaway, a vacation to a distant location, or simply a weeknight at home with no responsibilities, everyone needs rest. Often, we work so hard that we overlook one of the most important responsibilities we have: to take care of ourselves.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3 NIV)
The creation story is a wonderful narrative describing God’s relationship to his creation. Many people will emphasize different parts of the story (or, really, the stories – there are two different creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2!). You may remember that God rested on the seventh day, thus setting the example for us that we should rest from our work as well. As Jesus said in Mark 2:23-28, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (NIV). In other words, we do not rest in order to please God by our obedience, but we rest in order to take care of ourselves – because God desires to take care of us in this way.
Earlier this week, I did something rather unusual for me: I took a three-hour nap. In the afternoon, after a full morning, I came home and slept. And I slept hard. You have to understand, I am not a napper; normally, even on Sunday afternoons, I am awake all through the daytime. The last period of my life when I regularly took naps was kindergarten! So when I laid down to take a nap and woke up three hours later – with a pretty foggy post-nap brain – I realized I had needed that rest.
We spend a lot of time and energy in the church on serving other people, donating goods and resources, running errands for people, loving, caring, giving, befriending, helping, … on and on and on. And this is all worthwhile, because our call as the church is to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [Jesus] has commanded [us]” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV). Christian faith is not idle faith. We are interested in seeing the kingdom of God grow in our midst, and sharing Christ with others – in a multitude of ways – is crucial to that work.
Yet we must take care of our bodies and souls, as well. It is just as important for us to allow the kingdom of God to grow within ourselves as it is to introduce other people to Jesus. For through our personal transformation, others will see the power of God to change lives – namely, our own. When we are healthy, then we can communicate the message of Christ clearly and appropriately. My three-hour nap enabled me to function well through the rest of the week – not just physically but spiritually as well.
Friends, remember to care for your own selves in the coming weeks and months. Find regular opportunities for Sabbath rest. And then, once you have rested up, resume the outward work of the kingdom of God.