I sat under my aunt’s bottle brush tree and listened to the bees buzz. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, were hard at work on the bright red flowers. As a worker bee myself, sounds of their productivity was music to my ears.
Did you know work was God’s good idea? We learn in the first two chapters of Genesis that God worked (and rested). In the third chapter, God set Adam to work. But by the fourth chapter, things get weird. Like everything else, work was impacted by the fall to sin. We must all work harder now, under the curse.
I’m grateful for work. It feels good to work. We were designed to stretch our bodies and minds. But I’m a prime example of how God’s good work-plan was compromised. Many times my worker-bee-ness has proved hazardous. If you’ve ever been caught up in a culture of busyness or struggled with workaholism, then you know what I mean.
Stop. Just STOP! Stop driving. Stop striving. Be still and know.
When I finally heard the Lord speaking rest into my mess, it was like hitting a red light at 100 miles an hour. Stop trying to make things work. Stop trying to fix it. I’ve got this. Thus began the most beautiful lesson of learning to rest. Three years on, I’ve come to appreciate God’s plan for the best rest.
Rest was God’s very good idea. Genesis 2:3 says God rested from the work of creation. The word for rest (šāḇaṯ ) is the word for Sabbath. Long before God commanded us to rest, He modeled it. We know God doesn’t grow weary (Isaiah 40:28). Instead, He rested to be refreshed (Exodus 31:17). The Hebrew word for refreshed, nāp̄aš means to take breath, to refresh oneself.
Wouldn’t you love to know how God rested? Me, too. Do you think He slung a hammock between a couple of galaxies? Fluffed a stardust pillow and kicked off His sandals? Sometimes my imagination gets away from me!
God knew rest would be difficult. He knew we’d tend to rely on the work of our flesh, our own strength. That’s why He gave us the fourth command, to keep the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8). Of all commands, this has caused me the most angst. In the faith-tradition of my youth, rest was legalistic. Thou shalt and shalt not. Today I know rest as the opposite; a gift of freedom, a measure of grace.
Rest is for every day, not just the Sabbath. Scripture calls us to rest on somber ceremonies and celebratory occasions alike. God’s blessings to us for established rest routines extend to our households and businesses. We are called to rest for the same reason God did — to be refreshed (Exodus 23:12). How cool is that?
God commanded rest; Jesus invited rest. His was a most loving invitation to lay down our burdens and take up his yoke (Matthew 11:28-30). There’s grace upon grace for the battle-worn and heavy-hearted who rest in Him.
Be still and know I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10
God works best in our rest.^ I think this is why Scripture calls it out so often. It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. I am most likely to hear His still, small voice when I’m in a restful and mindful place. Meditating on His word. Reading or studying Scripture. Worshipping. Moving my body in at the “”pace of grace” (#RWIT) in a beautiful place.
Rest has become my get-to rather than my have-to. Time together is a delight – His and mine. That’s why Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around (Mark 2:27).
God is glorified in our rest. The work He accomplishes in this most receptive state is His own. He softens hearts and adjusts attitudes. He renews minds to align with truth. He restores spirits.
We often try to complicate what Jesus said was simple. “The work of God is to believe in the One He sent” (John 6:29) The longer we walk with Him and rest in Him, the deeper we’re drawn into right relationship. Then we will produce the fruit of Spirit. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, against which there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, Isaiah 30:15
The prophet Isaiah called us to return to God and rest. He is faithful to save us (Lamentations 3:21-26) When we trust in God we are strong. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). If only we, as the prophet testified, are willing. Oh, may it be so today!
One excellent way to experience the best rest is by using the Revelation Wellness podcasts titled Be Still and Be Loved. They can be challenging to identify in the mix of all podcasts; use this doc (bit.ly/be-still-be-loved) for easy access. Let me know if you agree!
*Devotional condensed from that presented to the SOWER Ministry team serving at the Lake Placid Camp and Conference Center in Lake Placid, Florida, on March 23. 2021.
^A key principle of Revelation Wellness.