We have no idea how to rest. And worse, we foolishly think this is a problem of the modern age, but King Solomon reminds us that we are facing an ancient problem:
What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. – Ecclesiastes 2:22-23
Despite all of our efforts, achievements, and success, many of us find that, even in the night, our hearts do not rest. This isn’t a “some busy-and-important people problem,” this is an “everyone” problem.
I see sixth graders who wake up at 5:00 a.m. to get to swim practice. They go to school all day, they are rushed to piano lessons in the afternoon, and then come home to work on their assignments until 9:00 p.m. They strain under the ivy-league expectations of their parents.
I see college students who have a main-line IV pumping Red Bull into their blood stream. They take honors classes and volunteer at soup kitchens to build their resumé. They work out twice a day and attend every social event to avoid the dreaded label “single.” They need to figure out what they’re doing with their lives and develop their five year plan.
I see young couples with dual incomes and no kids (the DINKS!) who are rising stars at work pulling 50-60 hours a week. Since they have no children, they feel it’s their duty to lead a small group, serve in children’s ministry on Sundays, volunteer with the Church Finance Committee, and participate in Saturday neighborhood cleanups. They are exhausted, feel guilty about their exhaustion, and think that they will slow down when they have children.
I see new mothers who are bitter with their sudden life change. Just a few months ago they were up to date on the latest women’s Bible study curriculum, spending an hour every morning pouring over the scriptures and drinking single-origin espresso. Now they have a crying baby and quiet times on the toilet.
I see 60 year-old businessmen who can’t keep up with the next generation. They see younger men willing to work twice as long for half as much, threatening their livelihoods and identities. They work every waking hour, despite a failing body, and even though the doctor says they need to slow down or face a heart attack, they don’t know what to do.
I could go on, but I hope you see the point. This is the North American Church. The examples above are not the exceptional case studies but rather the common experiences of the men and women in our churches, from the pastors to the preschoolers. We are all going somewhere, we are all running late, and we are all too stressed out to see what’s happening. We need to take a step back for a moment and consider what this communicates to the world around us. Louder than any sermon, our lives are shouting to the world that:
- We don’t trust God
- We don’t know how to stop working
- We don’t know how to enjoy life
Every year, more and more statistics are being released that show our children are busier than ever, our people are unhappier than ever, our churches are plateauing or dying faster than ever, and our pastors are quitting more than ever.(1)
These statistics are not coincidental. We have lost the fundamentals of our faith. Many of us were wooed by the Holy Spirit through Jesus’ promise found in Matthew 11. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Yet instead of finding rest, most of us have found long to-do lists, lots of pressure, and more stress than we know how to handle.
In short, we have settled for less than what has been purchased for us. We have settled for less than what we were made for. We have settled into sub-human living. We are not meant to love this way. This way of life fails to believe all God has done and all God promises to do. We must find rest through discovering the parts of God we have been missing. We must rest to become fully alive to our humanity and to our creator. God wants us to live like people who have been made new, who have been REcreated. The call is to enter into and experience Recreation through trusting, stopping, and enjoying.
We are in a season here at Sojourn where the last Sunday of each month we intentionally are “Taking Back Sunday” to celebrate, rest, enjoy God, enjoy one another, and unplug. Rest is a huge part of this and we invite you to continue following this blog series as we walk through what it means to rest biblically.