When we think about “living the Christian life”, we often think of what we are doing.
Are we serving in our churches?
Giving to good causes?
Being helpful neighbors?
It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to keep busy and keep accomplishing things.
We certainly should focus on being active for God’s glory, but we can’t let action be our only focus in life.
Making time for rest – godly, Christ-centered rest – is important to our relationship with God and for our own well-being.
Jesus rested, you should too
When we think about Jesus’s ministry in the Gospels, we usually think of it as something primarily active.
Jesus traveled from town to town, bringing the good news of God’s love to different people, preaching to crowds, staying with people who supported his ministry and had rooms to spare, and generally being on-the-go.
But Jesus made sure to take time to rest, too.
You might remember the story in Matthew 14:22-32 where Jesus walks on water. But do you remember how the story starts?
“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When, evening came, he was there alone…”
Jesus and the disciples had just fed five thousand people, and he knew he needed time to rest and be by himself.
But what kind of rest?
When I think of “resting,” it usually makes me think about sleeping, going to the beach to sit and listen to the waves or watch the sunset, or lying on the couch while watching a movie.
In general, it’s the idea of pausing from action.
And there is nothing wrong with rest – it’s good for us! – when we do it the right way.
Unfortunately, most of us (myself included) use our free time by switching between a handful of social media apps, playing phone games, or binge-watching television shows.
It’s easy, mindless, and somewhat numbing – I don’t have to think much when I’m scrolling through Facebook for the fifth time in one day.
There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with social media, games, or TV. But they become a problem when they keep us from spending time resting in God.
So, what does “resting in God” look like?
Godly rest comes when we spend our time being in the presence of God.
It is a peaceful, mindful, prayerful time, when we can breathe in the wonder of the fact that we are God’s children.
Godly rest might look like contemplative (or worshipful) prayer, which traces all the way back to the Desert Fathers and St. Augustine, where you can focus on the attributes of God (loving, merciful, compassionate, gracious) and be with God in peace and quietness.
It might look like taking a walk while you talk to God, or like reading a chapter of the Bible slowly and focusing on what truth is being revealed to you.
It might look like having a worship night with friends, where everyone sings or plays an instrument.
Without godly rest, you will burn out
Whatever form godly rest takes for each of us, we need it in our lives.
Without Christ-centered rest, we will become burnt out.
When we rest in God, we are reminded of what is most important in our lives – that we are children of God and are saved by mercy and grace.
It is a time for re-centering and rejuvenating ourselves in our relationship with God.
Godly rest is not a time of intense study (that’s good for different reasons in different situations), but of pausing within the busyness of life to seek God’s face and say, “I’m here, I’m at peace because I am with you, and I’m listening to what you have to say.”
This kind of rest can fill us with new energy as we go about our lives and face challenges.
If we are constantly pouring out of ourselves into others, or using all our energy in search of perfect productivity, we’ll become tired and end up pouring out of an empty and dried-up soul.
Rest fills us with the peace of God so we can be peace to others.
Signs you need godly rest
Sometimes we get so focused on what we’re accomplishing that we don’t think about resting, and can miss the signs that are telling us to slow down and reconnect with God in quiet ways.
Here are 3 signs to look out for:
1) Your advice doesn’t match your actions.
No matter what stage of life you’re at, someone in (or out of) the church is looking to you for advice on how to live and be in a relationship with God.
If you start giving them advice that you know is right and good (like, “read your Bible,” “pray regularly,” etc.) that you yourself are not following, that’s a sign that you need godly rest to reconnect with God.
2) You know a lot, but feel far from God.
Maybe you have lots of answers about Christian life and faith and can tell people a lot about who God is, but knowledge about a person is not the only ingredient to a healthy and growing relationship with them.
Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:2:
If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
We can have all the answers, but if we don’t have love – which comes from being in relationship with someone, spending time with them, and learning who they are – then we are nothing.
3) You feel a prodding.
When you click “Next Episode” on your Netflix show, does the back of your mind say, “You haven’t read your Bible today, maybe you should do that”?
If so, that’s a sign that God is reaching out to you.
God wants to be in relationship with us, and we need to respond to that nudging that calls us back.
Start resting today
If this isn’t something you’ve been pursuing, it may feel awkward when you start.
But just like anything new, godly rest will become easier over time.
If you start by setting aside five minutes of your day to sit quietly and praise and worship God in prayer, soon you’ll find yourself doing it more often – like when you’re driving, doing dishes, walking down to the mailbox, or playing with your children, and godly rest will become more natural to you.
In these moments of becoming more mindful of God’s presence in your life, you will find godly rest.
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Elise graduated from Spring Arbor University with a BA in English and Philosophy. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her family.