When I was younger, I ran track. I wasn’t good. I honestly don’t think I can recall winning anything. Conceptually, I knew in those races that I needed to run faster if I wanted to win. Yet, at some point, the best I could do still wasn’t as fast or faster than those I was racing. I could try to give that little extra, but it just wasn’t there.
Life is not dissimilar to this literal race. Many of us run so hard. We strive and strive at work, at parenting, at fill in the blank. Our culture teaches us that if we aren’t busy, we must not be valuable. But, I’d encourage you to question the validity of that teaching.
In a recent conversation, where I confessed my constant desire for busyness, I was asked, “If you always have to be busy, what are you running from?” I’ve had to sit with this question. Imagine this playing out physically. If we never stopped physically running, eventually, we would collapse. Our legs would give out, and we would likely die from exhaustion. We are not created to run without ceasing. In fact, resting is built into creation itself.
We’ve just recently entered into the season of fall where leaves will change color and eventually fall from trees until spring comes when they will return, and again flowers will bloom. And, creation is this way because this is God’s intent. God intends for his creation not to produce all year long without taking time to rest. In Exodus 20, God even commands his people to rest when he says, “‘Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God’” (Ex. 20:9-10).
We hear these words, but still, our inclination is not to heed them. Perhaps you prefer the often-repeated mantra, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Yet rest does not merely mean catching up from all your work; it is meant to be a gift to enjoy. When we do not cease to be busy, we miss many of the great gifts God gives to us and others through rest.
We often keep ourselves busy out of a desire to take care of others, using excuses like: “If I don’t finish this project tonight, the team will suffer,” or “I need to take this gig to make a little more money for my family.” Yet when we work all the way to the margins, we leave nothing for those same people we intend to care for. Consider Leviticus 19 and the gleaning laws established there. Moses instructs people not to harvest every last grape or piece of food but instead to leave some there for those who may pass by needing food to eat. In the same way, how often do we turn to busyness to care for those in our midst (child, family, neighbor) while simultaneously missing their immediate needs because we have left no margin?
In addition to neglecting neighbors, a constant busyness drives us to the idolatry of work. In Psalm 46, the psalmist tells us of the many things God has done, and then he gives us our role: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). God invites us to know that he is God and that the universe exists because of him. The world spins because he set it in motion. When we don’t take a break, we elevate ourselves and our work to a level that only God should occupy.
Finally, when we don’t rest, we refuse to enjoy the great gift that Christ gives. The truth is, if we stop running from rest, we may hear our inner voice saying that we are not enough. We may feel worthless. However, God assures us that in Christ, we are enough. Christ has taken our failures and defeats and exchanges that yoke for his own. He assures us that the work is finished. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29). Jesus invites us to find our rest in him. He shows us our value is not found in our busyness. Our value is found in our identity as a child of God. A value he places on us when he paid the ultimate price of death on a cross. And, after rising from the dead, he leaves us with the promise that we may rest in the assurance that the greatest work has been completed, and we too will rise to have eternal rest with him.
Now, may we rest in the fact that the great work is finished, and we are now free to enjoy this life and to love and serve our neighbors. The good news of the gospel makes this so.