All of the sudden, our entire lives have been turned upside down. School is canceled. Travel is canceled. Parties, sports, concerts, lessons, church—all of the activities that fill our schedules have suddenly been put on hold. We finally have the time to rest, but upheaval and uncertainty have left us more tired, worried, and burdened than before. In the midst of unwanted change and overwhelming circumstances, followers of Jesus have a great need to rest—yet it can seem impossible to find.
Hurry is not just a disordered schedule; it’s a disordered heart.
– John Ortberg
We know we need rest, but we aren’t sure how to find it. What do you do for rest? Is it a glass of wine—or three? Is it a Netflix binge at night? A quick escape to Target? Are we even allowed to rest, as people who are supposed to be everything and do everything for work, family, and friends? What do we need in order to find rest in our lives and hearts? Our culture offers plenty of ideas, but let’s discover what God tells us about rest.
The foundation for biblical rest is established in the creation account. In Genesis 2, we find two different Hebrew words for rest:
“So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested [sabbat] from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:3)
The first word for rest, sabbat, literally means to stop, and the first depiction is God himself stopping in his task of creation. A little further into the story, we see another Hebrew word for rest, nuakh, which can be understood as to abide or rest in.
“The Lord God took the man and ‘rested him’ [nuakh] into the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15)
In Genesis 2, where we come to understand the purposes of creation, we already have a picture of what it means biblically to rest: to stop and to abide.
In Eden, there was rest as God intended. Adam and Eve were at rest with each other and the world, in their work and in the presence of God. But as we all know, this Sabbath rest did not last. Adam and Eve rejected the rest God had offered and chose instead to make their own way, to disastrous results. The remainder of the Bible is the story of God’s faithfulness to return us to the rest of Eden.
The biblical story comes to a climax as the Son of God enters into our restless world as the perfect embodiment of the Sabbath we were all intended to experience. The future and complete rest promised in the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus is inviting us to come and live as his people—to learn from him and abide in him, and through it, to find rest. Through Christ and in Christ, our rest is complete.
Jesus allows us to stop (sabbat) in the midst of all the activities, expectations, and burdens this world places on us. Whether we are navigating education, working from home, or constantly checking the news for updates, Jesus calls us to stop and trust that he created and continues to control the world.
But we are called to more than the mere ceasing of activity.
Jesus is the presence of God himself in whom we abide (nuakh) to find rest. In Jesus, Sabbath is possible, not just as a day, but as a way of life. We can finally return to the rest that God intended for us in Eden, finding rest in Christ from the worries of this world.
When we wonder how to practically live at rest in the midst of our upturned lives, we can look to the life of Jesus.
His life was full, but never striving. He took time to rest with his Father. He got up early to be alone and to gather himself with God.
As embodied persons, we live in space and time and thus need space and time to experience rest. But at the end of the day, rest is found in relationship with a person: Jesus.
What this looks like for you is as unique as the person you are and the life you lead. It might mean putting your phone away to protect yourself from anxiety or comparison. It might be letting go of perfectly planned schedules. It might be less work than you think you should be accomplishing. It always means moving toward Jesus each day to quiet your fears and focus your heart.True rest is found in following Jesus—stopping what the world is calling you to and abiding in the presence of Christ.
One day, Jesus will return to makes all things new and we will experience perfect rest.
As we figure out new schedules and navigate the uncertainty of the future, may we each choose daily to stop and find life and rest in Jesus. Let’s learn to trust him with our time, our hearts, our entire lives, so we can find rest in the only one in whom it truly can be found.
You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.