March 15, 2021
And so this is still a live promise. It wasn't canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn't keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God's people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we'll surely rest with God. So let's keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:8-11, The Message)
Sabbath and rest are used synonymously in the Bible, and this passage reminds me of the purpose of Sabbath: rest and ultimately, “arrival” – a promised place.
But how can we rest? I have been taught that one of the signs of trauma (and hasn’t 2020 been a bit traumatic for us all?) is being unable to rest, being unable to sit and relax, and I think this is really an illness that our culture has spread even into the Christian life, like a pandemic. Also, rest is undervalued. Our culture, even in the church, recognises lack of sleep and frenetic activity as “successful.” But God doesn’t want us to replace religious activity for sitting with him and being with him. Patrik and I recently received a Christmas card from a friend who wrote that with this Covid “enforced monasticism” she would be a saint by the time the pandemic restrictions were lifted. Oh, that that were true for me! Our friend has learned to “rest in God” and to wait for him and his ways.
I long for rest – and I long for arrival at a place of rest. Maybe you do, too. But how can we start? Sometimes it takes a little discipline: a timer set for 15 minutes; the discipline to put away all our electronics for a time (a friend and her husband do no-electronics Sundays); maybe a new spiritual practice. I have begun doing “breath prayers” where you breathe in a phrase, and then out the next, and repeat. They are either memorized (the Lord’s Prayer works well), a Psalm, a prayer or a short phrase like “Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Rest isn’t a set of regulations. It’s fluid and requires listening to the Spirit’s leading or we may be stuck in pharisaical living. Clearly, that’s not the point. As I get older, I need more physical rest and I want it too. I have set Sundays (pretty much) aside for worship and R&R – no “goals” to reach, just being and being with God for a while, if possible. I guess it’s the being part that God really wants – being with him, not doing much, just being. As the saying goes, “we are not human doings, we are human beings.”
We know we are valued by God not for what we do, nor are we judged on what we do. God wants our hearts, not just our activities, and in his kingdom, the being thing seems to be much more important than (just) the doing, so we should remember the promises of rest and arrival as goals and as values.
Lord, let me find my promised rest in you.
Let me value Sabbath as your gift to me.