Our culture does not promote, encourage or provide for sustainability. Three dynamics come into play in the Western mindset: We work hard. We play hard. And we overdose on almost everything we get our hands on.
We work hard
The Puritan work ethic has shaped American culture. We are people who applaud productivity. There is nothing wrong with this – at all! It’s an outstanding quality, one that seeks to combine creativity, vision and stamina to build great things. We just can’t do it at a pace that dismantles the priorities we hold dear. There must be established limits that are honored and valued. Our work – and our rest – depends on it.
We play hard
Devoid of a solid, biblical understanding of rest, we have come to define “rest” as “play.” Enjoying favorite pastimes (basketball, cooking, running, movies, etc.) is a part of rest, no doubt, but it’s not the bottom line. Entertainment and social media dominate the landscape of our time and our lives. It’s a black hole, which sucks unsuspecting people into its vortex. Knowing how and when to play is vital to our health and well being, but so is learning how and when to rest.
Rest. What is it?
Rest is a major theme gracing the pages of God’s Word, no matter how little it is currently gracing our lives; but what does it look like?
Rest is best understood in terms of rhythm. The Bible highlights four rhythms of rest and restoration. These four rhythms create a framework for us to build vibrancy and sustainability into the core of our being. They are simple, obvious and divinely orchestrated, yet rarely seen as a collective whole. Having no mentors in the arena of rest, these four rhythms have given me a model and the method of rest. They answer important questions we rarely ask. What is rest? What does it look like? What does it create and accomplish in my life?
These four rhythms, seen as a package deal, identify four critical needs that define us as human beings. God is infinite. We are not. We have limits. He does not. Recognizing our needs and limits is a crucial first step. There are limits to our physical ability to tackle the demands and opportunities before us. There are also emotional, spiritual and relational limits to those same tasks and dreams.
Our tanks run dry. This is not sin, this is humanity – as God planned it. Our needs, when recognized and honored, create a deep dependence on God. This dependence will define who we are and our impact on the Kingdom. When we embrace this dependence, we soar to great heights. If we demand independence, resisting limits and refusing restorative rhythms, we crash and burn. For some it will be a public spectacle, but for most, it will be a painful, lonely, personal demise.
The rhythms we see in God’s Word meet our four basic needs for rest: physical, emotional, spiritual and relational.
The first two rhythms are visible throughout the entire Bible. They make their debut, however, in the Old Testament’s account of Creation: Sabbath and sleep.
The other two rhythms, also visible throughout Scripture, are clearly seen in the four Gospel accounts of the New Testament. They were modeled by Jesus when He walked this earth: stillness (personal prayer) and solitude (personal retreat).
Four rhythms of restoration rise to the surface as we explore power and purpose of rest.