At the first snow of manna in Exodus 16, God introduces His people to a Sabbath day. Two-and-a-half months after leaving their former slave drivers, God’s people hear an odd command from their new Master—rest.
Imagine how strange this command must have felt to a group of slaves. Hard labor is their life. It’s all they know. Now God has told them to take a day off. Not just once a year, but every week. Is it any wonder some still went out to gather manna on that first Sabbath day?
Though we might not be slaves, our present culture prizes productivity so highly that taking a day off also sounds absurd. “Maybe God meant take a rest from my normal work and do a different kind of work. I can’t just waste time.”
To be honest, this is exactly how I think. If making to-do lists was a viable hobby, it would be mine. I treat productivity like a sport, seeing if I can beat my previous record of tasks completed in one day. Sad but true.
A “Do-Nothing” Day
So when the weekly Do-Nothing day (aptly named by my husband to remind us of the purpose of Sabbath) knocks at the door, I find myself locking the door and shouting, “Can you come back another time? I’ve got too much to do this week!”
Most of the time, these days are precious gift to my soul. Aiming to accomplish nothing, our Do-Nothing days are comprised of making pancakes, watching movies, reading books, doing puzzles, going to the park, taking naps, having extended and unhurried times in the Word, or whatever else seems like fun that day.
Other times, I find the purposeful “wasted” time is the instrument God is using to kill my addiction to productivity. In these uncomfortable moments, here are four things I am reminded of.
1. I don’t need to do anything to be okay.
I feel great when I get a lot done and discouraged when I waste my time. Resting exposes my misplaced confidence in what I can accomplish and reminds me that my worth is found in Christ alone and what He has done. He makes me okay, not my accomplishments.
2. God doesn’t need me.
Those unfinished to-dos feel so important at the beginning of a Do-Nothing day. “If I don’t do x, y, or z today, the world will not be okay!” But the truth is, the world will be okay. My home, my family, my church, my friends. They don’t depend on me. God doesn’t depend on me either. He doesn’t need me, and one day of rest is a simple reminder of this imperative truth.
3. Salvation comes through rest.
“Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them” (Ezek. 20:12).
God gave His people a day of rest to show them it is He who saves, it is He who sanctifies. I cannot save myself, my hard work cannot make me right with God. I simply need to stop doing and start trusting. Physical rest points to my need of spiritual rest, specifically rest in the works of Christ on my behalf.
4. Rest is a discipline.
Resting well doesn’t come naturally to me. I have had to learn it like any other discipline. One way that manifests is in the activities I choose. There are many things that seem restful but are actually draining (being sucked into the social media vortex or binge watching Netflix, for example). Reading a book or going for a walk isn’t always my first pick, but they usually leave me feeling wonderfully rejuvenated.
In the same way it takes conscious effort to resist the urge to work hard for what God’s already given me through Christ. And choosing the right forms of “spiritual rest” takes the same effort. Stopping to kneel and pray midday doesn’t always seem like the rest my soul is craving, but is truly rejuvenating, much more than the mindless snacking or venting to a friend.
Resting in Christ
Jesus made it clear that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). A day of rest is not another box to check of spiritual performance. Quite the opposite, it seeks to convince us that we don’t need to do anything at all to earn God’s favor. Rather, simply rest in the work of Christ.
For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isa. 30:15).
Do you currently have a Sabbath day built in to your weekly schedule? What do you do on your day of rest, and what has God taught you through it?