Intentional rest

Intentional rest

A lot’s been going on in my life as of late. (Since that last post, I’ve become a shift leader at Chick-fil-A as well…as you can probably imagine, this adds a fair amount of craziness.) But is that really anything new? Often there’s so much going on that I forget all about resting. Or at least, I forget that it’s important and necessary. Rest? Isn’t that just laziness? I’m too busy to rest anyway. I’ll rest later.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I tell myself I’m going to do something “later”…it’s a long time before it happens, if it even happens at all. But a funny thing happens when I don’t rest: I hit a point in the day or week where I’m just not being productive anymore. I’ve told myself I don’t have time to rest, so I go go go until I burn out. Then instead of doing actual restful things, I crash and end up scrolling endlessly (and mindlessly) through Facebook or following link trails through the internet, meanwhile feeling like I should be doing this, that, or the other thing. And an hour or two later when I emerge from this mind-numbing state, I feel like I’ve wasted time. And you know what? I have. Because I don’t actually feel rested. Therefore, my brain equates “things that are not to-dos” as bad/not helpful, which includes rest.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Several things.

First, I need to realize that I need rest. Rest isn’t for the weak or the lazy. Rest is actually commanded by God (Exodus 34:21). During Jesus’ ministry, while His disciples were busy coming and going everywhere, He told them to come and rest a while (Mark 6:31). Jesus Himself promised to give rest to weary souls who come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

Rest is important because we have limits on our bodies. Rest is the way of restoring ourselves. Just as sleep is important for physical rest, we need to rest ourselves emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. There is no such thing as too busy to rest. If you absolutely cannot set aside time to rest and recharge, you are too busy. This is something I’ve had to learn time and time again because my natural tendency is to fill up every second of every day, to be non-stop full speed ahead. Certainly, it’s good to not be sitting around bored or useless. But as soon as all of those things become immovable and unable to be paused, there is too much on my plate and some things have to go.

After realizing I need rest–really letting that sink in and change my schedule–I need to recognize what counts as rest. Remember earlier when I said scrolling through Facebook doesn’t count as rest? It may have been giving my brain a mental break, but it wasn’t beneficial to me in any way. Now, I’m not saying reading your social media newsfeeds are all bad. But using it as your go-to form of “rest and relaxation” isn’t helpful to you.

Activities that help you rest vary from person to person, but the principle is the same. Resting activities should help you change gears, relax, and refresh. They should build you up, restore your energy, and leave you calm. For example, if you’ve been straining your brain at some math problems for the past hour and a half and you’re so frustrated you are getting worse instead of better at solving the problems, you need a mental rest. Time to check out and watch a TV show, right? Um…no. Use the principle of changing gears and do something physical. Take a walk, ride your bike, shoot some hoops. Whatever it is should be something you enjoy that uses your body rather than your brain. Doesn’t this use energy? Absolutely, but it uses a different kind. This helps you rest by refocusing, by taking a break from what was taxing you and doing something else that helps you.

Maybe you’ve had a long hard day at work, on your feet hauling boxes around, climbing ladders, and contorting into strange positions to try to reach things (heh…me on Saturdays at work, stocking, because I’m short). When you get home, the last thing you’re going to want to do is anything involving muscle movement. That big squishy chair is calling your name. Surely now is the time to catch up on your favorite comic, right? Not so fast! When your body is tired, try using your brain. I’m not saying you have to tackle that chemistry homework the second you walk through the door. You’re resting, remember? But now might be a good time to read a chapter or two of a good book. I’m slowly working through G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man. It’s a non-fiction book, best read a little at a time. It makes me think, but it’s still relaxing to read.

Getting the picture? Rest is something you do intentionally. It doesn’t happen accidentally. You have to deliberately choose to do it. It’s not something huge and complicated, and it’s not supposed to be exhausting. You just have to pick an activity that is beneficial to restoring whatever “tank” is running on empty at that moment. Also, not all your free time has to be resting time. You can still watch that TV show or read that novel. Just don’t confuse it with rest.

Finally, consider when to rest. God gave His people one whole day a week to rest. Obviously that’s a pretty big amount of time. Our world doesn’t always work that way now, unfortunately, but we can still use this as a guideline. I try not to deal with school stuff on the weekends, since those are filled with work and church events. During the weekdays, I try to give myself time to rest on days I work, and get school and most of the to-do list items done on the other days. But sometimes rest doesn’t always work out to be planned. Sometimes you need to listen to your body and do a check-up on your mind and see what it is you need at that point. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re stressed and frustrated and aren’t making any more progress on whatever the project is, you need a break. Aren’t sure? Ask God. He knows you better than you know yourself. And if rest isn’t convenient for you at that moment, or you feel like you’re too busy? Trust Him. If He commands us to rest, it’s for good reason, and we need to trust that He will work things out.

I’m speaking to myself, here. Resting at the right times and resting well is something I struggle with. Realizing that it needs to be done intentionally or it won’t get done at all is one of the most important things I’ve learned about rest in the past year. The other most important thing I’m learning is that my rest ultimately comes from God, and all the other methods are secondary to the rest from His Word. Neglecting my daily time with Him in the Bible is a sure-fire way to ensure resting is going to be a struggle for the rest of that day and week.

This week, I am working on recognizing when I need rest and trying to make wise choices about what that rest should look like.

What about you? Why is rest important to you, and how do you do it?

10 thoughts on “Intentional rest

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  1. A very interesting post. We personally have kept the Sabbath (mentioned in the Bible many times, including in the Ten Commandments) for many years and it is an incredibly needed day of rest. Not only did God command we do so but He also did so Himself when He rested from making the world on the seventh day.
    I am curious though, you seem to use Exodus as a reference for where God commanded us to rest, also pointing out that Jesus did so.
    But why only the resting law? What about the many, many other laws that us Christians (most of us) choose to ignore from the New Testament? Because they are ‘fulfilled’ and ‘nailed to the cross’. Wouldn’t resting be one of those rules that Jesus ‘finished’ when He died for our sins?

    1. First of all, welcome! I’m glad you found my blog and decide to comment. I’m a bit unsure what you mean here though, so I hope you don’t mind if I ask a question or two to clarify. 🙂 You ask why only the resting law and mention other laws from the New Testament that we ignore. Which laws do you mean? Did I give the impression that I think resting is the only command we should follow?

      As for laws that Jesus fulfilled, and how to know if resting is or is not one of those… I agree, it’s hard to tell sometimes. The general guideline I use is to look at what type of laws Jesus fulfilled. I believe he fulfilled the ritual laws, such as for ceremonial cleansing and sacrifices, because he was the perfect sacrifice and established a relationship, rather than a ritualistic religion. Relationships are more dynamic abd less formal, in a way, and the temple curtain was torn symbolizing the end of division between God and man. Just as we no longer need priests to intercede for us, I believe we no longer need to adhere to ceremonial washing or laws about not mixing fibers in garments in order to be accepted in God’s presence (Hebrews 4:16). Other laws such as honoring our parents, treating others with kindness and respect, and revering the Lord are of course still important to follow today. The reason I say resting is in that second category is because of its essential nature. It is not only for ceremonial reasons, although I believe the act of setting it aside for the Sabbath day was. It is for health and well-being and can also, as I mentioned, be an exercise in trust. Letting God fulfill us rather than trying to constantly keep going on our own. Does that make sense?

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts! I greatly appreciate having others share their input on my post, especially ones where I make claims such as this. 🙂 I’d love to hear your follow-up and continue this discussion.

  2. Rest is vital in my life!! I get so burned out so quickly. I’ve been finding yoga helpful lately, like you said it’s an intentional form of rest because it requires physical effort and mindful effort.

    1. Yes, it seems like the older I get the harder it is to remember to rest. And then I look at all my mom does in a day and marvel. Haha. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  3. I love the idea of being intentional with rest! Sometimes it’s so easy to come home to a long day at work and just scroll through social media before bed, when instead I could be spending that time catching up with family and friends, reading a good book, or planning for the next day! Rest is important, but the way we rest also is hugely impactful. Thanks for your insight, Amanda!

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