By Roydon Frost.
For the average Christian, time off is tricky. Either it doesn’t come easy, or it comes all too easy. Either it’s the most natural thing in the world (so that it looks like the world), or we spend our rest stewing in guilt and anxiety. Both are a far cry from the biblical concept of rest, which I try to capture in what follows:
Rest in Christ, not rest in Rest.
The Bible is crystal clear: the place to find true rest, lasting Shalom, enduring peace in the depth of your soul – the only place to find it, is in Christ (e.g. Heb 4). Everything else is at best a sign pointing the way to true rest, or at worst, a deceptive counterfeit. Therefore, as Christians, we don’t live for the weekend; we aren’t working for retirement; we not just hanging on for the holidays. The goal in life is not leisure, whether you define that as fishing, or base jumping, or some quality time with the remote. Life isn’t about the next holiday destination, whether that’s Luxemburg, Limpopo, or the lazyboy in the living room. The problem with activity or destination-driven rest that it always takes one more. One more trip, one more siesta, one more shot of adrenalin. Rest in that sense, never satisfies. It leaves us endlessly restless. And so we don’t rest in rest, because we can’t. We rest in Him.
We don’t rest in rest. We rest in Christ. And so there is nothing wrong with taking time off from work. In fact, God has built the rhythm of work and rest into the fabric of the universe. Night and day, cycles in nature, seasons in life – all whispers of the rhythm that God has strung into human existence. We do well to rest in this secondary sense of being in harmony with the rhythms of life. Time off is good tonic for the body and mind. It is also chicken soup for the soul, when we consider how easily we idolise work. Rest reminds me that the earth will continue to spin on its axis, even if I take my full quota of annual leave. Rest reminds me that there are things God can do, even if I don’t open Outlook. Rest keeps us humble. It also gives us the space we need to truly rest in Christ. So we never take a holiday from God. We take a holiday in Him and with Him. We use our time off to draw closer to him through prayer, meditation on His word, and reflection on our lives. In this way, the secondary rest can serve the primary.
Ambassadors never rest
Because we are in Christ and our rest is in him, all of life is an offering of thankful praise to God, and witness to the world (Ps 116, 117). If we are resting in Christ, even as we take time off, our words, deeds and thoughts will witness to his goodness. We will be sensitive to the needs of others. We will be open to opportunities to share the gospel. People will sense in us a peace that goes beyond the hammock, the slip-slops and the sun burn. The way we rest will witness to the one who has given us true rest.