Exercise is a funny thing. Training harder will create greater gains, but only in proportion to the extent that you provide your body with the proper rest, both in terms of quantity and quality. Growth happens during recovery, not training. To train is to stimulate your body for the changes that happen at rest; to train without resting is to annihilate your body, impair your abilities, and eventually create burnout. Training fiercely is necessary, but it is only half of the equation. Without proper rest, progress cannot be made.
Life is a funny thing, too.
We live in a society that encourages us, for better or worse, to stay busy nearly all the time. I’ve already shared my thoughts on this culture of busyness and the fact that we might benefit from being a little less busy. For all the things I don’t know (and there are many), one thing I do know (there are few) is that we need rest. We were made to work, but not every waking moment. Without rest, we will not be able to work the way we were made to.
And after enough time without rest, we won’t be doing any work at all.
The problem is, most of us don’t know how to rest. Real rest, the kind we need, is hard.
In fact, in this workaholic culture, resting can be harder than working.
As draining as a workaholic lifestyle may be, it’s what many of us are accustomed to. Even when work makes us uncomfortable, rest makes us even more uncomfortable. To not work is foreign and frightening. Sometimes, though, the most uncomfortable things are the ones that need doing the most.
This is one of those times.
So what happens when we allow ourselves time for rest after becoming so acclimated to constant busyness? After training ourselves for perpetual achievement, how do we know what to do with ourselves if we don’t have a to-do list and a schedule? When we have defined ourselves by our busyness, how do we know who we are when we aren’t doing and achieving and progressing?
For one thing, it doesn’t have to be black and white. We do not have to choose between working until we are burnt out and worn down, or indulging in a lifestyle of laziness and sloth. Just as it is easy to associate a busy lifestyles with ambition and purpose, it’s easy to mistake a lack of busyness for a preponderance of sloth. But that is not the case. Real rest is not laziness, because real rest has a purpose– to refresh us, to allow us to rebuild and grow stronger for the work at hand.
Laziness and sloth are the result of choosing to put our desire for indulgence over our duty to work. Rest is the result of choosing to put the quality of our work over our sense of pride. When we rest, we admit that our busyness is not sustainable and we cannot work indefinitely. A choice to be lazy is a refusal to work as we were made to do, while a choice to rest is a humble admittance that even in our best moments we are finite, we are worn, and we are not self-sustaining.
I don’t have all the answers here, because candidly, I suck at resting. It’s only been over the past year that I have even started to realize how much more can be achieved when we put as much effort into our rest as we do our work. The benefits of rest are not something we can initially quantify, which is part of what makes it uncomfortable for us. But even if we cannot measure those benefits, we need them. And we need Him.
We were made for work, but that is not all we were made for.
We were made for the green pastures.
We were made for the still waters.
We were made for restoration.
We were made for rest.
We were made for Him.
And He has commanded that we rest, and rest in Him.
“Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
– Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:29)
Enjoy this (Gentile) Sabbath day, friends. May it be restful.