I sighed as I stood next to the video monitor, listening to the poor, tired girl cry from her crib. She was yawning and rubbing her eyes when I arrived to babysit. And yet, despite being exhausted, she resisted sleep like it was a monster out to get her.
I don't have children of my own yet, but from what I've seen in other people's children, it seems they resist sleep the more tired they are. I always assumed an exhausted child was an easy child to put to bed, but my mom friends know better. When a child is tired, they become more dramatic, resistant, and emotional.
We often shake our heads at this kind of behaviour. You need sleep! Stop resisting and you will feel better once you are rested. However, are we adults any better? How often do we resist the rest our bodies desperately need because that essay needs to be done tonight (meanwhile you procrastinated the entire month you had to work on it)? Or we stay up late scrubbing the kitchen floor because, you know, the dirt won't be there tomorrow. Or we say yes to yet another project, another event, even though our schedule already has us weary.
I think it is time that we stopped following the example of our children of resisting rest and obey God's good creation in us for rest. But first, we need to acknowledge something about ourselves: our prideful self-sufficiency.
It's one of the prime self-sins: self-sufficiency. We believe that we are like God–all-powerful, all-able, and sufficient on our own to do everything we set our minds to. And even if we don't think that way, we do like to pretend we are.
When we resist rest, we are working against God's creation. He created us to be dependent and weak creatures that need him, fellow humans, and rest. We were not created to do it all on our own, but rather to bring glory to God by depending on Him.
Our self-sufficiency comes from pride. We want to glorify ourselves by being able to independently do everything. We want to be powerful. We want others to see us succeeding all on our own. If we are dependent on someone else, then we need to share the glory, or give all the glory them. And our pride does not like to share that.
Our pride also doesn't want to admit weakness or defeat. We want to be seen as strong and capable, not as the needy human beings we are. We need to cultivate humility that admits our weaknesses and our need for rest.
Created for Rest
But we were created to rest–physically and spiritually. When God created the Sabbath, He created it so that the Israelites would be forced to physically restrain from working. That meant they couldn't tend to their gardens and fields–their only source of food. Instead of working, they had to trust that God would provide. In a similar way, God has created us in such a way that we require sleep–seven to eight hours of it. In those hours, we are left vulnerable and incapable of doing work, earning money, preparing food, protecting our families, or caring for our shelters. Once again, we are forced to trust God when we lay our heads down at night to sleep.
We are also created to need help from others. One person alone doesn't hold every gifting. One person alone doesn't own every resource. In the ways that we are weak, we are forced to look to others to fill in those gaps with their strengths. The person who doesn't do well with numbers needs the math genius. The person who doesn't understand how the body works and faints at the sight of blood needs doctors who have studied and know the body well.
Spiritually, we are also called to rest. The call to salvation isn't to earn your way, or to work hard to finally make it into eternal life, or to prove yourself worthy. The gospel says that you can't. Just like you are unable to do everything physically on your own, you can't do it on your own spiritually either. We are too entangled and in love with sin to turn to God in obedience. We hated him and treasured our wicked ways.
Which is why Christ died for us and bore the wrath we deserved. Otherwise, we would be condemned to hell, regardless of how hard we worked. "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8 ).
We don't work for a righteous standing before God that comes with a pass into heaven. We are given Christ's righteousness when we believe the gospel. It's in His sacrifice, His righteousness, that we rest eternally.
Learning to Rest
So how do we rest? Now that we know our desperate need for it, how do we do it? How much rest is too much rest?
Here are some practical ways we can submit to God's calling for us to rest:
- Getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Creating a doable schedule that includes service to our families, service to our church, our responsibilities, and proper rest.
- Giving ourselves enough time to do projects and tasks rather than cramming them in at the last minute.
- Taking a Sabbath.
- Listening to our bodies–when they are tired, sore, and strained, they need rest.
- Making time for fun activities and fellowship with our families and friends.
- Leaving room for quiet times in our schedules for Bible study, reading, listening to others, etc.
- Asking for help when we need it.
- Saying no when our schedules are full.
These are only a few ways we can practice rest in our lives. I encourage you to take some time to figure out how you can make them a part of your life.
Taking rest isn't selfish, but it's a humble submission to God's purpose for us. Though it may not feel like it, creating space for rest in our lives when we need it glorifies Him. It brings Him glory as we depend on Him as the only self-sufficient, all-powerful, never-resting God.