By Mr Timothy Lee
Have you ever experienced waking up feeling unrested even though you slept for a long time? Faced with the challenges and worries brought about by the COVID-19 situation, many of us have not managed to get deep rest. Without sufficient rest, we suffer physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. (Have you noticed that without a good night rest, you will be grumpy, irritated easily and anxious?) Not having enough rest also impacts our health negatively, such as a weakened immune system, body pain, increased blood pressure etc. In the past, we could look forward to an overseas trip to take a ‘clean’ break from our work, but that is not possible now (hopefully it will be in the near future). With the constant WFH, HBL, hybrid online-onsite school/work model, our work and rest seem very enmeshed. And there is no real sense of rest.
In the book of Genesis, after six days of Creation, God looked at all He had made and said it is “very good” (Gen 1:31) But what is interesting is that in Gen 2:2-3, we are told, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
In these short two verses, it is emphasized that God rested. He worked and then He rested. The fact is, God does not need to rest, and He does not need rest in order to be more productive. But He rested and made the day of rest “holy” to set an example for us. As humans, we need a rhythm of work and rest in order to live out our God-given call. Work gives us the opportunity to partner with God in his goals for creation and rest allows us to enter into communion with God to enjoy his creation.
Specifically, God set the Sabbath rest for us:
So that we will not be doing endless work, though we may be quite driven to.
To remember our relationship with God, to enjoy the results of both God’s labor and our own work.
To be refreshed through communion with Him and His creation, and with other people as well.
Does keeping the Sabbath rest mean that we are only “entitled” to rest after working six long days each week? No. In Genesis 1, we see a pattern in each day of creation: “there was evening, and there was morning – the first day …. there was evening, there was morning – the second day…” There was a daily rhythm that began in the evening, and carried on to the morning. In Jewish tradition, the day begins at sunset. Sunset is a time in which we start our rest and sleep. After a night of sleep, we enter into our work the next morning. So the sequence we observe in Genesis 1 is: rest followed by work for six days, and then a whole day of rest on the seventh day. (In fact, because humans were created on the sixth day, they started life with the seventh day – the day of rest)
What we can glean from the Creation account is that we are to be rested before we work. This is different from our common understanding of resting only after we have completed a day or week of work.
In this season where our work, family and personal life seems so undifferentiated, it is important to deliberately set aside time for rest. In the past months, I have intentionally set apart nighttime to be with my family. We have dinner together, then I spend time playing games with my kids – which at times I have resisted, but in doing so, have found restoration in having fun and connecting with them. Before we sleep, we take turns to pray. These routines have helped my family and me to have a good night’s rest.
May we will all be better rested – for our own sakes, for the sake of those around us, and for the Lord!
What practices or daily rhythms can help you rest better at night?
What activities should you stop doing that prevent you from having a good night’s rest?