If you have ever traveled on an airplane, you are familiar with the speech that you hear before takeoff on every flight. For those who fly frequently, it is so familiar that they stopped listening to this speech ages ago.
“Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. Place the mask over your mouth and nose, like this. Pull the strap to tighten it. If you are traveling with children, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children.”
That picture resonates with me as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. We hear a lot of sermons and read articles and do Bible studies that talk about how to prepare and persevere through the crises we face in this fallen world. It may even become so familiar that we begin to tune it out. Then, in the unlikely event that a crisis strikes, we find that we are unprepared or we forgot a lot of what we have learned.
With that in mind, I want to encourage everyone to REMEMBER TO REST. When a crisis hits, we have a tendency to kick ourselves into a higher gear as we try to deal with all these new things that need to get done. You have people at home and at work and at church and elsewhere who require your attention. Running on adrenaline and extra caffeine, you push through each day and fall exhausted into bed each night, only to wake up in the middle of the night because the worries of tomorrow weigh heavy on your heart. Before long, you realize that you simply don’t have the strength to carry on in this manner. The truth sinks in that, much like with the oxygen masks on an airplane, you won’t be much use to others if you are passed out on the floor because you have not been taking care of yourself. Somewhere, in all the craziness, you have forgotten to rest. This is not how God intended you to live.
GOD CREATED HUMANITY TO WORK BUT ALSO TO REST
God set an example for us by resting on the seventh day of Creation. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (Genesis 2:2). He did this not because the all-powerful God needed a break, but because He was establishing a pattern for humanity to follow. He even put it into the Old Testament Law. “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest” (Exodus 34:21). Notice that this principle applied even in the busiest times of the year for an agrarian society, namely, at plowing time and harvest. While I do not believe that observing the Sabbath in the Old Testament sense is required of Christians on this side of the Cross, the broader need for rest is still critical for us to live healthy lives, especially in times of crisis.
REST IS A GIFT FROM GOD
The psalmists understood this well! “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:1-2). In Psalm 3, David found himself in a crisis . However, even in that dire situation, the Lord sustained him with a good night’s sleep.
You will find in these times of crisis that there is always more that you could be doing, more prayers to be prayed, more phone calls to make, more tasks to be done. Even in these times, God is giving you the gift of rest. In fact, the Lord will continue “building the house” and “watching over the city” while you rest. The work that He wants YOU to do will be there when you wake up, as well as the grace you need to do it. Consider the words of Carolina Berg in her familiar hymn, “Day By Day.” In fact, give it a listen!
Day by day, and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure, Gives unto each day what He deems best, Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.
REST IS ABOUT MORE THAN SLEEP. ENJOY LIFE!
Solomon observed, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25). Also, the psalmist prayed to God, “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (Psalm 104:14-15).
God gives us the good gifts of His Creation for our enjoyment and so we might use them to bless others, too (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17-18). So, get outside. Enjoy a cup of coffee or a good meal, perhaps ordering some carry-out or delivery from a local restaurant. Laugh with those you love. Pull out the board games or jigsaw puzzles that have been collecting dust. Set aside time to pray and worship together as a family, especially with your church family on Sunday mornings.
Remember the words of Jesus.“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Remember to rest!