By Abigail Pendrak
My dear friend Abigail was kind enough to share the transcript of her very popular talk on rest at the Rio Women’s Retreat, so enjoy this guest post!
Before we can look at why and how to rest, I want to start in Deuteronomy 5. It is the second place the Ten Commandments are listed, but has a few added details from the Exodus 20 list that I want to focus on. I want to focus on the 4th commandment, which is to keep Sabbath. Actually, the word in the 4th commandment, “Sabbath” in Hebrew “shavat” means to rest and it has the same root as the number word “seven” which is connected to the ideas or concepts of fullness & completeness, so I’ll read it with the word “rest.” I also have hand motions for the Ten Commandments because that’s how I taught them to my children, and I think they are a good memory tool for any age! I’m starting in verse. 6, the foundation of the giving of the law or introduction to the 10 Commandments:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of slavery….
Observe the Rest day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a rest of
the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work… And you shall remember
that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought
you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore
the Lord your God commanded you to observe the rest day….
So, observe rest, remember your slavery and deliverance, keep rest! We must start as those who do not or cannot rest. Scripture often pairs these themes of rest/Sabbath with slavery because, I’m convinced, deliverance from slavery is prerequisite for Sabbath rest. Rest requires freedom – until we understand and step into freedom, rest is an abstract, an unobtainable, a chasing after the wind.
“Don’t ever forget that you were slaves in Egypt and God, your God, got you
out of there in a powerful show of strength. That’s why God, your God,
commands you to observe the day of Sabbath rest.”
That is why we look back and remember the Exodus story, celebrate the Passover, Israel’s deliverance; it was highly significant, the greatest salvation moment of the people of God (AND points to and reminds us of our own moment of salvation and deliverance from sin and death). But God has so much more planned than just to get out of Egypt. When Israel arrived at the Red Sea border, God didn’t scratch His head and wonder what to do next. He told Moses to hold up his staff and “watch this”!
Exodus – Freedom – Eternal Life
Promised Land – Rest – Abundant Life
Yes! – first salvation and a deliverance out – but our God is ordered and planned and purposeful. And His promise is to what is beyond that, the fullness of that freedom, the milk and honey and wide open spaces (to use the language of Scripture).
Rest is holding onto the freedom promised, and experienced, and to be remembered. God’s salvation is never – and has never been – only a rescue mission from, a deliverance “out of”. While it absolutely is that, (spoiler alert: they get out of Egypt – all 600,000 men or over 2 million of them!) it is so much more! That is the John 10 verse (our theme verse for this weekend) of Abundant Life. Not only Eternal Life. Not only freedom from, but freedom to! Just as the Israelites whose vision was too short sighted to see more than just getting out of Egypt, the disciples of Jesus pleaded for deliverance from the oppressive Roman government. On a spiritual scale that is such a small part. Egypt and Rome is too small. This is not the small freedom from an oppressive nation. God’s story is bigger than an escape from Egypt or the
defeat of Rome, it is eternal AND abundant!
@Iansimkins on Instagram posted:
In an instant Israel was set free but it took a lifetime to learn how to be
free. Freedom wasn’t only getting Israel out of slavery. It was getting slavery out
Far too many of us aren’t living nearly as free as we actually are.
The Way of Jesus is not merely the promise of eternal life sometime later but the promise of abundant life here and now. In slavery, or as a servant, or hired work there is no rhythm of rest, instead there is captivity, there is continual striving, there is only a focus on labor and productivity. But, here we are brought to freedom and abundant life and so often we (like Israel, who was soon asking to just go back to Egypt) when it gets hard, instead we must wait and trust God and then seek to identify the abuses by others or by ourselves to bring control, and become our own cruel taskmaster – things like: anxiety, guilt, envy, shame, pride, anger, clinging to hurts.
So often it is a slavery of our own design that has us in bondage, that we need to deal with. God wants us to deal with it, so that He can bring freedom! If we are those under oppression, in chains, we do not rest. If slaves don’t rest and that comes in freedom, then we need to step out of the story of desperate scrambling! Rest is found in freedom. First we need to recognize our own bondage before we can remember and observe rest. Galatians 5:1 – It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
It’s a yoke of our own making: a weight, the heaviness that we make for ourselves and then cling to, even as it is enslaving us. Don’t exchange one Pharoah or Caesar for another one. Tricia Hersey says in Rest is Resistance: “I don’t want a seat at the table of the oppressor, I want a blanket and a pillow down by the ocean. I want to rest.”
This rhythm was set from creation, this model of set-apart time: past from future, common from holy, daily from sacred. From creation, Genesis 2, well before the instruction of Deuteronomy 5, God modeled rest for us, not from tiredness (He was just fine! He never wearies) but as a pattern for us, to enter into sacred time with Him. The opposite of rest is work and busyness. Work is not bad – it also was
modeled from creation. But it should be ordered, purposeful and within the boundaries of six days.
Rest defines, shapes, and embraces our humanity. And our humanity is exactly what makes us image-bearers of God (He imaged and modeled this rest for us!). Ultimately rest is worship! Rest will require setting healthy boundaries – which include saying no (sometimes even to good things, people you like, and fun activities) in order to pause, to have space and time for refreshment and renewal. Without placing those boundaries to protect our rest time, it will likely not happen. There is always more to be done and to get to.
This weekend is an example. No one stumbled through the door this evening because they had nothing else to do this weekend. It took planning and placing boundaries for you to be here, especially for you to fully engage and be present for this time. Rest is engaging, purposeful, fully present living – it is not multi-tasking, doing it all, or on auto-pilot. Rest is building in intentional times of stopping, of reflecting, of breathing deeply, and living fully. Of not hurrying through or onto, but pauses, not forced by exhaustion but from obedience and humility.
Sarah Mackenzie said in Teaching from Rest:
“Rest is not the absence of work or a failure to consider or carry out a plan. It is work and leisure properly ordered. It is doing the right thing at the right time, realizing that our task is to hear God’s call and follow His commands, and then to trust that God will be God…”
Rest, like sleeping or even eating or drinking, but maybe more consciously, is acknowledging that He is God and we are not, we are human, limited, finite, dependent. Rest requires trust, that God will care for us; we cease striving and lean into trusting Him. We must lay aside our ego and belief that it all is dependent on us, acknowledging and then confessing this lie. And that always leads to thanksgiving and praise – it is an offering of worship to surrender ourselves in order to make much of Him.
Sometimes rest is relaxing, taking a nap or going to bed early, and sometimes it is still very much an active experience. With those boundaries in place, we must fill that time with refreshing activities and that can look different with ages and stages of life, with our individual roles and personalities.
Rest – it has been my experience – can change and should not be placed in a box. It will look different in different seasons of your life. It certainly has for me – as a single, married with babies and dependent young children, and now with older children.
There are many ways to rest. I’m not going to give you a list of to-do’s or list of not to do’s. Because I want to be very careful that while our rest must be protected, it is meant to be a delight. I will encourage you to prayerfully and intentionally examine what brings you rest. I have found that personality – especially, introvert and extrovert – can mean very different things for how you experience rest.
So, on a weekly basis at home, maybe that means meal prepping and using paper plates so that you’re not in the kitchen for the day, or maybe for you it’s gathering all the groceries you’ll need to spend an afternoon baking. Maybe its staying in pajamas or maybe it’s a swim. a long walk, dancing, gardening, playing a board game, or reading a book in a hammock. My point is that there is not one way or activity to define our personal rest. It is stopping from the normal work of our week and stepping with joy into His set-apart time.
I will specifically, encourage you to take a honest evaluation of technology, checking email, and social media when you are resting. I’m not saying it’s all bad or doesn’t have a place, but to take a thoughtful look specifically here as you establish boundaries for rest. The very design of scrolling – that there is
no end or stop, it is meant to keep you continually searching. It is like my daughter’s hamster, Coconut, on his wheel! He is the sweetest little rodent, and every night he runs as hard as he can. While we joke about harnessing that energy to power a light bulb, its getting him absolutely nowhere, and just like social media scrolling, there is no end.
But, rest is meaningful, intentional, and brings growth –without anxiety or worry. Because when we are secure in Christ, striving ceases. Kevin DeYoung says in Crazy Busy:
“We don’t have healthy routines. We can’t keep our feasting and fasting apart. Evening and morning have lost their feel. Everything is blurred together.”
We are not meant to see and live as if every day is the same. God calls us to model His pattern, to “remember” a Rest day.
Twice in the book of Mark (3:20 & 6:31) the disciples were so busy (from ministry work, literally with Jesus!) and so many people with them all the time, that they forgot to even eat!
And I get that, before I was married I worked in youth ministry and I got to where I set an alarm on my watch to remember to eat dinner because most nights I was at events or activities- cheering for students or leading a Bible study, and it would be 10:00 p.m. before I grabbed a piece of cold pizza! Jesus tells the disciples – and us – come away and rest. Rest allows us to quiet ourselves before God so that our heart, mind, and strength will be restored and renewed.
There are all sorts of studies of burnout and health risks that come without rest – this expendable mentality is of a slave or an inanimate piece of a machine, without life and spirit but only for that job/task. We are numbed by our own exhaustion! This is not who we are made to be. We are human beings, not human doings. We do not need to always be busy. Rest is the opposite of a hustle culture. We need to let go of the idol of productivity. We are not robots but image- bearers. You are precious!
Rest is not a reward for exhaustion or a final collapse from the weight of it all. You are worthy of it now! This was Jesus message, this was His ministry, this is what He declared, and this is the freedom He brings:
He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and on the Sabbath (the REST) day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom (His usual practice, something He had established boundaries of protection around). He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, he found the place (in our Bible translations, Isaiah 61) where it
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
This is His rule, His kingdom.
Only Jesus can bring this freedom, this healing and restoration and renewal,
this Sabbath Rest.
Good news – Freedom – Recovery – Set free
This evening and we lifted our voices with these
Who the Son sets free
Oh, is free indeed
I’m a child of God, yes, I am
Free at last, He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin, Jesus died for me (Who You Say I am by Hillsong Worship)
Questions to consider:
What has you in bondage?
What is keeping you from freedom?
When have you experienced rest?
What brings you rest?
How can you create space for rest?
How is rest a worship experience?
What will rest look like for you on the Sabbath?
What will rest look like in the reality of your life on a weekly basis?
Sign up to hang out at Never a Doll Moment each week! I never share your information with anyone. Plus, you will receive my free Long Term Homeschool Planning Worksheet to get you started on an amazing homeschool journey!