The Theology of Rest
Well...I really didn't expect to be giving this much up for Lent. I'm guessing this photo is a lot of us right now. Laying on the couch (or in bed) with a mug of something hot and a book (or laptop, smartphone, etc.) in our hands. Quarantine ain't the most fun thing in the world! Sure, it was nice to not go into work for the first couple of days, but if you're like me, you're probably going a bit stir crazy. That's why I want to talk about something that's very near and dear to my heart: the Theology of Rest.
Quick side note, I actually got to co-run a whole afternoon on this as part of a service week that I ran last year! I think this is something that would benefit all of us immensely, teens and adults alike, if we were to internalize it. American culture today is incredibly work-obsessed, at the expense of healthy rest. We often hear stuff like "the real go-getters don't leave at 5" and "put in the longer hours now so that you can relax later in life." These statements definitely have degrees of truth to them, but there is a LOT more to it than that.
This is the dilemma the entire world is facing right now. We're stuck between these two polar opposites of "OMG everything is closed I have to work all the time that I'm home so I still feel productive and don't melt into the couch" and "Eh, everything is closed anyway, let me play 10 hours of Call of Duty." The Truth, as with literally everything, lies somewhere in the middle.
Rest is a vital part of work. Having one without the other (i.e. buying into either of the extremes from the last paragraph) is inherently disordered. Why? Well, I'll tell you. Look at Genesis 2:2: "By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work." This is the second chapter in the entire Bible, number 2 out of 1,189. If God speaks of rest this early in His Word, He simply must deem it important.
I propose to you that rest, true rest, is different from relaxation. And that, my friends, is what we are all struggling with right now. We have all the time to relax in the world, and that's good! But if we don't spend some of it resting, we will begin to feel the emptiness that comes with being cooped up for a long time (an emptiness I'm sure many of us are feeling today). Now I can hear you thinking, "how are rest and relaxation different? Kinda sounds like Regis is just playing with words." I promise, I'll explain.
Both rest and relaxation involve stripping away stressors and outside influences, but rest goes deeper. While relaxation simply removes the negative influences, rest adds something as well. Rest is intentional, with the concrete goal of renewing the whole person. Don't get me wrong, relaxation is fundamentally good! But it's temporary. While relaxation helps to distract us from our problems, rest helps us to deal with them.
Listen, we're all stuck inside with nothing but time right now. The news is stressful, the uncertainty about school and work is stressful, even being with our family so much can be stressful! Relaxing is good, and it can help distract us from these stressful things. But if we simply play video games, watch Netflix, make coronavirus Tiktoks, and Facetime our friends all day, we're just avoiding our stress. Rest, on the other hand, can help renew us. It can help us to deal with this uncertainty we're feeling and lead us towards a healthy trust that God will provide.
What does that look like? Who knows! It's different for everyone. Maybe read the Bible, take a nap, journal by an open window, listen to some uplifting music, check out a good book, do some stretching, I have no idea! You have to find what works for you. What I can tell you, though, is that renewing rest is the single best quarantine solution I can offer you. Rest isn't always comfortable (sometimes facing those stressors can be scary!), but it can bring us untold benefits.
I want to leave you with one final thought. It comes from Lord of the Rings, which I'm sure will shock you all. One of the very best quotes in the whole epic saga comes from Gandalf, in the Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo says, "I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish that none of this had happened." Gandalf responds, "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
This is the time God has given to us, and He has given it to us specifically for a purpose. I don't think any of us know what it is right now, but He does, and that's what's important. So use the time well! Rest, start good habits, work on bad habits, and make sure to take care of yourself. If the Lord is for us, none can be against us. I pray that this time of confinement will bring us all closer to God and each other in the end.
Stay safe and be well,
P.S. If you need something to make you smile, check out Neil Diamond singing a *slightly* altered version of "Sweet Caroline"