Rest is spiritual. In our culture it’s unpopular. Getting adequate rest, admitting that you sleep 8 or 9 hours per night or that you took a nap is often viewed as lazy. Even in Christian circles, he who works the longest without a break is often considered the most godly. (I’m not talking about people who actually have a low sleep need. Some people are like that. Not me.) Nevertheless, we must remember that even God (who doesn’t need anything) rested after He created the World, and He ordained Sabbath rest.
This week I received my new copy of Notes from Toad Hall. The writings of Margie Haack and her husband Denis have had a profound impact on my spiritual journey, especially in terms of how I view people outside Christianity—even when I disagree with their viewpoint they make me think. I so appreciated Margie’s thoughts in this issue. She quotes Professor David Nelson:
[O]ur theological reflection (in the sense of reflection upon God) should lead us to recognize that God himself has not chosen to accomplish everything in one day, one week, month or year. Not only does God’s creative work occur over time, but His providential work of bringing all things to His good end occurs over millennia. Since God Himself does not accomplish all his purposes in one day, it seems odd that His people might fret, forsake rest, and live disordered lives to do what God Himself has chosen not to do. What God could do, He does not, and what we cannot do, we attempt to do, to our own detriment.
Margie then adds, “This rhythm of work and rest that Nelson writes about is rooted in creation and presupposes that what we do in an ordinary, everyday way is ordained and blessed by God, which applies to all sorts of vocations—not just religious or missionary callings. God not only grants us the freedom to do nothing visibly useful at times, he insists on it. He desires us to trust that our resting accomplishes his purposes even when closure looks way overdue and our path looks grim.”
Dallas Willard, whom Billy was privileged to interview a few years ago, told my husband this: He gives a yearly 2-week spiritual retreat to students at a large seminary. One of the retreat requirements is that the participants stay in bed for 10 hours each night. Can you imagine? Enough sleep over a two week period would make a new person out of anyone!
Jen at Conversion Diary (a mother of 4 very small children) shared once about her struggles to focus during prayer. When she discussed it with her spiritual director, the director told her to get more sleep. Sometimes there is a simple physical answer to what we view as a complex spiritual problem. Exhaustion can make us not only unable to focus, but can leave us more vulnerable to temptations…the temptation to fear, to yell at our kids, to neglect our husbands, to let our thought life grow up in weeds…because we just feel too weary to fight. That’s not to say that we won’t be tired at times; neither is it an excuse to sin when we are…But when possible, getting enough rest can have a bring incredible spiritual benefit, even if it means leaving some things undone.
That’s hard for us mothers Remember the old saying, “A man may work from sun to sun, but mother’s work is never done”? I for one am frequently tempted to operate out of frustration over all that’s not getting done. I forget to consult God about what His agenda might be for my day, his calling, rather than what I think I should accomplish. For our own good and the good of our families, sometimes we must leave things as they are and simply rest in God, knowing that He will give us grace and time to finish what He has required of us, rather than collapsing under the heavy burdens we lay on ourselves.