The Importance of Rest

📸: J.A. Bracchi

I see you. You’re out: strung-out, stressed out, and worn out. Out of time and out of energy. You have yet another place to be in a few minutes but all you want to do is take a nap. The demands on you are endless. I see you. In fact, I was you.

My senior year of college, I worked all morning, had class all afternoon, and engaged in BCM activities all evening. I would leave my apartment before 8 a.m. and not see the inside of it again until almost 9 p.m. Since graduating, I’ve figured out that such a busy lifestyle is unsustainable without periods of rest. 

Now if you’re like me, taking time out is anxiety-inducing. ‘How can I just sit here when I should be productive?’ But rest is not only productive; it is necessary. Let’s talk about why we should be making time for rest.

God Rested

The idea of rest didn’t just appear out of thin air at some point in history. It was established in the beginning:

“And on the seventh day, God finished his work that He had done, and he rested…” -Genesis 2:2a ESV

To rest is to follow an ancient and divine example. But why? Why would God rest? We know from scripture that He does not grow tired or weary (Isaiah 40:28). So why take a break? 

God saw that we as humans needed an example to follow. Did Jesus need to be baptized? John the Baptist himself said, ‘it is you who should be baptizing me.’ From the beginning God saw fit to show us that even though He does not grow weary, we will. Follow the example He has set, and put aside your work to rest. 

Our Bodies Need It

Our bodies are a gift from God. They keep us alive without needing our input; the heart beats, lungs breathe, immune system fights disease automatically, like a well-oiled machine. In the grand scheme of things, they demand little from us: food for fuel, a little exercise, and periods of rest. Yet of our physical needs, we take rest for granted the most. 

According to Inc., time off work reduces stress, boosts your immune system, and leads to better sleep. Work equals stress to most people, and a variety of studies have shown that stress devastates the body. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), “health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.” There is no shortage of similar evidence for the benefits of rest on the body. You can’t afford to skip it.

Our Minds Need It

Similarly, studies show that rest leads to higher creativity, productivity, and resilience.  Studies show that “people who do not know how to detach from work during their off time experience increased exhaustion over the course of one year and are less resilient in the face of stressful work conditions (”

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that working more hours can lead to lower productivity. The mind doesn’t function well when tired and overwhelmed. We weren’t made for 24/7 work. Do your mind a favor and let it rest.

Our Hearts Need It

Work is the center of most of our days. Without it, most of us wouldn’t have the means to survive. Many of us find joy in our careers, and rightfully so: scripture tells us to do everything as unto the Lord. The problem is that sometimes, it seems like our culture worships work. We constantly worry about getting ahead, making more money, or getting that promotion at the expense of our sanity. 

Rest gives us a right view of our work. It reminds us that the world does not stop spinning when we cease to be productive. It reminds us that we are ultimately not the ones who put a roof over our heads and food on our tables. Our self-sufficiency is all but an illusion. It is God who, through our work, provides for our needs. Rest re-centers our hearts on that truth. 

In this day and age, making time to rest can be a big ask. We have a lot on our plate in a day, so we have a lot to lay aside. I see you fretting about what won’t get done if you take a breather. But the command to do it, and the benefits it boasts, are clear. So I also see you better off for taking time to rest.

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