Put Your Feet Up: The Importance of Physical Rest In Our Sabbath

Photo by  Rafael Castillo

Recently my wife and I celebrated “Staycation 2014.” We shipped our two young boys off to their grandparents’ house. We celebrated an anniversary, enjoyed each other’s friendship, and explored our city like tourists. But the linchpin of the weekend was rest. Our sons have been notorious for how they have pushed the limits of our depravity through sleep depravity. Beyond that, we have been in a season of life that hasn’t lent itself well to good rest between work, family, and social responsibilities. We knew for our personal and family health, we needed a time in which rest had to be a top priority. For our sanity, we needed some sleep! Therefore we made a decision. We didn’t set an alarm. Even though we had many things we wanted to do, we chose physical rest first.

The harmony of rest and mental and physical health is no accident. It is by design. We are created by and in the image of our Designer. We see in the creation narrative that our infinitely powerful God worked for six days and then rested on the seventh day. Now in His likeness, we are designed to work AND rest (Genesis 1:26–2:3). Think for a moment how incredible it is that God has built rest into human flourishing. Think even further about our fallen world. Work is toilsome. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, one of the consequences of that sin is pain in our labor (Gen. 3:17–19). To a fallen world, God has given the Sabbath (Deut. 5:12–15). God persistently teaches His children that they must rest. God says to us “Stop. Cease working.” I love the idea that God tells us, for our own good, that we need to put down our work and put our feet up.

I get the feeling, however, that most people in our society don’t rest well. The mixture of workaholism and energy drinks are our society’s physically dangerous cocktail. We all say we need another day each week. We are all tired and our work is never done.

But God’s wisdom is to stop, to cease from working. God’s freeing and good gift to us is to physically rest, to put down our work.

Opening the Door to Physical Rest

Our Vintage Arts team sings a lyric that says, “I have found a trust that teaches how to rest.”1 To understand and apply the lyric opens the door to resting well. The same struggle that teenagers have with parental guidance is the same struggle we have with God’s Sabbath principle. It’s the struggle over who really knows what is good, best, and healthy. We say, “God, my work is demanding. This project would fall apart if I didn’t work through my weekends.” “God, I’m a ‘go, go, go’ type of person; to slow down would kill me.” “God, if I want sports scholarships for my sons, we have to travel them around the country, playing summer ball, winter ball, and everything in between.” “God, financially I can’t take the day off.”

Trust opens the door to rest. Whether you initially see the wisdom or not in the Sabbath, trust the One who lovingly created you and who did not spare His own Son for you. It is for your good.

Disciplines for Physical Rest

  1. Turn Off In Jesus, you are free. Your ultimate worth is about who you are, not what you do. When was the last time you slept in? Turn off the alarm this weekend. When was the last time you really escaped work responsibilities? Turn off your cell phone. When was the last time you didn’t worry about your “to do” list, what next week holds, or how everyone is relying on you? Turn off your mind.
  2. Do What Fills You Up This will take a little honest contemplation from you. Think of your life, health, and vigor as a tank. Some things empty your tank. Some things fill your tank. Make a list of the things that fill your tank and do those things.2 This is how you rest well. Pick up your hobby, read your novel, ride the streetcar, sit outside and eat a snowball, run, watch an entire season of Netflix, swim, shop, wrestle with your kids, take a day trip, date your spouse, or simply sleep.
  3. Celebrate Make your rest a celebration of the work you’ve done.3 Mentally, you must see your Sabbath not as that which dreadfully keeps you from doing your work but a time to say “well done” to the work you have done. This discipline breeds contentment and frees you heart further from slavery to the work treadmill. You have worked hard. Now, take your Sabbath with some gusto.

Read last week’s blog on Sabbath, “Don’t Waste Your Fourth: An Introduction to Sabbath?

1Kim Walker-Smith, I Have Found, Jesus Culture Music, Recorded 2008.
2Wayne Cordeiro, Leading On Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2009), 88-91.
3Darrin Patrick, The Dude’s Guide to Manhood: Finding True Manliness in a World of Counterfeits (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2014), 68.