Rest from Endlessly Proving Yourself

Rest from Endlessly Proving Yourself

Six days for work. One for rest. It is an ancient formula the Hebrew people have been leaning into for thousands of years. It affirms the dignity and purpose of work, as well as the rightness and importance of a life and identity beyond our working. Theologically, it holds up the importance of our active participation in our own story and spiritual formation, while also driving home the centrality of God in animating our lives and bringing our lives to redemptive wholeness.

Much of the confusion around rest and work comes from an overemphasis on one or the other. Our digital age gives us endless access to entertainment, social media, and turns any location into an office. Getting lost in wild diversion or work details are equally easy and both are ever present. Some Christians emphasize sabbath rest being listed prominently in the Ten Commandments as a rigid requirement banning anything other than church on Sundays. Other Christians emphasize Jesus’ comment that “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath ” to give license to a business as usual work attitude. We often struggle to approach the complexities of life with a both/and attitude.

The author of Hebrews takes up this idea of entering into God’s rest. It is connected to the psalmist’s recounting of when the Hebrew people failed to trust God during times of testing in their wilderness wanderings. They are the people who did not enter into God’s rest because of their unbelief. However, the promise of entering God’s rest is still open through faith. God’s rest carries with it a sense of God’s peace, completion, and inheritance. It resonates with the desire of our hearts. It is the fulfillment for which we run ourselves ragged trying to find in accomplishments, possessions, power, and status. How do we experience this rich fulfillment of God? Is it something we receive or something which requires effort?

Hebrews speaks of making “every effort to enter that rest.” It is the kind of statement that only makes sense non-dualistically. Some ancient rabbis thought the commandment for Sabbath was the most important of the Ten. Their reasoning was that participation in Sabbath rest was a declaration of complete trust in God. Our unfinished projects, heavy laden to-do lists, and emerging personal brand are all put on pause for us to commune with the Creator of the Universe. God’s rest is a reminder that we are first and foremost human beings and not human doings. It is a radical declaration of faith above our own best efforts. Yet entering this rest requires a surrender and letting go which may fill like a rigorous exercise. It is ultimately an exercise in denying of self and of reconnecting to our deepest identity in God apart from anything we have done or failed to do. It is a rest from our world’s constant treadmill of endlessly proving yourself.

Christopher Mack