time to rest
How are you? In my experience, that classic British greeting usually gives rise to one of two responses: “Fine, thank you”, or “Busy”. For many of us, ‘busy’ is normal and expected.
We live in a 24-7 “always on” society.
We have moved a long way from the rhythms of nature, with sunrise and sunset defining and policing our hours of activity. The industrial revolution and the invention of electric lighting put paid to that. The always-on society has been advanced further by mass transportation, globalisation, and the world wide web, which connects us, at any time of day or night, to shopping, entertainment and even work.
It is not bad to be busy, and work can be fulfilling. Human beings are made to work. But excessive busyness can be damaging. Sleep deprivation is commonplace, and stress-related illness seemingly an unavoidable part of modern life. Rest is for our good. We work more effectively and happily when we are properly rested.
We are made in the image of God, who from the very beginning has been at work, but who is also described in Genesis as resting after - and taking time to enjoy - his work of creation. God wants us to be the same – to work, but also to rest. It is in fact one of the Ten Commandments that we should take time out of our busy working lives for rest and recreation, and also to worship God. The Bible calls it ‘Sabbath’, and it is where we get our word sabbatical.
The Bible also prescribes for the Old Testament people of God an annual cycle of feasts and holidays, tied in to the agricultural year, to celebrate God’s provision and their shared history. These are the forerunners of our modern holidays (or Holy Days), when we can step back from the regular patterns and commitments to do something different and – hopefully – refreshing and life-enhancing.
Sabbaths and holidays are the antidote to rushing through life in a blur, and a foretaste of heaven. They are an opportunity to stand back, to look around, and to look up to God who gives us the ability to work, but also blesses us with the gift of rest.
Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 11:28-30).
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton