We live in a restless world—a world of idea generation, of progress, of movement, of working hard and of playing hard. Today we are the most medicated, indebted, and obese American adult cohort in recorded history.
We have moved from a routine of coffee to 5-hour energy to Prozac. Our bodies cannot naturally keep up with the pace, so we take things as crutches to survive the day-to-day battlefield—social pressures, economic strife, relationships, work. We artificially increase our blood pressure without actually moving our legs. Our muscles atrophy, our minds become over-exerted, and we just can’t perform to the standards our world is demanding from us.
Have you ever considered that maybe this isn’t how we were supposed to live? Well, we simply couldn’t have been meant to live this way. Our bodies aren’t made to. Deuteronomy 5 reminds us that God commands us to observe the Sabbath. To be sure, He still calls us towards gutsy, hard work, but He also calls us to take a day of rest. This rest is intended not only to be a day of physical rest but also of mental rest as we focus our minds on God and allow His powerful hands to carry all of our burdens and distress. I would argue that if we all exercised a Sabbath like this then we would feel true rest. We would see diminished mental health occurrences and an improved overall physical health in our population.
Mental health is one of the most overlooked and under-recognized health issues not only in America but also on a global scale. According to Mental Health America, depression is one of the most common mental health issues, affecting about 16 million American adults each year. Depression not only affects the mental health of an individual, but it can also complicate other medical conditions. Therefore, what’s good and healthy for our bodies has roots in having a healthy mind, a healthy psyche, and a healthy soul.
While a majority of individuals with depression have full remission with effective treatment, only about a third of people with severe depression actually seek such treatment. Perhaps there is a stigma constructed within the diagnosis of depression that keeps people from seeking help, but depression should never be considered a normal part of daily life. Depression is not normal; therefore, it should be treated just as seriously as any cancer, broken bone, or deep scar.
In the first verses of Genesis 2, we are reminded that even God took rest. In our action-oriented world there often seems to be no time for rest, yet God demonstrated that rest is both appropriate and right. If God himself rested, we should not be surprised that we also need rest.
On any given day, our minds are flooded with conversations, thoughts, pieces of memories, and agendas – amongst myriad other things. Like a filter, our brain is capable of absorbing many of these things, but what if we never clean or sort out this filter? What if these thoughts remain in open space, convoluted and lost?
If you’re anything like me and you can’t stand a cluttered room, you can imagine how frustrating it can be to have a cluttered mind. When considering mental health and our mind as a type of filter, it’s not hard to imagine how people can become restless, irritable, forgetful, fatigued, or depressed. Wonder even further with me. What if diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s are just a result of a broken filter, one that has stopped recording memories as a result of the filter never been sorted or cleaned.
Of course this is oversimplification of an incredibly complex illness. However, I don’t think it is too far off when considering that God wants us to rest. He wants us to bring those things that are heavy on our minds directly to Him. We were hard-wired from birth to work, but we were also hard wired to experience deep rest. Why is something like rest so counterintuitive to us today?
Scott Sauls, the head pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, aptly explained the differences between work in the secular world and work through the lens of a Christian faith. He explained that secular work is to work towards our rest, something that is more easily recognizable in the lyrics of Loverboy’s hit, “Everybody’s working for the weekend.” The Christian view or work, on the other hand, is rest unto our work. The benefit of the Sabbath is an awareness and a rejuvenation that comes from our rest and allows us then to enter our work full of magnanimous energy and a willingness to work hard.
Hebrews 4 echoes the message from Deuteronomy 5 and emphasizes the fact that the Sabbath rest is intended for all of God’s people. “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:10). If we do not work, we cannot experience deep rest, and this is a direct disobedience of God’s commandments. We must remember that God’s commandment for us to observe the Sabbath is not an option but a requirement.
We must strive to enter into rest with a wild and intentional vigor, knowing that we are ultimately saved by the work of God’s son, and from His work can we have the freedom to enter into rest. Through the mercy of God, we can work with confidence that our approval is in no way dependent on our performance. The work of God has already been completed, and our most essential labor is to believe in Jesus Christ who, having finished the work in our stead, grants us freedom to work and to rest. We were not called to be impressive or successful in our work, but we were called to be humbled, forgiven, faithful, and to rest toward our work.
We live in a generation that rewards people for breaking the Sabbath and shames people for keeping it. We must ask ourselves if we are pressuring the next generation to be restless images of ourselves. Are we pressuring them to be disciples of the culture they live in, or are we encouraging them to be disciples for Christ? The prescription for rest is simple—believe in Jesus Christ and work dutifully in your vocational field knowing well that the greatest work has already been done for us. As we grow in our Christian values, we will only be driven to work harder and harder, but we cannot neglect our essential need for rest. Let us leave a legacy of good rest and of good health.
Where has a lack of rest permeated my lifestyle?
Houston Massey interns as a medical scribe assisting an oncologist. He is a member of the 2015-2016 Falls Church Fellows Program.