“On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3)
Rest. Even saying the word out loud feels like slowly lowering yourself into a soft pillow. It’s something we do every night, something we go on vacation in search of, something we claim to need whenever we’re feeling frustrated or angry. Our desire for rest is so omnipresent that we often lose sight of exactly how profound rest can truly be or how much we really need it.
This need for rest, however, comes into stark relief when you are deprived of it. Recently, I underwent testing for sleep apnea. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s what happens when your airways close up as you fall deeper and deeper into sleep. As a result, your body instinctively tries to wake you up as you’re sleeping by snoring or shaking your leg. In turn, it becomes very difficult to reach the REM stage of sleep, the most restful and restorative level.
After just one night’s sleep using a doctor’s treatment for sleep apnea, I was stunned by the results. The world felt fresh and new and vibrant. I needed rest, my body was craving it, and while I thought I was giving my body what it needed, it wasn’t quite working the right way.
Rest isn’t just important or useful. It’s vital, and not just physically. We need to rest emotionally and spiritually. We’re told over and over that Jesus withdrew from the crowds to be alone, to rest and reconnect with God. That’s something we need as well, time to ourselves, time to reconnect and restore.
And sometimes, we need the help of others to learn how to rest well. We need to share with others in our community and listen to their tips about how to rest, because sometimes we think we’ve been doing the things we need, but our attempts at rest are short-circuiting.
Like God, we need to take the time to appreciate the work we’ve done, and we need to value that work enough to get some well-earned rest.
Benjamin Howard is an editor for Teaching and Learning Resources at The United Methodist Publishing House. He received his Master’s in Theological Studies from Lipscomb University and currently resides in Nashville.