Three obstacles to true rest.
There is a great irony when it comes to the holidays. Though we all, as a culture, take time off work, school, and ordinary activities, this season has actually become one of the busiest for families.
Time is a precious commodity — one which we can’t seem to really get a handle on despite our best efforts. You can blame it on all kinds of things. Blame it on technology because we can now be connected to work responsibilities we previously had to leave at the office. Blame it on social media because it makes us seem busier than we really are because of the time we spend on it. Blame it on societal pressure that tells us that in order to have fully-developed and well-rounded children they simply must participate in any and all activities available.
Why are we unable to rest? Why can’t we put down the project at work? Why can’t we stop worrying about the future? Why do we stay up at night plagued with anxiety? It’s because we’re failing to believe all the things the gospel confirms for us: that we have nothing left to prove before man and God, that our identity is secure as a child of God in Christ, that God will give us our daily bread as surely as He sacrificed His Son for us, that come what may we’ll never be separated from His love in Jesus.
These are the things that keep us from resting, and these are the things the gospel tells us. The first true obstacle to rest, then, is faith. Do we truly believe that everything is finished in Christ, or are we living in such a way that there’s still just a little bit more to do?
A second obstacle to true rest is, ironically, laziness. When we embrace by faith that the eternal work of Jesus is sufficient for us, it doesn’t actually make us lazy. Instead, it motivates us to work and work hard for the kingdom. But when we know that Jesus has won the war for our souls, our work isn’t done with the frenetic energy of earning approval; it’s done with the zealous joy of one who already has it. If we think that the death and resurrection of Jesus means we can be lazy, we’ve misunderstood what it means to be adopted into God’s family.
It’s ironic, but if we dull our minds and hearts with laziness, we’ll find ourselves not resting, but atrophying. We’ll grow more and more cold to the promises of God in Christ, and in so doing, we’ll actually find ourselves resting less and less as the days go by.
A third obstacle to rest is intentionality. To put it in the opposite way, one of the real reasons we fail to rest is because we don’t do so on purpose. No one is going to unintentionally slip into a state of rest. We do so by intentionally believing the gospel. When we do, that belief influences every area of our lives. We rest in our parenting knowing that God holds the future of our children. We rest in our work knowing that God will provide for our needs. We rest in our marriages because we’re open and authentic with each other as we model the gospel. But we rest in all these things only when we make every effort to do so. This is where resting as a state of being becomes a discipline. In other words, and ironically I might add, we must work hard at resting. We must work to make sure that in whatever we do, we’re doing it not to replace or further what God has already done, but because of it.
So this season, friends, I’m resting. I’m going to speak to my soul and say the same words that Jesus offered time and time again: “Peace to you.”
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua, Andi, and Christian. He serves as the Director of Groups Ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats, and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (December 2018). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.