God is not a “taskmaster”. He established the pattern of regular weekly rest by his example following creation (Genesis 2:2), but also by prescription to his people: “six days shall you labour (cf: Exodus 20:9; Lev 23:3).” Jesus also spoke of the need for periodic rest following labour, teaching his disciples to: “ ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. (Mark 6:31-32)” Because of this biblical basis Christians have encouraged themselves and society to practice “holy days”. The Old English term hāligdæg, comes from hālig (holy) + dæg (day) and is the basis for our modern word holiday. So, if you are like most in our culture and take holidays over the summer, enjoy them as the gift of God they are intended to be!
Unfortunately, too often our holidays interrupt the kind of work/life pace that is unsustainable (and frankly ungodly). We do not take seriously God’s instruction to pace our regular week-to-week responsibilities in a way that recognizes our need of regular rest. And thus, when our holiday time comes we desperately need a break rather than merely take a break. We have probably all been there: your holiday comes following a long period of working and living at such a breakneck pace that the first half of your time away is “lived” in the fog of ‘unplugging’. By the end of your time off you finally feel like you are starting to rest, only to feel the dread of life’s treadmill starting again the next day.
We are not created for this kind of life; we are not machines to be plugged and unplugged, but frail humans created with the need of communion with God to truly live. Of course, busy days come, and our responsibilities themselves are gifts from God. As seen above, Jesus and his disciples had such days when they could not even take a moment to eat! But notice what Jesus commanded following such a day: rest! Our labour, be it in ministry, business, or the home is a blessing from God. Paul tells us that: “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)” Knowing our tendency to mess things up, Jesus also gave us a litmus test when he said: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)” Therefore, when life’s responsibilities become unbearable it tells us one of two things: either we are not living our life in Christ, or we have taken on responsibility not designed for us.
My prayer for you this summer as you take your holiday time that you find great rest, peace, and renewal in Christ; but also that you would reflect on your regular week-to-week life and the need for regular rest and renewal. Next week we will focus upon staying in Christ’s rest and renewal as a way of life.