What I Learned In College
Part 2: Rest Is A Gift
by Robby Higginbottom
September 24, 2013
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
“Why am I so exhausted?” That’s the question every college student should be asking, but not many are. I wasn’t asking it much during my college years. Rest sounded like a great concept, but I was too important and too busy to enjoy it. Rest was for old and lazy people, not me. Maybe I would rest a bit during Christmas or summer break, but college was about work and being busy. As I tiptoed on the edge of exhaustion, I learned something in college: rest is a gift from God that we have to receive by faith.
Why didn’t I rest? I didn’t rest because I didn’t think I could. I had too much going on. I was too important. If I took a break from my work for a day or even an hour, surely the earth would spin off its axis. I didn’t rest because I didn’t know how. If you made me rest, I wouldn’t know what to do. I hadn’t really tried, but I’m sure it would have been a total waste of time. I didn’t rest because I didn’t want to. I thought that life was all about doing things: relationships, school, work, even Christianity. Life was one big performance, and I didn’t realize how much I needed a break.
When we define ourselves by our performance, rest is not a gift. Rest is a threat. Rest makes us feel unproductive and unnecessary—but maybe that’s just what we need. If we learn to rest, maybe we wouldn’t define ourselves so much by what we do. Maybe we could see that our identity doesn’t go up and down like the stock market based on our performance. Rest forces us to exit the stage, look ourselves in the mirror, and deal with what’s beneath the surface.
Rest is a huge concept in the Bible. At creation, God himself actually rested (Genesis 2:1-2). The Lord who neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4) rested after his work. God himself modeled rest and created a space in the week for his people to receive his gift of rest. In the Ten Commandments, God commanded his people to keep the Sabbath holy, to rest from their labors, to set a day apart to worship and rest in the Lord (Exodus 20:8-11). Later the Lord would give his people rest from slavery in Egypt by bringing them into the Promised Land.
In the Bible, rest is more than taking a nap, watching TV, and unplugging from everything. Rest is a picture of the abundant life God’s people have in him…and the ultimate peace and joy that they will one day experience in his presence. When Jesus says, “Come to me…and I will give you rest,” he’s not talking about a study break. He’s talking about the fullness of salvation. Jesus offers rest, but there is a catch. We have to humble ourselves. We have to stop working to earn it. When God graces us with faith, we come to Jesus and find rest. The more we learn to rest in Jesus, the more we are freed from the slavery to work—whether it’s working for salvation, professors, or a boss.
There are many different views on the Sabbath, but several things are clear. God offers and commands us to rest, and rest is a wonderful gift. The question is: Will we receive it? In college the Lord taught me the beauty of taking one day a week to rest from work and to enjoy him. It wasn’t easy at first, and it’s still not easy now. But when I actively rest in Jesus, he changes my life; and when I don’t, I feel it. Would you consider taking a day (or even an hour) each week to receive God’s gift of rest? Don’t make it about what you’re doing or not doing. Make it about being with Jesus, laying down your burdens, and finding rest for your weary soul. Could it be that we’re so exhausted because we refuse to receive one of God’s greatest gifts…rest?
A few questions to consider:
• Where do I turn for rest? Does it provide real rest or just an escape?
• Why is it so hard for me to rest?
• Is rest something to do or a person? What if I believed that Jesus is rest?
A few things you could do:
• Listen to Shane & Shane’s song, “Psalm 62”, which focuses on resting in God.
• Think about how you approach your week. Do you focus most of your energy on Monday through Saturday, and then “dump” everything else on Sunday? Or do you prioritize Sunday and make the rest of the week “fall in line”? How would things change if you fought to make Sunday the best day and not the catch-up day of the week?
• Find friends who want to honor God by learning to rest. Make plans to enjoy God together on Sunday or another day. Some ideas: worship together, share a meal, read Scripture, pray, get outside, turn off your phones, enjoy conversation.