Permission to Rest

Woman resting in the grass

God designed us with a need for Sabbath and regular rest

Nearly six years ago, I crashed – big time.

I’d been battling fatigue and ongoing sinus and throat infections for years.  I was being held together by caffeine, adrenaline, antibiotics, and homeopathic remedies.  But nothing was working anymore, and I simply fell apart physically.

Finally, a doctor correctly diagnosed the underlying cause of my illnesses: Epstein Bar Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes your body to be susceptible to secondary infections.  “Great,” I thought, “so my problem has a name.  But that doesn’t solve anything.”

My health had deteriorated to the point where my doctor forcefully advised me to pull out of every activity I was involved in and confine myself to bed rest.  That hit me like a ton of bricks.

However, after the initial shock, I found a peace coming over me.  My Good Shepherd was forcing me to “lie down in green pastures.”  I was being given permission, in fact I was being ordered, to rest.  That’s exactly what I longed for but had not been emotionally strong enough to pursue on my own.  I needed my doctor to give me permission to tell everyone else, including myself, that this was what I needed.

My real problem is that I’m a pleaser, a perfectionist, a recovering workaholic.  

But six years ago, that all came to a screeching halt.  I pulled back from teaching and mentoring.  I pulled out of my volunteer duties at church and my kids’ school.  I stopped doing the grocery shopping and cleaning and cooking and child chauffeuring.  My days consisted of lying in bed sleeping, and occasionally reading or watching TV. REST was the order of the day.  For six weeks my husband picked up the slack until I finally began to return to good health.

What’s sad is that I had to wait for permission to do the very thing that God designed me to do.  It’s woven into the very fabric of creation.  Even God took the seventh day of creation to rest – not because He was worn out, but because He was establishing a rhythm for our lives.  God has created rhythms all around us, such as day and night, waking and sleeping, work and rest, even the seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall – to provide rhythm for our lives.

Rest and re-creation are God’s idea.

He wants us to experience this daily as we let go of the cares of the day, trust everything to Him, and go to sleep.  God also calls us to take weekly time for extended rest, known as Sabbath.  This concept is so important to God, not because God is a God of rules but because He’s a God of relationship.  Sabbath is a time for me to stop striving, fixing, or working.  It’s a time to delight in God and rest in His provision and goodness.

Many people question the validity of Sabbath, since we are “New Testament Christians.”  It’s the same question we have about tithing.  “Isn’t that an Old Testament practice that doesn’t apply now that we are in Christ?”  The answer is “yes” and “no.”  While Christ frees us from the law, God’s law is still good and life-giving.  Keeping the Ten Commandments is not what makes us right with God, because we’ll never be able to keep them all perfectly.  Only Jesus was perfect, and that’s why He alone was qualified to pay the price for our sin and disobedience to God’s law.

That doesn’t mean that we should ignore God’s law.  . .

God’s law is there to point the way toward God’s design for life, and God’s design for life includes a Sabbath – a day away from our toils to rest and enjoy His goodness.  When we fail to take a Sabbath, we are breaking away from one of God’s ways for filling our lives.  To break the Sabbath is to start playing God and forget that we are human, designed by God.

I can honestly say I am a long way from consistently practicing Sabbath.  But after my “crash,” I have come a long way in learning to honor my human limits.  I cannot and should not try to do everything.  I need regular times of rest where I set aside work and busyness to be present with God and those I love.  We all do.

Where might you be pushing yourself beyond your limits right now?  What is one change God might invite you to make in order to live a more balanced life?  Take a moment and leave a comment below – I’ll be sure to respond!

(This post is an excerpt from StressBusters: 40 Days With the Shepherd – a 40-day devotional by Linda & Phil Sommerville and others)


10 Comments

  1. Jann Alameda

    Hi Linda

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. Rest is very important. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in 1994. I determined it wasn’t going to take over my life. However, I have learned when to slow down and when to stop and rest. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jann, I’m so glad you’re learning to rest. Too bad we have to be diagnosed with something before we make it a priority. 🙂

  2. Linda
    I too am a perfectionist workaholic, and never do it good enough to please my worst critic–me! Thank you for sharing this. I hear the invitation to rest and be replenished. I need to stop putting that voice on hold…

    • Yes, Janet, it is sadly too easy to put that voice on hold, isn’t it? God’s still, small voice gets buried under the blaring demands of our lives (and our need to please that inner critic). Praying you find the rest you need. 🙂

  3. You are so right about seeking permission for rest!God has already granted us permission to receive rest from Him all day long. I know when I am praying for one of my kids to be sick, but not too sick, so I can stay at home to catch my breath is usually a sign I am not walking in this promise. Thanks Linda for the reminder. It has been one of those weeks!

  4. Linda Sommerville

    Isn’t it funny that we feel we need permission to rest? And thanks for being honest about your own “I-need-rest-danger-signs.” We all have them – I can totally relate. I’m praying that today you are able to find some space for yourself and some mental, physical, and spiritual rest (and that your kids don’t have to be sick for that to happen :))

  5. Pam Burns

    Thank you Linda. Just this weekend I still didn’t recognize the need to rest and reprioritize the chores ahead of me. Thankfully someone dear to me brought it to my attention. God works in amazing ways, we just need to be aware. Thank you for your message, which I obviously needed to hear!

    • I love how God repeats things so that we have the chance to “get it.” I hope you find the rest you need.

  6. Patty Licata

    Linda,

    God is SO Good! I too suffer from the same condition and after last week’s Connections, I went home and crashed. Stayed home most of that week and the first part of this week. However, this time, I knew what was going on, and I praised God for the down-time and allowing me to focus on Him rather than my condition, the laundry, the bills, and everything else that demands my attention. This time, I had very little guilt as I rested because I knew it was what He wanted me to do. Life’s hard and hectic enough without us adding to the mess with self-induced guilt and priorities.

    • Linda Sommerville

      Patty, I’m so glad you’re getting the rest you need. And praise God you’re doing it without feeling guilty! That is huge! And something that many women really struggle with. Enjoy your rest and God’s presence, my friend.

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