For the next few weeks, I am going to be writing a series on a Biblical view of health. As I’ve walked through the journey of chronic illness, God has taught me so much about how He views how we take care of our bodies. If you talk to me for more than 15 minutes you probably know I’m pretty passionate about passing along what I’ve learned. I am going to use this series to pass some of that along. I’m going to talk about rest, gluttony, Jesus as our healer, fasting, etc. I have covered some of these topics in this post.
In our day and age, rest is a hard commodity to come by. We’re just too busy. Everything is go, go, go, and there is always something that needs to be done. Our to-do lists are miles long and when we do manage to squeeze in the time to get some downtime, we’re often too tired to actually enjoy it, or too hard-wired for work to even be able to rest. We just can’t sit down and do nothing! But rest is crucial. It’s crucial to our physical health as well as our spiritual health.
Rest in the Bible
God’s example of Rest
The first time rest is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 2:2. Right after God finished creating the earth, He literally took a day off to rest. And then He called that day holy. Rest is literally holy work.
Genesis 2:2-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
I think it’s important to note here, that God did not need rest. He is totally self-sufficient. Isaiah 40:28 says, “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.” God’s rest on the 7th day was meant to be an example to us, His creation, because He knew we would not be self-sufficient and we would need rest. He was setting an example for us to follow.
God’s Command to Rest
Later on in the Scriptures, when God gives Moses the 10 commandments (the 10 rules He chose to rule His people with) He literally commanded the Israelites to rest on the 7th day of the week.
Exodus 20:8-10 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
God wants us to rest. He wants us to take one day a week to take a sabbath, a day of rest, set aside to remember Him.
Jesus’ Example of Rest
Jesus who is fully God and therefore is fully self-sufficient also set an example of rest in the New Testament. He also encouraged his disciples to rest.
Mark 6:31-32 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them,“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
Jesus and the disciples were so busy ministering to others needs, that they hadn’t even had a chance to eat. So Jesus insisted they take some time off, go to a quite place and rest. He knew they needed it, and we do too.
Jesus also tells us in the book of Matthew that he will give us rest, if we come to him.
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The Bible has a lot to say about rest. These are just a few of the many instances of rest in the Bible. But what does rest have to do with your health? Let’s see what the science says.
Rest and Your Health
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary rest has 6 different definitions. We often think of rest simply as sleep but rest can actually many forms. While sleep is crucial to your health, rest can also simply be “freedom from activity or labor” or “peace of mind or spirit” (mental rest). I think all of these forms of rest are important.
Sleep/ Physical Rest
A quick google search of the symptoms of lack of sleep include moodiness, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and even things like high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, auto-immunity, and heart disease are linked to chronic sleep loss. Dr. Sarah Ballyntine of The Paleo Mom blog says “Getting enough sleep isn’t just about preventing inflammation; it’s also about repairing the body and modulating the immune system.” A lack of physical rest (sleep) can lead to long term health issues. While an adequate amount of sleep can actually repair the damage in your body.
In our go-go-go social media addicted, Netflix binge-watching society our brains are constantly inputting information. While watching a show may be your idea of rest, it’s not giving your brain the break that it needs. Symptoms of mental burnout can include anything from increased sickness, headaches, back pain, and change in appetite, to depression and anxiety. According to Ferris Jabr of the Scientific American, “[Mental] downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.”
How to Rest
Now that we’ve talked about what the Bible says about rest and how rest can affect both your physical and mental health, let’s quickly talk about how to get the rest you need. I started this series with the topic of rest because it’s fairly easy to make changes to get the rest you need. You just have to give yourself the permission to do it, to put aside or reevaluate your to-do list, and take a break.
Follow the Bible’s Example.
God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament give us an example to follow when it comes to rest. God rested when His work was done. He stopped working and rested. And Jesus took his disciples away to a place of solitude for rest. If you want to rest start by following these examples.
Go to bed.
You don’t need to watch another episode of whatever you’re watching on Netflix. Just turn it off and go to sleep. It may take time for your body to adjust to an earlier bedtime, but commit to doing it and eventually, it won’t be an issue. Plus, you’ll reap the wonderful benefits of being fully rested.
Turn off your devices.
Commit to taking a break from your devices. Take a walk in the woods, paint, talk to your friend face-to-face, listen to some calm music even; do whatever you need to do to give your mind a break from the constant input of your devices. If it’s too hard at first, just put the timer on for 5 minutes and commit to not looking at any device. Eventually, your mind will get used to it and you can make the time longer and longer. Give your brain a break.
Mindfulness and meditation are hot topics in the health world right now, so I use this word a little bit of caution, as the world’s version of these things is often not in line with Scripture. But the Scriptures do often talk about meditating on God’s word. God promises us rest in His Word and that often comes through meditating on His Word. (Psalms 1:2, Psalms 19:14, Joshua 1:8)
After seeing what the Bible says and what the science says, do you think rest matters? What do you do to find the space to rest in your life? Do you believe God cares about how much sleep you’re getting? I’d love to hear in the comments below.