Many times, it feels like we live only for the weekends.
When we’re at work (or school), we can’t wait to go home. When we’re at home, doing paperwork or homework, we can’t wait for a relaxing weekend. And when we get to the weekend, we can’t wait for when we’re on vacation and have more days of rest.
In other words, we live for a rest that never comes. We look to the world which will end up one day in fire and smoke (2 Pet. 3:10) as if it could ever bring us anything but temporary rest.
But we can break this cycle when we choose to find our lasting rest in God.
Does this sound too good to be true? Surprisingly enough, it isn’t make-believe. In the book of John, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water from a well. But she was shocked that a Jew would ask her that. Then Jesus, happy to find an opportunity to witness, said:
“If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. . . . Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
(John 4:10, 13-14, KJV)
So we see that God has the monopoly on satisfying our thirst forever, but how do we obtain His life-giving water? How do we rely on Him to satisfy us with His rest?
Genesis 2 shows us that God has a lot to say on man’s work and rest balance.
1. God emphasizes work
Not what you wanted to hear? This isn’t always our favorite biblical principle, but in the first three verses of Genesis 2, God emphasized that His work was completed before He rested. And that’s because work is one of the keys to rest.
Don’t believe me? Read the Scriptures for yourself:
- Gen. 2:1: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished”
- Gen. 2:2: “God ended his work”
- Gen. 3:3 (emphasis mine): “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made”
We need something to rest from. There’s just no way around that. And I don’t know about you, but when I try to rest before finishing work, it stresses me out.
In His wisdom, God wired our brains to get excited whenever we accomplish our goals. As Psychology Today states, “The satisfaction of ticking off a small task is linked with a flood of dopamine,” the feel-good chemical of your body.
It’s one of the many ways God encourages us to work. Another is the motivation of a healthy life. After all, the best way for us to stay in physical and mental fitness is to keep our minds and bodies in motion. And what we don’t use, atrophies.
If work seems out of place for a discussion on how to rest, consider Hebrews 4:11:
“Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”
We must labor before we rest.
I feel like sometimes we treat work as if it’s a curse from the Fall, but God put Adam to work before anyone had ever sinned. God actually planted a garden (Gen. 2:8), just to keep Adam busy and productive.
And it’s not like God needed Adam. He had a mist go up to water the earth, and He could’ve easily created other ways to take care of His garden.
And yet before the fall of man, God set us to work.
You may ask yourself why God did this to us, but you and I must readjust the way we see ourselves, our jobs, and Adam.
We must remember that our purpose is to glorify God (ref. Matt. 5:16), and we can’t usually do that when we’re napping in bed.
Also, we must remember that Adam’s experience with work differed from ours. We know about work and toil, but he only knew about work.
And there is a difference: toil is intense and involves failure before success, but work doesn’t have to be either of those things.
Think about it. Before the fall, there were no thorns and thistles for Adam to pull, no creaking bones or sore muscles to ignore, and no dangerous beasts or hungry critters to ward off the crops. Before the curse, working must have been like having a near-continual flood of dopamine.
He lived in a perfect world! Death wasn’t a thing. Unfairness and oppression wasn’t a thing. The curse that sin brought had not yet touched creation’s ability to grow and thrive in harmony.
Yeah, Adam worked. He may have been tired by the end of the day, too–but he didn’t toil. He was at peace with God and it was easy, being sinless, to obey God’s command to work. Even while working, he was at rest.
Now you may all be thinking, that sounds like the perfect work environment! I don’t have that! Maybe not, but we must do all things for the glory of God, as if we were working for Jesus himself (1 Cor. 10:31).
And we must remember what happened to David when he didn’t go to work during a time of war, when he should have been leading his men to battle.
But instead, he lazed about and gave the Enemy opportunity to attack.
And when the apostles were asleep when they should have been laboring in prayer, they fell to the temptation to run away from Jesus (Matt. 26:40, 56).
And we are told that we ought to work for our money and give charitably to others instead of stealing others’ cash, almost as if the former will prevent the latter.
In other words, God knew that we would either be busy doing good or wasting away. Therefore, work is not our enemy, but our friend.
But if that’s the case, then why do we sometimes hate it? Well, the easy answer is that as people with a fleshly nature, all manner of sin comes naturally to us, and all manner of righteousness comes unnaturally to us.
But besides that, it’s easy to hate work when we don’t do it correctly. Which brings me to the next principle in Genesis 2.
2. God emphasizes rest.
Something that we tend to miss is that God wasn’t the only one who rested from His works. After Adam named all the animals that God sent his way, he also rested.
As we mentioned earlier, God doesn’t need man to uphold His creation. A lot of times, we have what I call Elijah’s “I am the only one” syndrome. That is, we think that if we don’t do x, y, and z for God right now, no one else will.
I used to be annoyed with how often people derided Christians in general, and especially Christians who believed in Creationism, as “unscientific” and stupid.
It made me really wish that God had made me more of a scientist.
But as it is, I only have a passive interest in science, and usually it involves details that could be used in a book, such as how long a person can go without food and water, instead of biology as a whole.
Frustrated, I asked God why I couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm for Biology to prove the mockers wrong. At that moment, it was as if God rolled his eyes at me, saying that He gave me a love for English and math–what else did I want?
And that is a good question. The reason I wanted to like biology was to prove Christians weren’t stupid, and yet I acted like I was the only Christian out there.
I was frustrated because of a lie. I had the prophet Elijah’s foolish belief that he was the only worshiper left. And yet what did God say to Elijah’s complaints? He said, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (1 Kgs. 19:10).
I wasn’t alone. There are still Christian Creationists like geneticist Dr. James Allan, geologist Dr. Steve Austin, biochemist Dr. S.E. Aw, biologist and physiologist Dr. Jerry Bergman, biologist and biochemist Professor Vladimir Betina, and so many more.
But even if there really weren’t others fit to do the job, we can still rest. Funny, isn’t it, that when Adam really was the only one, he didn’t feel like he had to do everything.
Now you may be thinking that this sounds too good to be true. You’re stressed, busy, or worried, and that leaves you with little room for rest. But if we say that we believe in God, we should take His presence into account.
Adam did. He knew the world needed tending, and he knew that this job fell to him because he was the only man in existence. But he also knew that he was just a man of clay and dust, so he rested after he’d worked for a day.
And God blessed Adam’s efforts–which brings us to the need for faith.
3. God emphasizes faith.
We can’t rest when we don’t trust God to take care of us in the trials of life. After we’re done with one mountain of work, someone else adds a heap to your load. If we’re hoping for rest here, we’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Sometimes, we don’t manage to meet our goals or solve our problems, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rest. God put Adam into a deep sleep even though he hadn’t found someone compatible with him in all of creation yet.
Adam just did his best to accomplish what God had commanded him to do, and then he rested peacefully. But while Adam slept, God worked.
God makes the same promise to us when he says, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his [God’s] rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Heb. 4:9-10).
God doesn’t hide the secret of a restful life from us: Yes, we must work. Yes, we must take breaks once we’ve reached our goals, or done our best to reach them. But this balance isn’t possible unless we truly believe that God will both bless our labor and work for us while we rest.
Adam didn’t find someone like him through his own efforts. God formed Eve when Adam slept. Of course, he had to do his part, but in the end, as with every other human endeavor, God is the one who will open or close a door of opportunity for us.
As Paul says, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6).
So don’t resist the “deep sleep” that God wants to give you (Gen. 2:21)! What you see as a waste of time might be when God works on your behalf.
Why should we try to bear all our burdens on our own? The constant stress eventually destroys us, and the sleeplessness wears down our bodies and our brains, making us susceptible to Alzheimer’s and many other diseases.
Popular media sometimes makes it sound like it’s a bad thing thing to need God and to need the rest that only He can provide–it’s like they forget we’re human. But friends, we don’t have to believe their lies!
Whether it’s time to work or sleep, let’s remember that we need both for a balanced life. Even when we’re struggling, let’s remember that David was often hunted by his enemies, sometimes running on fumes and sometimes bored in a cave, and yet he said,
“I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me” (Ps. 3:5).