“He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.” —Benjamin Franklin
Ask any physician and they will tell you rest is essential for physical health. When the body is deprived of sleep, it is unable to rebuild and recharge itself adequately. Your body requires rest.
Ask any athlete and they will tell you rest is essential for physical training. Rest is needed for muscles to repair themselves and prevent injury. This is true whether you run marathons, pitch baseballs, or climb rocks. Your muscles require rest.
Ask many of yesterday’s philosophers and they will tell you rest is essential for the mind. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.” And Ovid, the Roman poet, said, “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” Your mind requires rest.
Ask most religious leaders and they will tell you rest is essential for the soul. Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, and Wiccan (among others) teach the importance of setting aside a period of time for rest. Your soul requires rest.
Ask many corporate leaders and they will tell you that rest is essential for productivity. Forbes magazine recently wrote, “You can only work so hard and do so much in a day. Everybody needs to rest and recharge.” Your productivity requires rest.
Physicians, athletes, philosophers, poets, religious leaders, and corporate leaders all tell us the same thing: take time to rest. It is absolutely essential for a balanced, healthy life.
Yet, when you ask people in today’s frenzied culture if they intentionally set aside time for rest, most will tell you they are too busy. Even fewer would say they set aside any concentrated time (12-24 hours) for rest. There are just too many things to get done, too many demands, too many responsibilities, too many bills, and too much urgency. Nobody can afford to waste time resting in today’s results-oriented world.
Unfortunately, this hectic pace is causing damage to our quality of life. We are destroying every sense of our being (body, mind, and soul). There is a reason we run faster and work harder, but only fall further behind. Our lives have become too full and too out of balance. Somewhere along the way, we lost the essential practice of concentrated rest.
But we would be wise to reclaim the practice of resting one day each week. Consider the benefits of concentrated rest for your body, mind, and soul:
Healthier body. We each get one life and one body to live it in. Therefore, we eat healthy, we exercise, and we watch our bad habits. But then we allow our schedules to fill up from morning to evening. Rest is as essential to our physical health as the water we drink and the air we breathe.
Less stress. Stress is the perception that the situations we are facing are greater than the resources we have to deal with them—resources such as time, energy, ability, and help from others. Concentrated rest confronts stress in two ways. First, it reduces the demands of the situation. We have no demands on us as long as we have the ability to mentally let go of unfinished tasks. Secondly, rest reduces stress by increasing our resources, particularly energy.
Deeper relationships. A day set aside each week for rest allows relationships with people to deepen and be strengthened. When we aren’t rushing off to work or soccer practice, we are able to enjoy each other’s company and a healthy conversation. And long talks prove to be far more effective in building community than short ones on the ride to the mall.
Opportunity for reflection. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees. It is even more difficult to see the forest when we are running through the trees. Concentrated rest allows us to take a step back, to evaluate our lives, to identify our values, and determine if our life is being lived for them.
Balance. Taking one day of your week and dedicating it to rest will force you to have an identity outside of your occupation. It will foster relationships outside of your fellow employees. It will foster activities and hobbies outside work. It will give life and identity outside of your Monday-Friday occupation. Rather than defining your life by what you do, you can begin to define it by who you are.
Increased production. Just like resting physical muscles allows them opportunity to rejuvenate which leads to greater physical success, providing our minds with rest provides it opportunity to refocus and rejuvenate. More work is not better work. Smarter work is better work.
Reserve for life’s emergencies. Crisis hits everyone. Nobody who is alive is immune from the trials of life. By starting the discipline today of concentrated rest, you will build up reserves for when the unexpected emergencies of life strike and rest is no longer an option.
Properly developing a discipline of concentrated rest requires both inward and outward changes. Consider these steps to reclaiming the lost practice of weekly rest in your life.
1. Find contentment in your current life. Much of the reason we are unable to find adequate rest is because we are under the constant impression that our lives can and should be better than they are today. This constant drive to improve our standing through the acquisition of money, power, or skills robs us of contentment and joy. Ultimately, rest is an extension of our contentment and security. Without them, simplicity and rest is difficult, if not impossible. Stop focusing on what you don’t have and start enjoying the things you do. (tweet that)
2. Plan your rest. Rest will come only from intentional planning and planning rest will come only if it is truly desired. Put it on your calendar. Learn to say no to any tasks that attempt to take precedent. Plan out your day of rest by choosing creative activities that are refreshing and encourage relationships. Understand that true rest is different than just not working. As the Cat in the Hat wisely said, “It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” Avoid housework. Plan meals in advance to help alleviate cooking responsibilities. And by all means, turn off your television and email.
3. Take responsibility for your life. You are not a victim of your time demands. You are the creator and acceptor of them. Refuse to complain or make excuses. Change your habits instead. Remember, you are only as busy as you choose to be. Leave “if only” excuses to the kids. If needed, alert your employer about your desire for rest and tell them you will be unavailable on that particular day.
4. Embrace simplicity. Embrace a lifestyle that focuses on your values, not your possessions. It is difficult to find rest when the housework is never finished, the yard needs to be mowed, or the garage needs to be organized.
5. Include your family. It is much easier to practice the discipline of concentrated rest if your family is practicing it too. The fact that this gets more difficult as your kids get older should motivate you to start as soon as possible.
6. Live within your income. A debtor is a slave to his creditor. It is difficult to find rest for your mind when you are deep in debt. The constant distress of your responsibility to another may preclude you from truly enjoying a day off. It is possible; it’s just more difficult. Don’t overspend your income, live within it.
7. Realize the shallow nature of a results-oriented culture. If you live in a results-oriented culture where productivity alone is championed, rest is countercultural. And thus, the saying goes, “If you rest, you rust.” Rest may even be seen as a sign of weakness by others. Unfortunately, that view of humanity’s role in this world is shallow. It is true that many of the benefits from concentrated rest are not tangible; but then again, only a fool believes all good things can be counted.
Rabbi Elijah of Vilna once said, “What we create becomes meaningful to us only once we stop creating it and start to think about why we did so.” The implication is clear. We could live lives that produce countless widgets, but we won’t start truly living until we stop producing and start enjoying.
Capture the lost practice of taking rest and start living again.
Overtime is essential for productivity. Just ask the corporate leader of my company.
Yes, but at what cost to your most valuable resource – your people. Given the response without further context, it looks like OT is important despite the people (i.e. OT is important no matter what). It’s a balance, and yes, while it is important at times “for productivity,” If people are not bought into the “why” behind the overtime, they will burn out based on the incongruity priorities of the company vs. their personal needs / wants. Tree companies and supervisors that are leaders understand this.
Ana Maria Sutphin says
Joshua, I just found this article as I was looking into God’s idea of rest…or I should say Rest from a biblical perspective. I agree that there is not command from Jesus or apostles to keep a specific day of rest. New Covenant. We are told to gather together often; and it became the practice of the early Christians to gather on the Lord’s Day…the day of his resurrection and the day of Pentecost…the coming of the Holy Spirit. And yes, that was the first day of the week! So be it!! And if I couldn’t do it on rest and worship on Sunday, as has happened in the past due to a job, I worshiped and rested on another day. My rest and worship was as valid and pleasing to Jesus as if it had been done on Sunday. Its a shame that even now, in 2021, there are people who will be slaves to the law instead of living in the reality of grace…and expect others to do so. I do realize its a complicated issue for some people.
This article is very well thought and written. Helpful, too, in that I am prone to not remember that my day of rest means just that, rest. But I am going to take your suggestions and commit to do a better job of honoring Jesus on my day of rest and worship and not use it as a catch up day. We always have a choice!! For many people, the desire for the benefits of rest and worship isn’t so strong that they would whole-heartedly commit to changing their habits. Thank you for posting this article. It still resonates years later!!
Robert L Rogers says
I beg to differ, the forth commandment mentions a day of rest. Faiths may differ on which day.
This is what I need today. Replenish, refresh and recharge. This is perfect. Thank you Joshua.
As a Lutheran, we believe the third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Thanks for the gentle reminder.
Milly Jean says
It’s nice to see I’m not the only one who thinks hard work is highly overrated in our culture! I wouldn’t call it a “results-oriented” culture though. It’s a productivity-oriented culture. If we were results-oriented, we’d see the results of a lack of rest and act accordingly, right? :)
hardwork it not overrated rest is. on working days work as hard as you can and rest aswell you lazy dishwasher.. go make me a sandwitch
Samuel rex saracin chavez says
I like the idea of using paper plates on a busy day. I had never tried it. Perhaps like many couple, we still pay to cook our own meals, wash the soiled dishes like its never to going to get done. Plus living within and around our means. Having enough to pay bills. Although the reality is, you almost always have enough until the bills keep coming. I found that maybe its a woman thing, its a fierce belief system that household chores are never truly done. I like look walks but rarely find the time to take weekend naps. In fact i find my best nap to be just dozing off in the bench doing nothing for a few darn minutes something driven people rarely find amusing.
jan conwell says
I’m sure the folks who took their day of rest still cooked and cleaned up after meals. They might have left off washing laundry or tilling fields, but the cows still needed milking and the chickens feeding.
So maybe we can do the minimum that MUST be done daily, but save the majority of the day for reading, porch sitting, cloud watching, or just nothing in particular. It’s hard for driven people to do nothing, but it is certainly a skill worth developing.
My mother always cooked ahead and/or prepared ahead so on church day she was completely “non-working.” Disposables and already prepared food or a picnic basket ready to go. She was a teacher and said she needed one day of rest.
Timothy Black says
Even if you’re not religious, it’s interesting to note that one of the 10 commandments is essentially “take a day off.”
Equal to not cheating, killing, lying or stealing. It’s fascinating really.
Marva Culps says
Gary Midura says
That’d be the Fourth Commandment. Exodus 20:8-11
Robert Rogers says
Forth commandment is the one you are looking for.