The Mystery of Rest

Every person I have ever met has this in common; they want rest! Oh, I need a vacation! Perfect rest translates into images of lounging upon the sands of the Bahamas. While “getaways” can be a good thing at times, the problem is that wherever we go, we bring ourselves along with us. If there is not rest within, there really can never be true rest without wherever we may be, or however ideal the setting.

In continuing our meditations on the great Sabbath commandment, we wish to explore the mystery of rest. Again we go back to creation. The seventh day is the great culmination of creation, and the word “rest” is given to describe the essence of this day. We have seen that rest is not mere inactivity. In my flesh, there is hardly a day that goes by that I do not long, on some level, to get away from stressful situations and the rough grind of life. Rest therefore means no responsibility, of wearing a big sign that says “do not disturb.” Oh for the hammock, that great symbol of bliss! However, the idea of rest in the Bible is deeply theological and will not yield to such superficial interpretations.

Rest in the Bible is closely associated with the idea of blessedness. God blessed His creation, and in doing so, empowered everything He made to function according to its design. To be at rest, then, is to be in a state of creation blessedness, functioning as God designed us to be and function. Another term associated with rest is ‘peace.” “Shalom” is also a creation word linked to blessedness. Peace is an interior state of being that entails being in harmony with God and creation; the blessedness of the seventh day. It has nothing to do with self centered desires to be left alone without any responsibilities. Indeed, such longings lead to the deadly sin of sloth, where we lose our will to strive for perfection, and desire to be served rather than to serve.

God’s rest, supernatural rest, is a paradox of interior rest birthed in blessedness and peace, with action. As with all paradoxes, one must search out its mystery. It helps to have a model of what such rest looks like, and there are many saints that have exhibited this supernatural rest. However, there is no model better than Jesus Himself. Look at how He moves about each day. Oh so busy! Oh so responsible! Oh how He spent Himself for others! Oh how physically tired! Yet, He never is in a hurry, never stressed, never is afraid, always in deep peace and blessedness, and at one with His Father. Jesus claimed that He was “Lord of the Sabbath.” By this He meant, along with His authority, that He was the Sabbath, He was rest itself!

We penetrate into this mystery of rest and action by love. Love energizes us for action, yet brings a state of interior blessedness and peace. Such love comes from an ever deepening life of prayer where our wills come in union with God. By nature we are fighting God with our wills, and this brings on restlessness, fear, and anger. In contrast to this, Jesus invites us to take up His Yoke, for His burden is light! Rest is the harvesting of the fruit of the Seventh Day of creation. We instinctively sense it in persons who have attained it, don’t we? Ah, let us long for this kind of rest!

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