When doing nothing is the right thing to do

Mike Breen* is well known for pointing out that you don’t find Jesus ‘resting from work’, rather you find him ‘working from rest’. In other words, Jesus time of resting and recharging always came at the beginning, rather than at the end of the day, and whenever he faces a particular challenge, he always prepares himself by spending time alone with his Father. Mike goes on to challenge us to make sure our lives are ordered by rhythms of rest and work – whether on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis.

The word in the Bible for times of rest is ‘Sabbath’, and the Sabbath, declared Jesus, is made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath. Rest is God’s gift to us, given for our benefit and blessing. If we don’t begin with rest, we can’t work, and if we can’t work, our lives will be less and less fruitful and more and more joyless.

But ‘working from rest’ is not as easy as it sounds. My problem has always been that I am the sort of person who prefers to do things the other way round – in other words, ‘resting from work’. If there are tasks to be done I have problems switching off. I much prefer to start the day by getting stuck in so that I can get ahead. I say to myself, “Once everything is done, that’s when I’ll be able to truly rest.” Yet I know there is always more than enough to be done, and by the end of the day all I will be tempted to do is collapse on the sofa and fall asleep in front of the TV.

If you are like me, and struggle with the idea of ‘working from rest’, you might appreciate the wisdom of James Bryan Smith**, when he says that the three core elements of Sabbath are rest, trust, and surrendering control. ‘Resting from work’ expresses our faith in ourselves, whereas ‘working from rest’ demonstrates our faith in God. Putting rest first means putting the coming day, or week, or year into God’s hands. It is our way of saying that we trust God more than we trust ourselves, and that he is in control of things. It’s our way of saying that, whatever lies ahead, and whatever needs doing, God will give us the all guidance and help we need to get it done.

Summer, of course is the Sabbath season, when things slow down, and the long awaited holidays arrive. So, with some help from James Bryan Smith, I’ve come up with a set of rules to help me do some serious resting, (and maybe you will find them useful too).

  1. Leave your work behind! Switch off your work mobile, don’t take your blackberry with you, and don’t be tempted to check those emails.
  2. Rest! Sleeping is good – as much as you can!
  3. Play! Do the things you enjoy doing. Eat things you enjoy eating. Spend time with people you enjoy spending time with. Go to places you love going to.
  4. Abide! Make sure you spend some good quality time with God. Look back on the year and thank him for all his blessings. Add a good book by a Christian Author to your pile of holiday reading. Keep a daily journal of what God has been saying to you. Start each day in his presence.

I always feel that the sign of a good holiday is when you begin to want to be back at work again. That’s the true test of whether you will be ‘working from rest.’

Have a happy summer!

Much love


* Mike Breen – The Passionate Life

** James Bryan Smith – The Good and Beautiful Life