How Much Rest is Enough?
Looking at Balance Differently
The culture of the United States is so firmly rooted in the Puritan “work ethic.”
We grab hold of verses like “if a man does not work, neither shall he eat,” and clichés that are almost elevated to the level of Scripture like “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” and we soldier onward to be good people, good Christians, good Americans by becoming ever more productive.
We give promotions to those who put in long hours, we celebrate burnout in the name of progress, and we elevate the status of the exhausted.
Even at Impactivity, at times it can seem that everything we say revolves around the Dream, the work, and the stuff we’re getting done.
But an interesting fact is revealed when we look at the biblical model of work/rest balance, and do some math about our lives.
When you add the eight hours of sleeping time, the one day of Sabbath rest, and the seven or so feast days of the Old Testament, you find that the pattern God laid out for times of resting vs. working is almost 50/50.
It works out to just under 4000 hours out of about 9000 hours in a year. (And that’s not taking into account the Year of Jubilee, when everyone got a whole year off!) If you consider the hours of darkness (before artificial light was invented), it probably would be about 50% of your life that was not spent working.
How does that realization change the way we think about rest?
For many of us, “rest” is a short-lived collapse at the end of an exhausting day. It’s an hour or two of crashing in front of the TV or a few minutes of mindless social media distraction.
What would happen if instead we thought of our work and rest as a steady rhythm of almost equal back-and-forth? Work-Rest-Work-Rest.
What would happen if we put thoughtful effort into our Rest?
If we took time to sink down into it, fully feel it, breathe deeply through it, see the restorative beauty in it?
You might argue that Americans actually have two days off, rather than a single Sabbath. That we take more vacation time than seven Feast Days. So maybe we are actually resting more than we need to, even more than we should.
But give some thought here. What does your weekend typically look like? Rest? Or does it look like catching up on all the work you didn’t get done through the week, the work around the house, the errands and shopping? Not so restful.
And sleep? Getting enough?
And vacation… restful? Or packed full to things to do, stuff to see…
The truth is that for most of us, time spent working and “time off” don’t look much different from each other.
And that is sad.
Because we are not machines.
We are not Puritan work horses, bred for getting stuff done and nothing more.
We have the capacity for so much more than work. That steady rhythm of work-rest is as beautiful as music.
And if that doesn’t convince you, don’t forget that we are created in the image of a God who felt rest was so important for us that he established it in the very order of creation itself, and then made a law about it for his people to follow.
Take some time to rest today.
If you’d like a guide to a one-hour mini-retreat, check out the resource in the “deeper” section below.