Why You Should Get Some Rest

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What is the Science?

Recent research into sleep patterns suggest that getting less sleep leads to poorer memory, reasoning abilities, and productivity. While people’s sleep needs vary some, one study suggests that around 69% of people who live in first world countries wake up an hour before their circadian clocks tell them to; one-third wake up two hours before. Yet, it appears that downtime and rest are an important component to success. A 2015 study on creativity and downtime concluded that over 40% of our creative ideas come when we are on a break. A 2014 study on college students and exam scores showed that more sleep leads to higher test scores. Running coach and author of Peak Performance, Steve Magness, offers a simple equation to break down the essential components of growth: stress+rest=growth. Without both pushing one’s self and resting, growth will not occur. Consequently, Magness insists we should not feel guilty about taking a day off. As a matter of fact, Peak Performance co-author, Brad Stulberg, argues that you should view rest as a way to benefit work. In other words, it is an active enterprise, not a passive, lazy waste of time.

“One-third of people are required to wake up two hours before their circadian clocks, or ‘natural waking times,’ tell them to.” – Cody C. Delistraty

What is the Theology?

Ever since God rested on the seventh day of creation, God’s people have viewed rest as an essential activity of all creation. Other parts of the Old Testament emphasize this rhythm. Israel is commanded to, “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, NRSV). Every seven years, they should leave the land fallow; and every fifty years, during the year of Jubilee, the entire land takes a sabbath rest, Israelite slaves are set free, and families return to their properties which poverty forced them to sell (Lev 25). Jesus reaffirmed the importance of rest and reminded his listeners that, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Hebrews uses this theme to illustrate what it will be like in the new creation, where, “a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). Yet this command has never been about resting so that we are more productive, although that is a byproduct; rather, it is about who we are in Christ. We are not defined by how hard we work or what we get done. We are defined by who God is and what God has done. When we take a sabbath rest, we remember again that we can never earn God’s love and salvation. Instead, we are loved from the moment God created the world, regardless of how much we can do.

What to Consider

  • What does the work-rest pattern look like in your life? Have you emphasized one over the other? What have been the results of this pattern?
  • Why do you think God rested on the seventh day? Why might it be important for us to take a sabbath rest?
  • What are some things you do during your rest time? How does this contribute to your general well-being?

How to go Deeper

  • Hold a Sabbath retreat for your congregation. Put the emphasis on Sabbath rest, rather than filling all the available time. Provide opportunities for fun, restorative activities (sports, games, hobbies) and for relaxing and sleeping.
  • Restructure your weekly congregational routine so that your congregational Sabbath provides opportunities for both rest and relationship-building.
  • Preach a sermon on Sabbath-keeping and rest. Brainstorm different ideas to facilitate a cycle of work-rest.

Relevant Scripture

All references in parenthesis refer to Lectionary readings. For more information on what the Lectionary is, please click here. For additional Lectionary resources click here.

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About the Author:

Zach is currently a PhD student at Fuller Theological Seminary researching the role of leaders in congregational change. His calling in life is to train and equip pastors to faithfully lead local congregations. When not studying, he'll most likely be watching Sporting Kansas City score goals or hiking with his wife and two kids.

7 Comments

  1. Rich Gideons August 2, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Good article and I believe it definitely hits the mark with society today. We should have more time for rest with all of the innovation and technology but it’s actually the opposite where we have filled our days with even more busyness! It’s interesting how less advanced countries have a much slower pace and value rest much more than we in the USA do. Thankful for God’s reminders through His Holy Spirit to “be still and know He is God”,
    occasionally.

    • matt@ncstudycenter.org August 4, 2017 at 11:09 pm

      I wonder how much digital technologies (going to bed with phones or tablets) have affected our sleep habits?

      • AustinF August 8, 2017 at 8:00 pm

        Probably terribly. I know I have gotten into the habit of feeling the need to check my phone before I got to sleep and when I wake up.

  2. matt@ncstudycenter.org August 4, 2017 at 11:10 pm

    What is the recommended sleep per night? I’ve heard 6 hours, 7 hours, 8 hours, and more. Is there a scientifically agreed upon number?

  3. AustinF August 8, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Rest is so misunderstood in our society. Great reminder.

  4. marymact@gmail.com August 9, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I love the idea that rest actually makes us more productive/ better at our work. I usually try to power through with as little rest as possible thinking that will earn me the highest test scores or level of fitness. But really we need rest in order to grow!

  5. Reed Metcalf September 12, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    I find it interesting that scientific research is more or less proving a positive effect of one aspect of a commandment from God. I think, though, that this might lead us into a misreading or co-opting of the Sabbath. I think it is purposeful that God made rest be beneficial to our health, but I don’t think the main take away of the various theological aspects of the Sabbath is that we can be more productive. The Sabbath (and the Sabbath Year) in Scripture is oriented instead around: 1. trust in God’s provision, not our own; 2. recognizing that God is the one who holds the universe together, not us; 3. respect for the land God has given us to care for; 4. our human flourishing. While this research really drives home the fourth point (which is good!), I think we need to be careful not to co-opt and reduce the Sabbath (even more than we already do) to make it solely about us and our benefit.

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