The Art of Rest

It’s hard to rest—to truly rest. It’s easy enough to be busy or to be lazy, but neither one is synonymous with rest and neither one displaces the need to rest. Rest is a necessity and a skill. You might even say it’s an art.

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Rest is the subject of a new book by Adam Mabry who admits his own struggles in this area: “I don’t do rest. I do do.” He, like me and so many of us, would rather do than stop doing, would rather produce than rest. But he has learned the high cost of constant motion and the high value of pausing. “I’m writing this book hoping you can learn to rest—how to rest and why you should and why it’s great. And I’m hoping that you can start enjoying it before you reach the point of crashing like I did. I’m writing to introduce you to—or reacquaint you with—Sabbath rest. I’m writing to sell Sabbath rest to you.”

To be clear, he’s not pitching a legalistic notion of Sabbath that owes more to the Old Testament than to the New. But he’s also not allowing us to say that the necessity of resting has been completely abolished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes, we find our ultimate rest in him, but that doesn’t negate the need to deliberately rest our minds, souls, and bodies on a regular basis. “Very simply, Sabbath is a time of rest, holy to the Lord. It is time that is given to God, to receive refreshment from God.” Why wouldn’t you want that? Why wouldn’t you ensure it is a regular, essential part of your life?

Through the book’s six chapters, Mabry shows all that is bound up in this pattern of rest: Rest allows remembering, rest is resistance, rest restores relationship, and rest brings reward. It turns out rest is an essential part of life, but one we often neglect to our harm and the harm of the people around us.

He finishes with a chapter titled “Starting to Stop” which is very practical in suggesting daily, weekly, and yearly patterns of rest along with habits to implement for each of them. “To the stressed-out mom and the beaten-up brother, to the crumbling volunteer and the anxiously overwrought worker, to the pastor who thinks the key is always more and the Christian who struggles to stop, come with me. I’m imperfect at this art, but I’m convinced it’s important. Like a child learning the violin, I’m going to keep picking up the bow, tuning the strings, and learning to love this strange new feeling of restfulness.”

That sounds like something that would benefit each one of us. In a busy, busy age and in our busy, busy lives, it’s essential that we learn the art of rest. Mabry serves as a steady guide. I echo Jon Bloom’s recommendation: “We in the 24/7 world of the West have forgotten why and how to rest. As a result, we’re over-extended and sleep-deprived. Our relationships are strained, our bodies suffer stress-induced disorders, and worst of all, our worship of God is superficial. We need help. And Adam Mabry’s book is a great help. Here we get to the heart of the problem and then find very helpful recommendations for recovering the lost art of rest.”

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