Why do we resist rest?
by Dr. Stephen Briix, Academic Dean, International College of Bible and Missions, Johannesburg, South Africa (and full-time Entrust staff member)
As I write this, our family has been in strict lockdown for around 10 weeks. This means for seven weeks my wife Tanya and our four kids have not left our property for any reason. I leave the house once a week to go to the local grocery store to get groceries and medicine. We do school together, worship together and I work from home. I was struggling with being discontent, when one of our supporters shared how he was loving time with God and his family.
My friend's approach to this time of disruption reminded me of Leviticus 25, where God teaches about the Sabbath year and the year of Jubilee. After six years of work, people were not allowed to work their fields for the seventh year. And after seven sets of seven (49 years), people would take a second year, the 50th year, off from working the fields. I used to think about how wonderful staying at home a year or two would be and wondered why the people never actually rested during those years. Ezekiel 20:16, Jeremiah 25:4-11 and 2 Chronicles 36:21 explain that Israel did not rest because their hearts were devoted to idols and that God judged Israel by giving the land its deserved rest by exiling Israel to Babylon.
As a result of this pandemic, I now realize why Israel never kept the year-long sabbath. Despite the opportunity to enjoy abundant life by connecting with God more and to worship him with those close to us, we can struggle with believing that life resides somewhere outside of God. Instead of being content with God and enjoying our family, we desire those perceived places of life (idols) and get upset because we cannot worship them as easily. We might even rationalize by stating all the benefits those idols bring. Like the Israelites who refused to rest for a year, we dislike being told to “stay at home.”
Many things in this pandemic are different than simply a year of rest. For example, it is truly a sacrifice to not be able to hug a hurting friend or worship together with the community. But we should learn from Israel. We should recognize where we are tempted to find life apart from God, repent and run to God instead of running to those idols. By doing so, like my friend, we can find life even during these difficult times.
Questions for further thought and discussion
What kinds of things have you found yourself desiring to do, but have been unable to do, while staying at home?
What are some reasons you think you struggled with giving those things up for a season?
What deeper needs were filled by those things you desired?
What might these things reveal about your heart or where you find meaning and purpose in life?
What are some ways you might respond to allow God to fill those deeper desires?