Balanced Life

Why Does Rest Sometimes Not Feel Restful?

Choose To Rest

We all look forward to rest.

We count down the days until vacation as we picture ourselves relaxing. We can’t wait until the weekend when we get some time off to decompress.

But then that day off comes… and the truth is it didn’t work out like we envisioned. There was that laundry to take care of or that creaky door to repair or that reading we have to catch up on or that last minute preparation for our presentation.

Our to-do lists are just as long as ever, and we feel overwhelmed. Maybe we take a day off and feel stressed the entire time as our tasks loom unfinished in the background. Maybe we give in and work anyway, feeling exhausted and looking forward now to the next day off – the time when we’ll really get to rest.

We like the idea of resting. But the practice is different… not nearly as soothing.

Why does rest not feel restful?

For Our Good

We know that rest should be something that we enjoy as Christians. After all, it was created for our good. God rested himself on the seventh day of creation as a model to us.

Christ affirms that the Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). And although we as New Testament Christians relate differently now to the Old Covenant laws of Sabbath, the principle stands: God’s idea of rest is something for our benefit instead of a burden.

I’d Feel Better If…

But rest can feel like a burden when it keeps us from tackling our to-do lists. We have that impending sense that we should be working on something else.

There’s that stress in the back of our mind that keeps us from fully relaxing. We think to ourselves, “Honestly, I’d just feel better if I worked on ____.” It’s tough to try and rest with that pressure still weighing us down.

But guess what? You’ll never be free of that pressure.

There will always be something more you can do. There will always be that stress. Even with 100 hours in a day, you’d still have no shortage of things you could do – obligations and stresses that have you feeling burdened.

If you need to get done with your to-do list in order to enjoy rest then you’ll never enjoy rest.


Consider this: rest is an act of obedience.

All throughout scripture, God ordered his people to take a Sabbath to rest. This commandment is a repeated theme throughout the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, Christ tells his disciples to rest (Mark 6:31).


Why would anyone choose not to rest?

Why would the Israelites struggle with obeying the Sabbath when it was relaxing, it was for their good, and it was commanded of them?

Because we want to work in order to accomplish. We feel the self-sufficient drive to do more, to be more, to strive more.

Rest requires us to trust God and to be dependent. We must trust that he’ll provide for us with the six days that we do work.

Choose to Rest

Here’s the solution to our conundrum: Rest often requires discipline.

Often, it requires intention and an act of the will.

We have to admit to ourselves that we don’t feel like resting. We feel like working.

But we choose to hit the pause button, to relax, to read, to pray, to think, to get refreshed, and to bring him glory. This doesn’t happen because we get to the end of our to-do list, and this doesn’t happen by accident.

Learn to take time off even with the pressure of unfinished work. Depend on Christ to give you the strength to deal with your fears. Cast that anxiety on him (1 Peter 5:7)… and choose to rest.

Photo Credit: Liber the poet (Creative Commons)

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