3 Reasons Why Insanely Busy College Students MUST Rest

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MCGEE NALL // SENIOR

Something Courtney posted on her blog the other day struck a chord with me (if you haven't read it yet, stop reading this right now and click here), and I think it's a great reflection of what we briefly discussed this past Sunday in Exodus 23. 

But first, let's pause and review, shall we? This is what God said about the Sabbath in Exodus 20 and 23 (a little long, but hey, it's the literal Word of God):

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy...

You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves. Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let them be heard from your mouth.
— Exodus 20:8-11, 23:10-13

Remember what Vic and Chris Fitz said? We should work our TAILS off for six days, and then rest. I know. Rest is such a foreign concept for us college students, I get it.

But here are a few reasons why we as busy college students MUST understand the value of rest:

1. Rest keeps us from sinning.

We've all been exhausted, weary, and dare I say "hangry" before, right? Maybe you feel that right now (I do). What happens when we get that way? We become self-absorbed. We constantly think about how tired or frustrated we are, we don't serve our roommates, we snap at our parents over the phone, we become doubtful, irritable, bitter, and worrisome. Perhaps the worst of all is that we become prideful. Remember what the guys said: 

"When we reject rest, we're rejecting God's sovereignty because we feel like stuff can't happen without us." 

Which perfectly correlates to John Piper's "theology of sleep" that they mentioned on Sunday: 

Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). But Israel will. For we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day...Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps.

When we rest, it's like wiping fog off of our glasses. It gives us new perspective to not just focus on ourselves, but on the world around us. Sleep is continual practice and rehearsal of saying, "I am not in control. I am not in control. I am not in control." Why do you think He created us to where we must sleep every night? Because we are a finite, forgetful people who need DAILY reminders that we are not God and must let Him do His work while we rest.

Does that mean we should snooze all the time? No. Let's not conform to our negative stereotype as being lazy millennials, okay? Let's work our butts off, but then turn around and take time to rest, spend time in the Word, and trust in Him. This attitude will look a lot different than our lost friends, won't it?

Speaking of attitude: 

2. Rest teaches us how to be more like God

Earlier this year I started rereading Mark Buchanan's The Rest of God (oh my word guys, you must read this) and it reminded me of a very important lesson: Sabbath is not just one day. It's an attitude. Sabbath is something that should consume you, even when craziness and busyness ensues. (Again long, but SORRY NOT SORRY.)

A Sabbath heart is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval. It is attentive to the presence of God and others even in the welter of much coming and going, rising and falling. It is still and knows God even when the mountains fall into the sea... (pg. 4)

”The Exodus command, with its call to imitation, plays on a hidden irony: we mimic God in order to remember we’re not God. In fact, that’s a good definition of Sabbath: imitating God so that we stop trying to be God. We mirror divine behavior only to freshly discover our human limitations. Sabbath-keeping involves a recognition of our own weakness and smallness, that we are made from dust, that we hold our treasure in clay jars, and that without proper care we break...

BUT WAIT, LET'S REMIND OURSELVES THAT THIS IS NOT ABOUT US *Cue Buchanan again*

This is not true of God. He neither sleeps nor slumbers. He runs no risk of breakdown, burnout, exhaustion, injury. God doesn’t need Sabbath or sabbatical. He doesn’t pine for vacation. He doesn’t require a good night’s sleep to clear His head or steady His hand. He doesn’t run ragged and run amok, pushing himself beyond his limits, patching himself together between bursts of striving and binges of workaholism. God is not waiting for the weekend. 

God is complete without rest. 

But not us...we think we’re the exception, the one for whom busyness will translate into fruitfulness...we think...we can also figure a way around our God-imposed need for stillness. We can’t. The need is not conjured away by medication, technology, discipline, cleverness, sheer willfulness. It always come back to take its due. 

So God, knowing both our need and our folly, took the lead. He set the example. Like a parent who coaxes a cranky toddler to lie down for an afternoon nap by lying down beside her, God woos us into rest by resting. ‘For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.’ God commands that we imitate Him in order to discover again that we’re not Him, and that we need Him. 

Sabbath is a return to Eden. That’s Exodus. (pg. 87-88)

BAM, RIGHT?? I mean dang, I sure needed that today. I'm still recovering from an exhausting week and was on the verge of serious panicking this morning as I was trying to figure out how to squeeze in a project before Thanksgiving break. Without even knowing I was slowly losing my sanity, my sweet mom (shoutout to Kim Nall) sent me an email. There were lots of words she said, sweet, life-giving words I'll remember for the rest of my life. But this is the message the Lord gave her one morning, and the message I want you to hear:

He told me that I have been looking on the head of a pin, when I should be looking at the expanse of the heavens – as in, ‘What are you doing, beloved? You are staring at the head of a pin, your vision of Me is so so so so small,. Your perspective of Me is so starved. QUIT LOOKING AS IF YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE HEAD OF A PIN! LOOK TO THE HEAVENS! Do you see how big enormous gargantuan indescribable undefinable I am? You are not asking anything of Me as if you really believe that I would, or that I would care for you enough to do beyond.

My glasses had been fogged up. In my exhaustion, because I had not properly rested, my weakness and doubt started to cloud my vision. I needed my mother's encouragement, the truth from the Lord, to breathe away the fog. I had prayed scared, fearful prayers, instead of doing what Vic and Joel have been teaching us all along through Exodus: "fear the right thing." 

Remember what Moses tells the Israelites after God gives them the 10 commandments? The former slaves are shaking in their boots (sandals, whatever) and Moses says: 

“Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”
— Exodus 20:20

If there's one thing I've taken away from Exodus this semester, it's this: PUT YOUR FEAR IN THE RIGHT PLACE. You should not fear what the people of this world fear: rejection from friends, failure in the workplace, death, hopelessness, etc. Out of awe, reverence, and respect for Him, we should fear the Almighty God because the God of Exodus—of pillars of fire and raging seas and smoked-covered mountains—is OUR GOD, and the same power of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead lives within us, therefore, WE SHOULD NOT BE AFRAID. 

Anyways. My mother's note reminded me of another reason why we need rest: 

3. Rest helps us do the one necessary thing.

Now, FINALLY, I can talk about Courtney's post. She talked about Mary and Martha and how she felt convicted about being like Martha lately (I can relate on a deep level). But Jesus tells Martha to do something different—to stop, and remember the most important thing in the entire world. While Mary is "seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His Word," Jesus gives Martha a word just for her (and all of us like her):

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
— Luke 10:41-42

Notice two things here: 

1. "ONLY ONE THING IS NECESSARY": when you sense the old flesh starting to dominate you, and you desperately need the truth, encouragement, and bluntness of Scripture, you better drop everything and RUN to the feet of Jesus, because: 

2. "WHICH SHALL NOT BE TAKEN AWAY FROM HER": I don't think I've paid attention to that phrase until now, but spending time with Jesus and meditating on His Word is never, EVER a waste of time. Now, does that mean we should neglect all other responsibilities and just stay locked in our room for 9 hours studying the Bible and geeking over Blue Letter Bible cross references?? Of course not. But when the Lord is drawing us to Himself, or we sense the Holy Spirit stirring in our hearts, or we desperately crave the Word, then by golly, let's run after it and follow Courtney's advice:

So get up out the bed. Sit up. Drink that coffee. Do some jumping jacks. Whatever you need to do. COMMIT to sitting at the feet of Jesus in God’s Word. We make time for everything else under the sun—why wouldn’t we make time for the MOST necessary thing?

SO. After all that blabbing you're probably wondering what it looks like to rest practically, right? There obviously isn't a mathematical formula for this, but here's how we can start: 

1. Drop on your knees and pray. Remember what Mama Nall said? JUST ASK. Get in the posture of asking and straight up ask the Lord to teach you how to rest. 

2. Know what stirs your affections for Christ. I think somewhere we fell into this trap of believing all of our "quiet times" had to look the same. It has to be at 5:30 in the morning, or be cute with flowery, calligraphy-covered journals, or be on top of a literal mountain. What gets you PUMPED about Jesus?? For me, I LOVE singing worship music in the car on my way to school. I LOVE praying while running on trails. When I have extra time, I LOVE going through a book of the Bible and furiously taking notes like a nerd. You know yourself better than you think—what gets you excited about Jesus? Stop trying to be like your favorite Christian on Instagram and do what you need to do.

3. Turn off your dang phone, and give yourself at least a few hours one day this week to do whatever would feel great to you. Nap. Read Harry Potter. Catch up with your roommates. Journal. Sketch. Build something. WHATEVER. Just do it, and do it with a posture of praise and thanksgiving.

Speaking of thanksgiving, let's go into this break and actually, really, TRULY rest. Don't fill every second of every day doing something or meeting with someone. Give yourself time and space to sit with the Lord and reflect on who HE is. I leave you with words from an old hymn (that no one sings, why, I don't know) called "Father, I Know That All My Life":

I would not have the restless will
that hurries to and fro, 
seeking for some great thing to do,
or secret thing to know; 
I would be treated as a child, 
and guided where I go.
Posted on November 14, 2017 .