I am a bit of an exercise enthusiast. I started out slow with Pilates and walking before moving on to running with light weight lifting; and now, my most recent switch, is to heavier weight lifting with more intense cardio. I love it. It is an amazing stress reliever and keeps my body and soul strong and healthy.
Unless I do too much.
In the world of exercise this is called overtraining and its symptoms include sore muscles, heightened heart rate, irritability, depression, insomnia, loss of motivation and even a greater susceptibility to sickness as we become weaker.
I guess too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
Usually the act of lifting weights is considered the moment where strength gains are made, but this would be incorrect. In fact, during a weight lifting session the muscles become distressed and there are little rips and tears made to the muscle tissue. It is only through rest that the strength gains are made as our bodies fuse together new muscle fibers creating a thicker muscle with a greater capacity for lifting.
Strength isn’t gained as we work. Strength is gained as we rest.
God is so counterintuitive to what I perceive to be the truth. I often find myself trying to do more, to add more, to be more, and I feel guilty when I can’t continue or when I find myself losing language and energy. I believe that to do more is to be more effective.
I’d be wrong.
God has created us for both work and rest. These components function together and one without the other weakens us. Work is important. We must expend energy, we must push, we must risk, we must learn; but we are missing a key element to health, both physical and spiritual, if we cannot stop, breathe and rest. We will not make gains if we do not rest with intention.
In Psalm 23, at the very beginning of the Psalm, David writes, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”
How is your soul restored? By being laid down in green grass where the water is still and quiet. Your soul is restored in rest.
I think it is safe to say that a cross-cultural life is an intense one. Even on the best of days it is still hard. Many of us are starved for rest and many of us don’t make the time or don’t know how to find it. We consider rest to be selfish or unimportant or simply a luxury that we can’t afford. Rest is this phantom of a dream just outside our reach.
But rest is a part of our intrinsic, God designed personhood from the very beginning and without it we will fatigue. Spiritually, physically, emotionally, linguistically we will fatigue to the point where our health suffers, our motivation is lost and we become irritable without sleep and peace for our souls. We think that if we just push ourselves more we can overcome our weakness.
We forget that our strength lies in our rest . . . and our rest lies in Christ.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Take a break.
Get a massage, take a vacation, sleep, go for a run, read a book, watch a movie, cook, eat ice cream, play, laugh, cry, accept yourself, trust God.
God’s got the world under control and has given us limitations for our own good and for his glory; when we rest we are embracing rest as an act of worship to a holy and good God. In the process our souls are restored and fused together to make for stronger character, stronger relationships and we can push forward with enthusiasm as we wait on God and watch him move.
“Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.” Exodus 23:12
Do you get enough rest? Do you view rest more as weakness or worship? What steps can you take towards implementing active rest into your life?