Rested or Rushed?
by Karin Sasser
When you think of the holiday season, Thanksgiving through Christmas, which word would better describe your state of life – rushed or rested? We would hope our holiday season would be one filled with joy and peace. The Thanksgiving season is a time to slow down, reflect, and give thanks for all that God has done and continues to do for us. Christmas is a time to celebrate Christ’s birth and the work he accomplished through his death and resurrection. Christ’s purpose was (and is) to bring us peace – peace with God, peace with others, and even peace in the midst of chaos. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” And in John 14:27, He tells us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” Yet so often during this season, we do not experience peace reigning in our lives. Christ’s work on the cross affords us a rest that we could not know without Him. Yet oftentimes, instead of experiencing rest during the holiday season, we feel rushed. We feel overwhelmed and stressed. There are presents to buy, decorations to put out, parties to host or attend, food to prepare, as well as all of our other daily responsibilities. Who has time to rest? Yet rest is exactly what we need.
Jesus invites us to rest. God modeled it in Genesis 2 when He rested after creating the earth and everything in it. He even commanded His people to regularly rest when He declared the seventh day of the week a Sabbath day. Consider this description of Sabbath rest. “Sabbath is a time set apart to experience rest as we deliberately stop working and trust in God’s provision. The invitation to sabbath is to take a deep breath as we cease striving and place our worries and cares at the feet of Jesus. As we pull away from the pressure to hustle, perform, and achieve, we make room for God to satisfy us as our loving Father, our Faithful Provider, and our Prince of Peace.”
There’s a lot packed into those three sentences. You may want to read it again.
During the Christmas season, we often feel an added weight of responsibility and a pressure to hustle, perform, and achieve, as the above description expresses. But this is not what God wants for us. There are things we have to get done and things God is asking us to do. We do have everyday responsibilities. But what if the weight of the responsibility lay on God’s shoulders and not our own? What if we trusted in God’s provision enough to believe we can, and should, take moments to rest? When part of our rest is spending quiet time with Jesus, He uses our rest to bolster our faith and trust in Him in such a way that it relieves our stress and anxiety. 1 Peter tells us we can cast our burdens onto Jesus because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), and Philippians tells us that when we present our requests to God, His peace will guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:6-7). Can you picture the Prince of Peace standing guard outside your heart, refusing entry to anxiety and stress?
This pressure to hustle, perform, and achieve is real for most of us, but do we ever stop to consider where that pressure comes from? We feel pressure for Christmas to look a certain way – the perfect gifts, the perfect décor, the perfectly behaved children. And if we are honest with ourselves, we feel this kind of pressure all year long. We want things to look a certain way and be a certain way, and we feel it’s up to us to make it happen. But this pressure does not come from God. He is not concerned about how we perform, and He knows that even if we meet all of our own expectations in all areas of our lives, we will still have a hole that only He can fill in order for us to be truly satisfied. The famous theologian Saint Augustine wrote that our hearts are restless until they find rest in God. When Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished.” He paid our debt so that we no longer have to strive to prove our worth. Our value is not based on our performance; therefore, we can rest! And in this rest, we can find full satisfaction in God.
This holiday season, God does not want us to feel rushed. He wants us to be rested, and He is reminding us we can find our rest in Him. Is there a better way to celebrate Jesus this Christmas than spending time in His presence, allowing Him to reorient our thoughts to align to His, helping us reprioritize our values and tasks, and reminding us that we are not defined by our works but by who He has declared us to be – holy, righteous, forgiven, and of immeasurable worth solely because we are created in His image and loved by him? This holiday season, let’s make it a priority to find time to rest in Jesus.