In Soul Rest, Curtis Zackery reveals how our misaligned view of rest has its roots in an identity that is out of rhythm with God. This thoughtful reflection on rest calls us to the intentional work of self-examination, helping us move towards a purposeful and sustainable life with Jesus. In this excerpt, Zackery shows us how a proper understanding of the Sabbath can dynamically affect every aspect of our lives.
When we can engage in the rest that God desires for us through Sabbath, we get a glimpse of what is to come in the future. It is clear throughout Scripture that for followers of Jesus, this world is not our ultimate home. Paul says that what experience here on earth is like “looking into a glass darkly” (2 Cor 13:1–2). In other words, he’s saying that we are unable, on this side of eternity, to see or experience what God intends for His creation. Even though this is true, we practice the Sabbath to lean into the foretaste of life in His presence. We tussle with the world for six days and engage in all of its toils and perils. But on the seventh day, the Sabbath, we stop and understand that this world does not ultimately hold us fast. By practicing rest, we are telling the world that it may have a say on what happens with the effort of our body, but our souls are in the care of God, who is greater.
Apart from the finished work of Jesus, our souls are the definition of ultimate unrest. There is a sin cancer that has infected humanity, and we have no hope of escaping the death penalty that accompanies it. Our souls are longing to be connected to the God who created them to be fulfilled by Himself. There is essentially an unending unrest that is present in this situation. But, rest comes with the good news of 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” When we understand this to be genuine and believe in our heart that this work has happened, once and for all, our souls are at rest. The practice of a regular rhythm of Sabbath reminds me of this finished work. I once heard it said that there is only real rest after significant work. When we stop our laboring, and remember the Sabbath, we remember the significant work that happened on the cross. When we remember what we’ve been rescued from, we will celebrate the Rescuer. Sabbath brings the beautiful, implicit, benefit of physical rest because we cease our physical work to remember and honor the spiritual work that happened on our behalf. He is satisfied with the work, and the work is finished. When the work is finished, we rest.
When we stop on the seventh day, we are acknowledging that the work that has happened is indeed done. Most of our days are spent focusing on what our contribution is to the world. Whether it is through our vocation, our relationships, or our ability to be who we are in culture, we by nature are selfish individuals. The importance that accompanies the things that we do affects our hearts and our view of God. Witnessing God’s work in creation can affect us in profound ways. By practicing the Sabbath, we remember to bear in mind that our contribution to the world is only in light of what He’s already done. Even from the beginning, this was the intention of the Sabbath. Especially as we see the idea of the finished work expand to the understanding of the cross, we experience this in our day. Jesus has finished the work; we acknowledge that it is not our work that brings significance, even in our desire to live as Christians. By practicing Sabbath, we remember and point to the Savior.
In today’s culture, we have made the Sabbath day about many things that I’m not quite sure were connected to the actual intention. The Sabbath is an opportunity for us to be healed and mended in the areas where we are broken, hurt, and tired. If God is truly the source of the rest that we can find, we come to Him acknowledging how the toil and the movement of this life are tearing us apart. We stop to shift away from how we’ve been moving forward and grinding through life. We know that all of creation is longing and groaning to be restored back to the way that God had intended. The brokenness that is present in our world takes a toll on us. Throughout the six days of work that we give ourselves over to, we experience hurts and pains that come at the hands of culture. Sabbath makes space for God to enter into those places of pain and restore us.