Physical Rest and Better Rest

From rise-and-grind narratives on social media to “hustle culture” and everything in between, rest has gotten a bad rap in our ever-moving society. Delving into the pages of Scripture reveals a different perspective—one that champions rest as a good gift given by God Himself. 

In the opening chapters of Genesis, we witness God the Creator fashioning the universe and everything in it. With each stroke of divine craftsmanship, God saw that it was good. And, after the crescendo of His creation, He chose to rest (Gen. 2:2). Make no mistake, this intentional cessation of work wasn’t initiated because the Lord was tired. Instead, He was laying out a precedent for His creatures—a practice for us to imitate. 

God repeatedly calls His people to the rest He modeled at the birth of the world:

  • In Exodus 20:8–11 and Deuteronomy 5:12–15, the Lord gave Israel the command to keep the Sabbath, an intentional ceasing of work.
  • Matthew 12:8 tells us that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.
  • Hebrews 3 and 4 reveal that Jesus is our Sabbath rest. 
  • Mark 2:27 reminds us that the Sabbath was made for man.
  • In Colossians 2, Paul wrote that believers aren’t condemned by not keeping the Sabbath day, but rather, we find our rest and freedom from condemnation in Christ.

In a culture that wears busyness like a badge of honor, it’s crucial that we have a good theology of rest. What does all of this talk of rest and the Sabbath mean for us as modern believers? 

You Won’t Go Hungry

If God, who is good and does good (Psalm 119:68), rested on the seventh day and “knit rest into the fabric of creation”1 for us, how could rest be anything but a good gift?

Rest is not synonymous with laziness, as the culture around us may imply. The Bible clearly distinguishes between the two. Proverbs 19:15 reminds us that “laziness induces deep sleep, and a lazy person will go hungry.” Laziness is the absence of diligence and effort, whereas rest is the intentional renewal of our bodies, minds, and spirits. This distinction is exemplified in Genesis 2 where we see that God, after completing the intricate work of creation, rested on the seventh day. God both worked and rested, and we, in an effort to mirror the pattern set by the Creator, are called to do the same. So work diligently at the tasks that the Lord has put before you but be sure to enjoy His good gift of rest.

Blessed Are the Dependent 

Unlike God who is self-sufficient, we find ourselves in a continual state of need. Our bodies tire, our minds become weary, and our spirits long for rejuvenation. We might be tempted to believe that the world hinges on our every action, but the truth is that only God is the sustainer of all things. 

Perhaps another reason that we struggle with rest is because it reminds us that we are not invincible. In a culture that champions self-sufficiency and celebrates busyness, the idea of slowing down and resting can feel counterintuitive, even unsettling. Yet when we go too long without sleep or even a momentary break from hard work, we’re quickly reminded that our need for rest underscores our human limitations and our reliance on the Lord. 

Rest gives us the opportunity to step back and realize that God is our provider and sustainer. As we rest, the world continues to turn on its axis and the sun continues to rise and set—what a relief! 

May our rest be an act of faith, a tangible declaration that we trust God’s sustaining providence even when we remove our hands from the plow.

Jesus, Our Better Rest

Physical rest is a good gift from God that reveals our dependence on Him and points to the spiritual and eternal rest that can be found in Jesus alone. Jesus is our better rest, offering us a reprieve from sin and striving (Heb. 4:1–11). The rest that He provides is not just a temporary respite from work, but a gift of grace that changes our spiritual position. In Christ, we are seated (not working, not striving, but sitting!) at the right hand of God because the redemptive work is finished. 

Jesus achieved what we could never accomplish on our own—He perfectly fulfilled the law, conquered sin, and triumphed over death. In Him, we find the perfect fulfillment of the Sabbath. 

Jesus beckons us in Matthew 11:28–30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” His invitation is an offer to be free from the burdens of striving to attain God’s favor and to rest—really rest. 

If you’re reading in the United States, happy Labor Day! For more on the topic of work, rest, and finding your purpose, tune in to today’s episode of Groundedas Kelly Needham shares the inspiration behind her new book Purposefooled: WhyChasing Your Dreams, Finding Your Calling, and Reaching for Greatness Will Never Be Enough

1 Amy DiMarcangelo, “Am I Resting or Just Being Lazy?,” The Gospel Coalition, November 7, 2022,

About the Author

Ashley Gibson

Ashley Gibson

Ashley Gibson is a native of the mountains of Maryland, lover of flowers, and an ardent believer in writing letters. She always has a song in her heart—and usually one on her lips. Ashley loves encouraging others to know and … read more …

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