Guilt-Free Approach to Work and Rest
"This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.’” Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)
Guilt was my companion for too long.
Guilt motivated me to work, and then I felt guilty for working too hard. Guilt also motivated me to rest, but then I felt guilty for not working enough.
Guilt is a healthy response to a sinful condition, so long as it motivates us to repentance. But the guilt I felt wasn’t even true guilt. I felt guilty over things that weren’t wrong. It was only my personal expectations that led me to feel the guilt.
I can feel guilty about spending too much time on a project at work and not spending enough time with my children. I feel guilty for overcommitting to some things, but not committing enough to others. Like not spending enough quiet time with the Lord, not writing my sponsored child enough, not volunteering to support veterans, not walking in the breast cancer walk, not helping a family member pack, and so on!
For those things we’ve truly done wrong, Jesus has taken on our guilt. He paid our price before God through His death on the cross. When we truly repent of our sins, God is faithful to forgive us. So our guilt is GONE!
But the guilt we assume for things we haven’t done wrong is crippling — because there’s nothing for God to forgive! So we never have the sense of forgiveness. We condemn ourselves (falsely) and live with a quiet sense of shame and failure.
We have an enemy of our souls who’d like to chain us to guilt, because he knows guilt will always cause us to do one of two things: either work hard to earn forgiveness, or give up in defeat.
After living in this cycle of exhaustion for too many years, the Lord led me to understand His gifts of work and rest are sacred. One is not more important than the other. My problem was I’d over-valued work and minimized the value of rest. I needed to rediscover both are commands, gifts and promises to incorporate into the right proportions in my life.
For an over-worker like myself, I had to trust God’s command to rest (see Exodus 20:8-11) was just as important as all the other nine commandments. But why do I find it so hard to rest? I’m not sure, but it must frustrate God when we reject His gift of rest.
Through the prophet Isaiah, He said, “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it’” (Isaiah 30:15).
I take some comfort knowing even the ancient Israelites struggled with the idea of rest. Yet God’s heart must break when we work ourselves non-stop. If pleasing God is my desire (and it is), then understanding God’s purpose for rest and prioritizing it is critical.
Peace and a relief from guilt came when I started honoring the Sabbath. Looking back, that was the disobedience that I needed to confess. That’s where I needed forgiveness. It wasn’t in all the other areas, but Satan redirected the guilt from its true source into what was never wrong.
When I finally took God at His Word and determined to not work one day a week, the chains to overwork fell off. No new planner, time management app or desire to work harder could do what obeying God’s command to rest did.
God does His best work in and through me when I’ve rested from my work and ceased striving to do things my way.
This is a secret our enemy doesn’t want us to know. He wants us to believe we find weakness in rest. But when we trust God at His Word, we’ll see God’s strength in amazing ways. And for those of us who have resisted rest, this is very good news.
Lord, thank You for Your commandment to rest. I’m sorry for the years I ignored and minimized the Sabbath. Thank You for forgiving me and freeing me from the guilt that weighed me down for so long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Exodus 20:8-10a, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work …” (NIV)
1 John 3:19-20, “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (NIV)
If you’re worn-out from being too busy, and long for God’s gift of rest, you’ll enjoy Glynnis Whitwer’s book Doing Busy Better. In it, Glynnis explores what gets us too busy and how to find the soul rest God really wants for us.
Read the first chapter of Doing Busy Better here.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Is it hard for you to rest? If so, why?
What would happen if you stopped working for one day this week? How might the benefits outweigh your fears of the consequences?
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