In 1969 a 29-year-old Japanese man died from a stroke, reportedly due to Karoshi, death by overwork. This sudden death started a trend in Japan, and now victimises over 10000 people every year!
In Australia, we have some of the longest working hours in the developed world. One in four Australians work more than 45 hours per week and on average accrues 6.5 weeks in overtime each year! Moreover, 21% of Australians would prefer to work less hours.
It's not surprising that stress and burnout caused by overworking is a serious issue in Australia; bringing with it the destruction of relationships, work performance, physical health and even death.
Personally, I have fallen victim to overworking. I have had my fair share of all nighters. Working is addictive and long hours are sometimes necessary, but we need to balance this with rest.
In my previous post, I highlighted work as a God-given gift and that it's good to work hard as long as we have the right heart by working for Jesus! However, it is also important to understand what the Bible says about rest and how it's significant for us today.
Just as work is a God given gift, so is rest!
"And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all his work that He had done." (Genesis 2:2)
After such a productive work week, the creator God, who can do immeasurably more than we think and imagine (Ephesians 3:20), created a day of rest. He models to us the importance of rest by resting Himself.
Furthermore, God commands His people in the Old Testament to rest by giving them the law of the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:13–14). It was God's plan that this day would be holy (Genesis 2:3; Deuteronomy 5:12), for the purpose of worship (Leviticus 23:3), and utter dependence upon Him. The Israelites were to leave behind their stresses, concerns of work and find their rest in God, trusting that He would provide for their needs in a six day work week.
Now I'm an advocate for productivity, often bordering on idolatry. So it’s tempting to give some practical tips on planning rest to be more efficient at work and home. It's obvious Australian's need rest. In fact 25% of Australian workers do not take annual leave. It's now a few months into the year, and people's energy levels are beginning to drop. As we hit the winter months, overworking plays a toll on our morale.
Yet, what we discover in the Bible is far more profound than any self-help guide on rest. We read these amazing words of Jesus:
"Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:27–30)
Not only does Jesus model how to rest (Luke 5:16; Mark 6:30–32) but He invites us to take rest in Him. Give your burdens and take His yoke. Jesus will refresh and restore you! His yoke will guide you, lighten your load and strengthen you.
However, what is most profound is the nature of this rest. We often think of rest as physical but Jesus is offering both a physical and a spiritual resting. We read the heart of His concern immediately before these verses in that He desires for us to know God (Matthew 11:27). Jesus chooses us and invites us to Him to receive an eternal spiritual resting as well as a temporal physical resting.
Ultimately, this is an act of humility. We need to remove our prideful 'she'll be right' attitudes, humble ourselves before Jesus and in so doing lay our concerns at His feet (1 Peter 5:6–7). Sometimes all we can do is fall on our knees before Him, knowing that He will spiritually revitalise and physically re-energise us.
So, thank God for creating rest. Be wise and practical in planning how to take your Sabbaths, especially as you spend time in community with your family and friends. The apostle Paul found his brothers refreshing (1 Corinthians 16:18; 2 Corinthians 7:13; Philemon 7, 20) and no doubt Jesus did too (Mark 6:30–32)! But above all come to Jesus, who offers far greater rest not only in this life but the one to come (Hebrews 4:9-11). Refresh your heart and soul, and let Jesus quench your thirst (John 4:14).
Do you need rest? Jesus offers it. Take it!