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The Gift of Rest

Is it possible to rest in the rush of life? Jennifer Matenaer helps us see how. 


The Gift of Rest

Jennifer Matenaer


Put boxes in storage. Respond to emails. Baby-proof the house. Work on a meal plan. I scanned my to-do list, trying to choose a task that I could check off before my daughter woke up from her nap. I yawned and surveyed the damage. Toys strewn across playmats, the laundry basket spewing over with escaped socks, books piled high on the coffee table. I rubbed my eyes to hide the mess and wipe away the exhaustion. I picked up a sock and rummaged for the match. But a wail from the bedroom signaled that baby girl’s nap hit a record low of twenty-five minutes.

I have learned that each season of life comes with its own set of endless duties and activities. From high school sports and friends to college courseloads and extracurriculars. From the forty-hour workweek to the household upkeep. From full-time ministry flexibility to parenting unpredictability. Each season we encounter brings different levels of busyness—and exhaustion. Not only can we struggle to keep up with everything, but we also can miss out on rest.

Another group’s struggle with rest preceded our own. In the Old Testament, God emphasized its importance to the Israelites. “[Moses] said to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: “Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning”’” (Exodus 16:23 ESV). God commanded his people to take a day off from work. He required them to skip meal prep once a week. He ordered them to take a break.

Commanded. Required. Ordered. The words seem to portray a mean, controlling God. The Israelites also seemed to misconstrue God and his design for rest by fighting the concept from the beginning. Whether their disobedience spawned from worry or workaholism, they ultimately doubted that he would provide for their needs. They tried to rely on themselves. They saw a mean, controlling God stopping their work.

But the mandate of the Sabbath actually reveals a loving, caring God. He described the seventh day as a gift to his people: “See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:29, emphasis added). He required them to take a day off from work because he wanted them to dedicate the day to him. He commanded them stay home on the seventh day because he wanted them to trust that he would provide for them. He ordered them to slow down because he wanted them to find refreshment by enjoying time with him. God loved, so God gave.

The concept of the Sabbath still holds value for us as Christians today. It seems impossible to take even a minute off from the bustle. But when we get too focused on the daily tasks, we (like the Israelites) try to gather manna on the wrong day. We worry about having enough time to check everything off our to-do list. We try to control our time and rely on ourselves. We see a mean, controlling God instead of a loving, caring God.

God wants us to adjust our focus from our busyness to his repose. He knows what we need and wants to meet our needs. He asks us to trust that he will provide. He wants to renew us by gifting us with his presence.

In the rush, take a moment to stop. During that one-hour free class period, twenty-five-minute nap, or fifteen-minute lunchbreak, pause. Trust that he will sustain you. Lean into our loving, caring, and giving God. Rest and enjoy him.

Jennifer Matenaer is a freelance writer located in southwest Iowa. A seminary graduate, rural pastor’s wife, and stay-at-home mom, Jennifer has a passion for creating content that brings together three of her greatest loves: faith, family, and fiction. Read more from her at


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