CHALLENGING THE NEGATIVE PERCEPTIONS ABOUT ‘REST.’
We live in a busy world, a world which has been designed to keep us busy, to stop us getting bored. In education, the focus is on working hard to achieve higher grades, or preparing children for a life of hard-graft, as opposed to helping them understand how to cope with stresses and emphasise the importance of physical and mental wellbeing.
We are told we must work hard to push ourselves. High achievers are praised, where as creatives or dreamers are seen as lazy or lost having no direction.
But if I don’t get rest, personal experience tells me that my health suffers. Rest is hard for me, as my brain never switches off, so I try to push through and constantly think about all the things I ‘should’ be doing. I’m often struggling with my own conviction that I’m being lazy and I should be doing more. But in reality this “stuff” can be put off until tomorrow morning. I mean, I’m not going to be productive right now anyway.
OK, SO WHAT IS REST?
A quick Google search tells us this:
‘to cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength.’
It’s interesting that when I typed the words ‘What does it mean to rest?’ into the Google search bar, over half of the results related to ‘resting in God.’
But surely rest is to just take a moment of stillness and calm, relative to the busy lives we lead. It’s taking a break in the form of listening to music, reading a book, meditation, hobbies, napping, taking the dog for a walk, evening just sitting down and chatting to your mum, or your spouse or FaceTiming a friend can help you kill any thoughts about work. I often do exercise - this might not be resting physically, but it helps to switch my brain off, which is too often the cause of my exhaustion.
WHY IS REST GOOD FOR US?
Let’s get onto the good stuff. Let’s talk about Elijah.
It’s a really simple story with a deep meaning.
Elijah was a ‘big name’ prophet who just DID NOT STOP doing good work for God. He raised a widow’s son from the dead, he was fed by ravens and he was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. If you read the passages leading up to 1 Kings 19:4 you will see that Elijah did this:
He called down fire from heaven, and God answered, causing the nation of Israel to turn back to God. He had exposed and killed 850 pagan prophets. He somehow got Flash Gordon-like speed and outran the king’s chariot.
All of this before collapsing under a broom tree in the wilderness, suicidal, praying that he would die. Elijah had cut himself off from his community, DESPITE the people turning back to God. He had isolated himself following the busiest, most exhausting event in his life. He was spent, emotionally, physically & spiritually.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” – 1 Kings 19:5
How about that!
Twice, Elijah is told to eat & drink. Twice he is allowed to sleep. He needed to be restored an strengthened - through simple, life-giving rest.
He then travelled to Horeb. A 40 day journey, which probably should have only taken 11 days. I like to think that Elijah took this unhurried journey as an opportunity for meditation, for emotional and spiritual renewal before encountering God at Mount Horeb, where guess what, the first thing he did was SLEEP, ready to engage with God, and with life again.
A SIMPLE MESSAGE
Depression tells us we are alone: we feel like we are the only ones struggling, and often social media feeds of other’s ‘highlights’ affirm this. Fortunately, like in Elijah’s story, God steps in and tells us we aren’t alone. Sometimes we need an external voice to tell us this.
Having an angel, or two, helps: I have always been a big believer in angels - not the kind of supernatural type - but closer to home. God puts friends, family individuals, communities in our lives so that we are not alone. Why do you think he created Eve for Adam? Having a network of people who can cheer us on is invaluable to keep us going.
Know when it’s time to get up: Like Chumbawamba said “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down.” OK, so this is concerning alcohol. Scratch that.
Those who have been there, know that depression causes a lack of motivation and often a lack of desire to even roll out of bed in the morning. And this is OK. A friend said to me once; ‘from experience (and from counselling), it's important to be OK with not being OK. I figure if i'm gonna sit here for 4 hours and eat peanut butter toast and do crap on the internet, that's OK, because it's OK. Learning to work with yourself and your moods and the ups and downs is a big part of the fight. Acknowledge the wolf within.
And absolutely, it’s important to take time off and catch up on some sleep. But the key is knowing when enough is enough. Remember God still has a purpose for you, just like he did for Elijah 40 days later.
God designed us to sleep, eat & drink in order to LIVE. Our current world isn’t aligned with what God had in mind. It is a world of business & success (monetary wealth and possessions) as opposed to relationships, peace, happiness and health. I suppose what I’m trying to say, is that by not resting we are going against God’s vision for his earth.
I don’t feel the need to go into the statistics around mental health. It’s there, and unfortunately it’s getting worse. But from my personal experience, I see rest as just one method of battling my anxieties and depressions. Don’t get me wrong, it takes discipline to rest, which on the surface sounds like a ridiculous concept, but I know some of you will understand, and that most of you will want to understand.
Thanks so much for reading this blog post. We hope to bring out some mental health awareness t-shirts ready for May - the Mental Health Awareness month, where 25% of all profits will be donated to a Birmingham-based mental health charity.
As part of this project, we will also be bringing out tees for those of you who would say you don’t have a Christian faith, but would still love to contribute to the mental health awareness campaign. We hope you like them!