For all their days their task is filled with pain and frustration. Even at night their minds do not rest. This also is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 2:23
Do Not Rest – Ecclesiastes paints a sorry picture of life. “No rest for the weary,” seems to be the author’s conclusion. In stark opposition to the thought of the Psalms (cf. Psalm 4:8), this picture is life filled with toil. If this is true of ancient Israel, how much more is it true today? Our mottos betray our real gods. “The global economy Isaiah 24-7.” “The city never sleeps.” “Managing the daily grind.” Aren’t we all crying out for some balance in our lives? Perhaps we haven’t learned one of life’s basic lessons. Burning the candle at both ends not only robs you of health, it steals your spirituality. God didn’t design you that way. Everything in the universe needs rest.
Even as followers, it’s easy to slip into the workaholic mode. In fact, many Christians seem to think that if they don’t work every minute in the campaign to restore the Kingdom, God’s will on earth will fail. That is seductive arrogance. God is perfectly capable of fulfilling His plan without you. You are invited along as a guest, not an essential contributor. The sooner we begin to realize that it is God Who is accomplishing His will, not us, the sooner we will begin to model the way that He wants His will exercised in our lives.
Jesus tells us to take up our crosses daily. Did you notice that this implies that we lay them down nightly? If you’re carrying your cross 24-7, then you can’t take it up, can you? You already have it on your shoulders. It’s impossible for you to experience God’s planned rest if you won’t let go of the burden. Today, it’s so easy to think that work equals success. But the Bible has a different, and far healthier, view. Work equals toil. Submission equals success. When I think that success is up to me, I am in for a torturous ride. What is up to me is submission to God’s direction, and at least in one case His direction is unquestionably clear. Rest is part of life’s planned routine.
Ecclesiastes uses the words lo-shakhav libo (does not lie down his heart). We know that the biblical use of “heart” is a term that means the whole existence of a man or woman. The will, emotions, intellect and spirit are all summarized by the word “heart.” What Ecclesiastes makes abundantly clear is that life on the earth without submission to God’s direction is a living hell. You’re born. You work all your life. You die. That’s it. No rest, and no meaning to the whole thing. If you buy into the world’s view of human effort, you’ll be draining yourself even when you dream. I’m betting that we all know at least a taste of this horror. I’m betting that every one of us has had nights when there was no rest – because we did not see that all circumstances are really under the hand of the Holy One of Israel.
The world is really made up of two kinds of people: workers and resters. The difference between these two is simple. One group thinks that life is up to them. The other knows that life is a journey of companionship with a God Who is in charge. Which one are you?