In a season of unrest and what panelists called emotional and mental exhaustion, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) hosted an online discussion on rest and practicing Sabbath June 2, as part of the ongoing “Christian Women at Work” series.
Moderated by Chelsea Sobolik, ERLC policy director, panelists included author and artist Ruth Chou Simons; Kristin Schmucker, founder and CEO of The Daily Grace Co.; and author Lauren Green McAfee.
The need for rest is not necessarily about “a home that’s too messy or emails that can’t wait,” Simons said, starting the discussion with a brief reflection on Hebrews 4.
“At the heart of not resting is a refusal to believe that God made us to need Him. … It’s a refusal to take yourself off the throne and to acknowledge that Jesus rules and orders your life.”
Instead, rest is about theology, Simons said. “He’s given us limitations that we might worship His limitlessness.”
She described rest as a “gift from God that instructs us a healthy rhythm of work and rest – reminds us daily, weekly that He is able and we are not. We are incapable of sustaining everything we think we need for daily life.”
In contrast to the idea of working more to produce more, rest actually helps people do their work efficiently and in better quality, she elaborated.
“Recharging actually makes us more able to re-engage,” Simons said, giving examples of taking walks or listening to music to counter writer’s block.
“I need to step away and go somewhere where I’m in awe of something that I had nothing to do with. … That’s literally how I have to, as a creative, get away or rest,” she said about going on hikes and getting in nature.
McAfee shared her experiences of needing to daily break down the barrier of pride to learn how to practice rest.
“My own pride in thinking that God needs me, He needs my work, He needs my ministry – that’s making God small in my own life. When I properly have God on the throne, then that puts into perspective my need for Him, not His need for me,” McAfee said.
Schmucker also described her love for lists, planners and productivity as things that have become idols in her life.
“I cannot use my personality as an excuse for my idolatry,” she said about what God has revealed to her.
Look to Jesus as the perfect example, she added. He “worked in His earthly life and also took time to rest and be alone with the Father.”
Although there is no “legalistic formula” for honoring the Sabbath, the three speakers offered practical ideas for rhythms of rest.
McAfee spoke of the shift she took from giving the common response of “I’m busy” to consciously telling others about things she has the joy of doing to serve the Kingdom. Doing so helped her see the things she was saying yes or no to and where to redirect her energy.
“In doing that simple shift, it made me think about the things that I am doing and kind of taking inventory,” she said. “I can honestly say, with joy, the things that I am doing, and my heart will be in a posture that has been rested so that I’m not feeling the dread of the constant next thing I have to do.”
Schmucker’s family spend evenings as time to rest together. She and her husband don’t take phones into their rooms, a strange habit to adjust to, but one that has been “more life giving than I could have imagined,” she said.
Simons also spoke of taking breaks from content consumption.
“We can rest because we are told to cast our cares on Him,” Simons said. “We still care, and we still love and we can serve our neighbors even when we turn off news feeds … the whole Bible says this: we are not the Savior, He is,” Simons said.
She encouraged listeners to still take action in serving and loving others, but “we’re no good to anybody around us if we don’t rest in Him first. That true rest will dictate everything else we do.”