Compared to people in other industrialized nations, Americans work longer hours, take fewer vacation days, and retire later in life. Busyness, once seen as the curse of the disadvantaged, has become equated with status and importance. Our work increasingly defines who we are.
On the surface, John Koessler’s The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap (InterVarsity Press) seems ideally suited to this particular moment in cultural history. Interestingly, though, one of the first things Koessler does is decouple the concept of rest from work. “Rest is an end in itself,” he writes in the introduction. “We do not work in order to justify the fact that we rest. We do not rest in order to work. Rest as the Bible describes it is our destiny. It is what we were made to do.”
According to Koessler, this type of godly rest (distinct from play, relaxation, or sleep) is inextricably tied to our identity as children of God. Jesus is our ultimate rest, which we can only find when we release the worldly anxieties, ambitions, and expectations that pull us toward greater productivity. For an overachieving people-pleaser like me, thinking of rest as an innate part of who we were created to be—not as a discipline or something to be earned—is compelling. It is yet another form of God’s infinite grace, one that’s needed today more than ever.
Early in the book, Koessler enters this caveat: “This is not really a ‘how-to’ book. The secret to rest is not in what we do so much as in how we see.” His desire to focus on the theology of rest and the spiritual barriers to finding that rest is commendable. After all, our inability to find God’s rest is rooted ...1
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