Why Physical Rest Matters to Your Health & to God
In Matthew 11, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
REST. Yes, and amen, sign this momma up! Am I right? We all want rest, and we are quick to say it. Rest matters to us. But the reality is that we don’t live it. We often choose a life of running and striving and achieving, without ever stopping to take a breath.
The truth is that living in the rest Jesus offers is not a box to be checked or a verse to be memorized. I believe choosing to rest is a lifestyle. It’s also a heart posture. It is choosing to live and order life’s rhythms so they align with his rhythms.
So, what does rest have to do with health, aside from a good night’s sleep? How does resting in Jesus help me decide between a green smoothie and a milkshake? Between an intense workout and a day to sleep in and restore my body? How does resting in Jesus help me form a menu plan or fitness goals?
In response to these questions, I want to share how resting in Jesus shapes my view of health and fitness:
Motivation is a big deal. Why we work out matters just as much as actually doing a workout. Yet so often, our motivations for health are more influenced by the world around us than God’s command for us to honor our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).
For example: maybe you’re trying to get “beach ready.” Perhaps you’re aiming to shrink the number on the scale or improve a fitness personal record (PR). Setting health goals is not bad in and of itself. The danger, however, is that you look to achieving those goals for worth; that you work hard to transform your physical body, all the while looking to it for significance.
Whether you are people pleasing, ego boosting, or endorphin chasing, come to Jesus. Give him your mixed-up and sinful motivations. He forgives, he takes that burden and gives rest. Ask him to reveal any motivations that you can’t see—to search your thoughts as David prayed in Psalm 139:23. Release the burdens of worldly motivation; let Jesus have it all! Then ask him to show you a new path forward, one where the motivation for your health will honor him.
We all want to be somebody, don’t we? We want to matter. We want to be noticed. We want to shine in some way or another. I have come to believe that this desire for identity and purpose can drive our motivation for fitness and health. Don’t believe me? The next time you approach a workout or deliberate what to make for dinner, try asking yourself why you are making the choice you do. Then, go deeper by asking yourself: what do I think this choice—this workout, this food, this nap—will do for me? Your answer can quickly reveal if you’re seeking to find your identity in your health or fitness status rather than in the Lord.
I hope you are smiling right now because you know that you are somebody. You are loved, you are wanted, you have been bought with a price. You are a treasure, you are chosen “for his own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9). Your identity is set. It cannot be changed, removed or earned.
Are you trying to earn significance by reaching a physical goal? Rest in Jesus. Does depression set in when you feel you have failed and missed a workout? Rest in Jesus. Are you searching for fist bumps or Instagram likes for an athletic achievement? Rest in Jesus. Are you obsessively stressing over calories and ingredients to maintain the “perfect” body? Rest. Rest from striving to be somebody. You are his.
First Corinthians 10:31 reminds us, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This means that God can be glorified in your physical body. He can be glorified as you lift weights or bike with your kids. He can be glorified when you dig into s’mores or a giant ice cream cone. What freedom we have in Jesus! We are free to make our own choices, and we are free to allow others the same permissions. We can be free from the stress of striving for perfection.
Do you live free? Or are you in bondage to food and dieting? Are you chained to compulsive workouts following a “cheat meal”? As Christians, you and I are free from shame and guilt. Jesus has paid for every unwise choices, so give your chains to him. Rest in him and in the freedom that he offers. When you are confronted with an opportunity to make a choice for health, make a good choice. That’s the recipe for a lifestyle of health. One choice after another…for the long haul. But know you can choose from a place of freedom.
Resting in Jesus looks more like a journey and less like arriving. This is key to remember that when your running shoes hit the pavement or you’re looking over a dinner menu. Resting in Jesus leaves little room for perfectionism. It’s choosing the life rhythm of surrender to him. It’s letting go of your pride and recognizing his ways are better. It’s relaxing your grip on fitness schedules and timelines and asking him to direct your path for health. So, take a deep breath. That’s it. In and out. Invite Jesus into the details of your fitness journey and remember—He loves you as you are.