By Lim Ai Lin
Chien Chong’s sermon on Work and Rest reminded me of an earlier cell group discussion that ensued while we were reading a chapter in Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love.
In that chapter, Francis Chan suggested that many Christians are guilty of giving God our leftovers (Chapter 5). To quote Francis Chan,
“It’s easy to fill ourselves up with other things and then give God whatever is left.
Hosea 13:6 says, “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”
God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving Him nothing. A mumbled three minute prayer at the end of the day, when we are already half asleep. Two crumpled-up dollar bills thrown as an after-thought into the church’s fund for the poor. Fetch, God!”
Francis Chan’s writing sparked a discussion where we admitted that in a busy work week, daily devotion or prayers were often hurried, half-hearted, half-asleep or sometimes even forgotten. Upon reflection, we discovered that we too were guilty of giving God our leftover time and energy. More pertinently, many of us realised that after a demanding day filled with activities, rest was (and is) often not about finding refreshment in God (as Chien Chong reminded us in his sermon). Instead, we seek “rest’” by indulging in “pleasures” like binging on K-dramas, variety programmes or hanging out late with friends. Why is that so?
A new term came into fashion last year, “revenge bedtime procrastination” or 报复性熬夜. This term spread rapidly on Twitter after June 2020 because of a post by journalist Daphne K. Lee, who described the phenomenon as “people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours”. In many cases, working adults reportedly spend hours after work indulging in different hobbies at the expense of quality sleep. This in turn has a detrimental effect on their mental and physical health. Psychologists suggested that many are willing to sacrifice sleep for leisure as a way of managing work stress and seeking detachment from work. It seemed that this phenomenon was exacerbated by the blurring of the boundary between work and rest when many adults worked from home during Covid-19 lockdowns.
As I reflected on what was preached in our pulpit series on work (and rest), I recognise that we have to rethink both our work and rest. When we see work as punishing rather than a God-given responsibility and rest as an opportunity to pursue pleasure rather than find rest in God first, we will struggle with work stress and consequently find reprieve in the wrong place. Just like a viewing lens that has gone out of focus, we need to re-calibrate to regain clarity.
The first step is to remember God as both the Giver of Work and Rest. In Him we find dignity and meaning in work (yes, even in lowly regarded work). As we wait upon the Lord, we shall renew our strength; and we shall mount up with wings like eagles; we shall run and not be weary; we shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
On a more practical note, we need to redeem our rest:
· Physical rest: for example, we may need to change our sleep routine so that our minds are refreshed on Sunday morning for service; and on a daily basis, ensure we are well-rested so that we stay attentive in our daily devotion and prayers.
· Spiritual rest: we need to regain the joy of spending time with God. The truth could be that our appetite to read God’s word and talk to God has reduced due to our neglect. We need to humbly repent and ask God to create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us (Psalms 51:10).
· Leisure (rest): there is certainly room to explore and enjoy leisure as it is a God-given privilege. However, in our enjoyment of this gift, we must never allow it to replace the Giver.
Returning to the first statement in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, may our chief end be to glorify God (in our work and rest) and to enjoy him forever!