How Not to Feel Guilty about Resting

Carrie Dedrick | Editor, | Friday, October 23, 2015
How Not to Feel Guilty about Resting

How Not to Feel Guilty about Resting

Let’s just get something out in the open: I am not qualified to write a column on rest. I don’t know how to do it. My plans for tomorrow include running 20 miles beginning at 6:45 a.m., going home to shower, then going to church where I will spend the next seven hours dancing and rehearsing for our Christmas musical. At 8:45 p.m., I will take the 25 minute drive home, shower again, and collapse into bed. No rest. No rejuvenation. And no, this is probably not what God intended. 

When I closely examine my life right now, I feel uneasy. I have filled my time up with so many activities that I don’t have any left for God. 

Relevant writer Claire Swinarski can relate. In a blog titled “How to Rest for Real,” Swinarski tells of how she chose to stay home from a prayer event at church because she was simply too tired after days of a working full time, then running around at night for social commitments, church events and errands. Instead, she stayed home with her husband, ate frozen pizza, and watched TV. 

“I felt ridiculously guilty. I had the opportunity to go bond with my community, be in conversation with my Creator and rejuvenate my soul—but all I wanted to do was relax.” 

Why should rest, something that God did himself on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3) cause us so much guilt? Swinarski suggests that we are doing it wrong. 

Most of us would enjoy an evening watching our favorite TV show with a bowl of popcorn balanced on our lap. Maybe you’d rather curl up on the sofa wearing footie pajamas and immerse yourself in a good book. But these things aren’t necessarily giving us the rest we really crave. 

Swinarski writes, “Maybe part of the problem is that the things we’re choosing to relax with aren’t giving us true rest. Maybe we don’t have to always stay late after events, chatting and eating snacks and glancing at our iPhones. Maybe we don’t have to join every small group, Bible study, prayer circle, but instead need to make sure we’re making time for our relationship with the One who created time.” 

Crosswalk writer Rachel Marie Stone agrees, saying we might spend our small chunk of free time in the day doing something like cleaning out our email inbox, rather than doing something that will truly rejuvenate us. 

“I suspect we settle for the mindless, unhealthy snack version of leisure because we're ashamed of our own desire for rest -- afraid to ask permission to breathe,” Stone writes. 

But scripture actually tells us to rest, and nowhere does the Bible say that to take a well-deserved rest is to be lazy. We’ve invented the guilt that comes with taking a break to relax and recharge. 

Matthew 11:28-29 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” 

If you feel like you are constantly running on a hamster wheel with no means to get off, it is time to reflect on your schedule and life. 

As Swinarski writes, “Make sure your intentions are truly for God and not for your own gratification or to appease your guilt. Once your motivations are pointed in the right direction, holy leisure suddenly makes all kinds of sense.”

What is holy leisure? It is the rest that God intended. It is spending time in prayer, reading the Bible, or listening to music. It may be reading a devotional, taking a walk or listening to the birds singing in your backyard. It is what rejuvenates you and draws you closer in your relationship with Christ. 

Swinarski says, “Let the Holy Spirit flow through your schedule, one day at a time, and leisure will find its true and righteous place.”

Do you find it difficult to rest without guilt creeping in? Share your thoughts in the comments section? 

Related video: Spiritual Whitespace: Finding Hope after Trauma - Bonnie Gray from ibelievedotcom on GodTube.

Carrie Dedrick is the Family Editor for

Publication date: October 23, 2015