At the end of my 9th grade year, I was crushed. Not only was I busy staying caught up on homework and studying, but I also had started intense basketball training in the sixth grade. Homework, studying, and basketball consumed my free time. Overtime, the continual grind zapped my motivation and energy. Eventually, I became overwhelmed. Gradually, I entered into a struggle against excessive idleness, which I still struggle with today.
Though our stories may not match, we still have the same problems. The expectation of continual involvement in an academic and extra-curricular activity looms over our heads and threatens to crush us.
We are expected to shove food into our mouths as we run out the door. Teachers cram material into our finite minds, which gradually become overwhelmed. Once school is over, we are expected to do an extracurricular activity for an hour to a few hours. Afterwards, we rush home to shove more food into our mouths, grab a quick shower, and begin homework and studying until we go to bed.
This rinse, wash, and repeat cycle during the week ends on the weekend, when we are tempted to binge-watch Netflix, football, and other programming. Occasionally, this time of false repose is abruptly interrupted with crammed homework and studying, in addition to ACT/SAT prep and testing.
God calls us Christian teens to much more than a bare existence of excess work and idleness. He calls us into His infinite, eternal, and unchangeable rest and joy.God calls us Christian teens to much more than a bare existence of excess work and idleness. He calls us into His infinite, eternal, and unchangeable rest and joy. Click To Tweet
Understand your humanity.
First, we have limits. We need food, water, sleep, relationships, leisure time, sunlight, fresh air, and such.
Ultimately, made in God’s image, we are designed for community. Through our interactions with other people, we orbit around each others’ desires, needs, and narratives. We wisely surrender our own desires, needs, and narratives. We compassionately receive others’ desires, needs, and narratives. In our surrendering, we are putting it in our friend’s ballpark to help us. In our receiving, we receive a call to help a friend. When we do otherwise, we experience emptiness.
Our minds can digest, reflect, and apply only so much information. Our bodies can take only so much wear-and-tear from physical activity. Our hearts can take only so much stress.
Secondly, we are individually unique as humans.
When David gazed at creation, he was inspired to praise God:
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).
Yet, after reflection over the uniqueness of our humanity, David resounded:
“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet…” (Psalm 8:5-6).
How amazing is this! The heavens declare the glory of God. But, as his image-bears, we emit his glory that much more.
As I walk under trees which tower over me, the air breezes past my ears, causing the leaves to bristle. Mosquitoes and flies annoyingly buzz past my head. As I glance at the sky, it stares back at me as a limitless, expansive blanket, which keeps me from seeing outer space. Birds chirp and glide over and around me. All these things are not in my control.
Yet as human beings, we were designed to rule as God’s representatives on this earth. In other words, we were designed to dominate some of that which seems out of our control. Of course, we cannot control the stars and the clouds in the sky. But, we can chop down those trees which tower over us, and use that timber for fires and homes.
Embrace your limits and uniqueness. We are spiritual beings implanted in a bodily temple to dominate creation for God’s glory during our limited time here on earth. Our dependence upon one another and God is not the result of the fall, but by God’s default design. Remember, God’s project to create the universe and everything in it was not finished until He gave Adam a partner, Eve. The only component not good in God’s eyes was the lack of a co-laborer to help Adam. Our dependence upon one another and God is not the result of the fall, but by God’s default design. Click To Tweet
Acknowledge your rebellion against God.
Rather than being faithful representatives in God’s creation, we became tyrants. We strive for domination in our pursuits, not for God’s glory or our neighbor’s well-being.
We primarily strive for our own glory and well-being. We believe that the world the revolves around us, which causes us to put our head into the ground to partake in a never-ending grind.
We are tempted to spend countless hours on school, continuously preparing for spotless performances and feedback on quizzes, tests, and papers. We are tempted to invest our whole-being into a sport.
During success, our pride becomes inflated. During failure, that pride quickly deflates into despair. We daydream about the praise we will receive when we hit a clutch jump-shot to win a basketball game or when we kick the game-winning soccer goal.
Where are you tempted to find rest in your work? Don’t you feel empty?
Dissatisfied by this grind, we drift off into excess leisure.
We are tempted to glaze over watching the internet or television screen, and spend countless hours binge-ing on shows, movies, and videos on demand, such as Netflix and YouTube. We are tempted to scroll down our social media feeds throughout the day on Instagram and SnapChat. Even, for a select few, including myself, the temptation is present to glue one’s eyes to a book or ears to music/podcast.
Where are you tempted to find rest in leisure? Don’t you feel empty?
As you can see, our attempts to find rest do not work. But, we do have hope.
Rest in Christ’s work to restore you to God.
Christ condescended into the mess we created. He fully depended upon God the Father for the rest and joy we long for. He fully obeyed the law. In fact, Jesus was the fulfillment of the law. After achieving the perfect obedience and dependence which we can never achieve, Jesus took on our disobedience and tyranny on the cross.
On that cross, in his humanity, Jesus could not enjoy the Father’s pleasure and smile, because the Father crushed Him with His wrath. While suffering the agony we deserve, He died. But, Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to the Father’s right hand by the Holy Spirit, the immeasurably great power of God.
Through Christ’s cleansing and transforming blood, our transgresses against God’s law are legally forgiven and forgotten (Ephesians 1:7). Our former hostility with the Father is no more.
We are His adopted children. He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the field. Not even one meager sparrow, which is not worth one penny, hits the ground apart from God’s will. In the Father’s eyes, we are His holy, blameless, and beloved children. Therefore, we are of much greater value than any bird, lily, or sparrow. How much more will He care for our bodily needs and shroud us under His umbrella of love?
We do not have to find peace and rest in work or leisure. We have peace and rest before the Father, through the Holy Spirit, in Jesus.We do not have to find peace and rest in work or leisure. We have peace and rest before the Father, through the Holy Spirit, in Jesus. Click To Tweet
“Therefore, present yourself to God as a living sacrifice.” (Romans 12:1). Our daily worship simply consists of enjoying simple pleasures, such as good food, coffee, fellowship, music, or books, and engaging in good deeds.
We not left to ourselves to accomplish these things. Jesus abides in us through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling within us.
In the morning, we can slide out of the bed and be excited about the day ahead. At night, we can slide under our sheets, rest our head on our pillow, and close our eyes, knowing that the world is held in God’s firm grip.