Do you remember what spring break was like?

How about the joy and freedom of the last day of school? Or that moment when you’re getting close to the beach and you roll down the windows so you can feel the ocean breeze and taste the salt air?

Recently, the kids across the street from us were playing in the yard past 10 at night just because they could during their spring break, and it made me smile.

We all need breaks. Real breaks. Meaningful breaks. Breaks where the burdens we carry are lifted and the cares that weigh us down are forgotten.

Somehow, though, rest has come to be seen as something of a luxury. We associate rest, breaks and time away with lack of ambition or downright laziness.

Without even realizing it, we tend to look down on those who find it easier than we do to freely enjoy regular breaks from the rush of their everyday routines.

Rest is not optional, though. It’s a requirement for healthy living. The hurry and worry of our lives rob us of mental and spiritual peace, so we need breaks – intentional periods of rest and relaxation.

Many of us have no trouble seeing our work as something that we do to honor God. But we forget that rest is something we do to honor God, too. It’s one of the Ten Commandments.

People who would never dream of violating the commandments against murder or blasphemy, routinely claim that they just don’t have the time to obey the fourth commandment. I wonder why that is?

In truth, many of us aren’t just too busy to rest; we’re even too busy to eat these days. Or at least we think we are. In a world where productivity is worshipped like a God, taking time to eat lunch has somehow become a luxury of the “less important.”

We work through our lunch breaks, eat at our desks or grab something at a drive-thru and wolf it down in the car, all in an effort to prove to ourselves that we’re too necessary a cog in the machine to pause for even 30 minutes.

And it’s something we’re teaching our children, too. Ask a teacher about lunches at school. Many parents report that their children have less than 15 minutes to eat lunch on school days.

Hurry and worry are symptoms of a deeper flaw in our society – a self-imposed belief in individual self-importance.

The world would have us believe that everything depends on us, and we’ve bought into that idea hook, line and sinker, forgetting the spiritual truth that everything depends on God.

We’ve bought into the myth that production and profit and activity are the end goals of our lives and forgotten the spiritual truth that community with God is the end goal of our lives.

So, most days many of us are convinced that the business will collapse, the family will disintegrate, the church will dissolve or the world will stop turning if we’re not there to constantly keep the plates spinning.

We forget that God is at the center of our work. And God is at the center of our families. And God is at the center of our churches. And God will keep the world turning even if we sit down and take a break.

We just finished a Wednesday series called “Sensing the Presence of God.” If there’s one big takeaway from the series, it’s that God’s spiritual presence is manifested in all kinds of physical ways in each of our daily lives if we could just slow down long enough to take it in.

Our lives and our families and our churches would all be much healthier if we did.

So slow down. Relax. Take a break. And don’t feel guilty about it. God commands it.

Rest shouldn’t be a four-letter word.

Matt Sapp is the pastor of Heritage Fellowship in Canton, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared on Heritage’s blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @MattPSapp.

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