Reflecting on… Rest and FOMO

“Humans, made by the Triune God, were created with a need for relationship.  Relational needs are not a by-product of the fall.  Likewise, the need for rest, or Sabbath, is not an aftertaste of human sinfulness, unlike our chronic inability to receive rest.  In fact, Sabbath is a foretaste of heaven.  Sleep does not come after, but before, the fall.  Like sleep, the day of rest comes before the fall.  Rest was not a result of the devil’s work.  As we were made to eat and breathe and walk, we were made, from the foundations of the world, to rest, or to Sabbath, in God.  If we never choose to rest, as we are built, it will catch up to us.  We cannot dodge our needs.  Our opinions and feelings cannot change it.  Humans need rest.  Animals need rest.  Land needs rest.  And without rest, things will cease to exist as they should.” 

A. J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Non-Stop World, pp. 15-16.

We live in a FOMO (fear of missing out) world.  FOMO is amplified in our time by social media messages and images that create a constant standard of comparison of what we are or are not, what we have or don’t have, how many “likes” or “friends” we have or don’t have.  FOMO fuels the restlessness that is rampant among us.  Taking a break can be just as devoid of rest as our work.  People have more leisure time and conveniences than ever but are less at ease.  FOMO is a trigger for feelings of shame or guilt for being still.  Christians (especially leaders) spiritualize our tendency not to rest, glorifying overwork for the sake of the Mission.  In FOMO world, we think mostly about what rest might cost us.  Let’s consider this question:  What does NOT resting cost us?

Before reflecting on the question, let’s consider A. J. Swoboda’s reminder that rest preceded the fall.  We are built with a need for rest.  “Our need for rest is like gravity (p.15).”  Our need for rest isn’t a by-product of our weakness.  Swoboda observes that the book of Genesis is devoid of the mention of Sabbath.  The first actual use of the word on Sabbath in the Pentateuch is Exodus 16:23. Our struggle to live in harmony with God’s design should not be a surprise.  That is the nature of sin.  As a result, “God had to institute Sabbath law because humanity had failed to live the intent of God’s rest (p. 17).”  We ignore our need to rest to our peril.  Gravity always wins.  It is a necessity because of our finiteness.  Sin’s lie that we can be like God is embedded deep in our unwillingness to rest.  Moreover, our infinite Creator who functions with no need to rest, chose to do so.  Why did God rest?  Dallas Willard observed that God rested not because of fatigue, but to enjoy his work.  We so often don’t enjoy our work or its fruit because we never take a break from it.   

What does it cost us to NOT rest in a FOMO world?  For starters, contentment.  If we are constantly in motion chasing “what’s next” it is hard to reflect on we have already been blessed with.  Discontent and FOMO are closely linked.  Lack of rest has an impact on relationships.  I know first-hand that when I’m overscheduled, I can be with people but not present with them.  I ask fewer questions.  I’m less observant.   As a result, I offer less encouragement.  I don’t savor the moment with people when I’m peeking ahead to the next stop in my schedule.   I became better at everything relationally—as a husband, father, and pastor–when I began to embrace a rhythm of Sabbath rest.  Lack of rest clouds priorities.  We might be on top of our work tasks but miss the opportunity to prioritize small things that make a big difference with people.  FOMO is symptom of trying to find happiness and fulfillment in this world at the expense of enjoying God.  It is hard to delight in God, appreciate His grace, or rest in the gospel when were constantly rushing and tired with no time to be still and reflect.  FOMO tells us that to live a big life we need to constantly in motion, working hard and playing hard.  Jesus is a better model.  He lived big by taking time away to rest and recalibrate his agenda with the Father’s. 

As shepherd-leaders, we model for the average person in our local church the normal Christina walk is like.  What do we model?  How accessible is it?  Do we model what it looks like to live under a gospel of grace?  How do we model Sabbath rest?  We’ll reflect more on how to model rest next week.

Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, through your Spirit show us how and where the fear of missing out creates restlessness in our life.  We confess this restlessness is the result of seeking life in places it cannot be found.  You, Lord Jesus, are the fount of living water.  You are the bread of life.  May we repent and return to you as the One who satisfies.  Only when we are satisfied in you will we truly free to rest and to enjoy all the good in this world.  Teach us, again, the wisdom of the Sabbath.  Amen!