3 Reasons Why Rest is Different Than Escape

Rest is a topic that comes up often in the summertime. The breaks in schedules naturally give us more permission to play. The longer, warmer days encourage spontaneity and broken routines. Seasons of rest are important—arguably every bit as “productive” as seasons of intense work. But lately, I can’t help but feel that we can easily confuse the ideas of “escape” and “rest.” Sometimes this is just a matter of word choice. Other times however, it feels like we’ve lost what it means to truly rest. 

In having this conversation it’s tempting to categorize certain leisure activities as “bad” or “good.” Or, label them as “rest” or “escape.” We might say that taking a walk is restful and Netflix is escaping from reality because one appears to be more “healthy” than the other. But this conversation is less about the activities themselves and more about the purpose they are serving in our lives and the feelings that drive them. 

So how is rest different than escape?

Rest is engaging – While it provides a change of pace and a break from obligations and routines, rest keeps us engaged with our Creator, each other, and ourselves. Rest tunes our ears to the voices that matter, while escape merely turns down the volume on all input. As a therapist, I often hear people making a case for escape. We like to dress up our need to detach with ideas that sound nice but in reality, are relationally disconnecting and damaging. Rest provides space and intentionality to pray, seek wisdom, and think in a way that prompts us see problems through to the other side. Escape allows for disengagement that ensures nothing will get solved or be changed. It might provide respite but it fails to restore.

Rest cultivates change – When we escape, eventually, when the numbing affects of avoidance wear off, we awaken to the same problem or stress that we started with. When the numbing effects of avoidance have worn off, we are no different and the problem is the same. On the other hand, rest allows us to unplug so that we can plug into something more life-giving. Here, we can discern truth, gain new perspective, and take time to grow in the ways we need to grow so that we return to the rhythms, struggles, and joys in our lives in a new way. Rest asks the question, “how is this situation asking me to grow?” while escape is simply interested in making the stress or problem go away…if only for awhile.

Rest is a rhythm of trust – Escape is the product of fear. We might be afraid that we don’t have what it takes so we avoid the opportunity. Or, we might fear what it might mean if we confront the truth and make an attempt at delaying the inevitable. Whatever the reason might be, escape is a reaction to pain. Rest, however, is a response to truth—an action taken from a place of peace. It’s a rhythm we choose knowing that our lives are not shaped by our own grit, but by the One who created us and called us. It’s a choice we make knowing that our value is about our createdness, not about the life we are creating.

When God speaks of rest in scripture, He isn’t encouraging us to merely escape by taking a break or a nap. He offers soul rest. Here, Jesus doesn’t merely provide distraction. He offers restoration by giving us Himself. My prayer for all of us is that as we unplug from the routines of our everyday lives, we plug in to the “unforced rhythms of His grace” (Matthew 11). This is the only place where our hearts can be at peace and our souls will find the rest we crave.

Nicole Zasowski