I must admit, when I saw the theme for this month was “rest”, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to laugh or cry. I’ve been in an extremely busy season of life, especially in the past few months. Between ministry, young kids, houseguests, and, of course, the ever-increasing pile of laundry, rest feels elusive.
Of course I want rest. I know, deep down, that the choice of busyness is not best. I know that the chaotic pell-mell of my life is often rooted in sinful desires to please others and make a name for myself. I know that the anxiety and stress that comes from a life constantly on the go, always running, always out of breath, always behind, is not a life that will ultimately reflect Christ (and certainly won’t draw others to Him!). But here I go again, looking at my calendar for the week, sighing, and wishing I could find myself magically transported to a beautiful, quiet countryside, cup of chai in hand, good book in the other, and glorious silence all around. Can anyone relate?
As I thought of rest (and how to get it!) one of the first things that popped into my mind was sleep! (This is probably because I always feel like I could use a good nap.) As I read several articles, I was reminded of a key truth – that the ability to rest demonstrates trust. Speaking about a theology of sleep, Dr. Fred Sanders writes:
"At the very least, sleep is a good opportunity to entrust yourself, your entire self, to God’s care. You’re trusting something when you lay down your body and, with it, the control of your conscious mind. That moment when you consciously choose unconsciousness, and let yourself go, is a daily opportunity to relinquish control to a God who you have to trust.
Sleep is good practice for death. It’s good preparation for life with that same God who you’re going to have to trust eventually. And it’s worth asking for sweet dreams, because He gives sleep to his beloved, and He gives to His beloved in their sleep."
To rest – whether to sleep, to stop and smell the flowers, to say no to a certain activity so you can have time to recharge – requires placing trust in God instead of myself. And so, my inability to find rest actually has very little to do with my hectic schedule or the fact that my 15-month-old makes it impossible to find time for that quiet cup of tea. My inability to rest is instead rooted in a lack of trust in God and in His faithful, loving provision for me.
As I thought about it further, I was even more convicted. What is one of the main things that keeps me, week by week, from experiencing rest? Pure busyness. I’ve come to equate busyness with faithfulness when what faithfulness actually requires of me is simply trusting obedience. John Piper writes, “He [God] is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as He is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on Him and sleeps.” I turn to busyness because I fail to fully trust that God is my sovereign provider, actively at work in the world and lovingly working all things for His glory. The verse that comes to mind is Psalm 46:10,
“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
What else keeps me from a true sense of rest? For me, it can be guilt, fear, and worry over what others think of me that can cloud my daily activities and leave me weary. Tim Keller points to this when he says, “All of us are haunted by the work under the work—that need to prove and save ourselves, to gain a sense of worth and identity, but if we can experience gospel-rest in our hearts . . . we will have a deep reservoir of refreshment that continually rejuvenates us, restores our perspective, and renews our passion.”
I am unable to rest because I fail to trust that what God says of me is true – I am His child, saved by His blood, loved with a “never-stopping, never giving up, un-breaking, always and forever love” (Jesus Storybook Bible).
If you are a believer, you have probably thought before about the fact that Christ is our ultimate, eternal rest. In that way the connection between trust and rest seems clear – we trust in Christ alone for our salvation and we are given rest in Him. But I think what we often miss – or at least I do – is that the connection between trust and rest applies to our daily desire for peace and quiet just as much.
Finding physical, spiritual, and emotional rest will only be done in the context of daily entrusting ourselves to Jesus, saturating ourselves with His truths and promises, and abiding in His love. All our busyness, our emotional weariness, even the nap I so desperately want, that basic need for sleep, ultimately points to our need to trust Him for breath and life.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from Him.
Truly He is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honour depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge.
So yes, go grab that cup of tea. Use your sipping time to meditate on God’s promises. Find your quiet spot, and then pray desperately like the needy child God knows you are. Get away for the weekend, if only to remind you that the world will continue spinning even if you are not there. Or make time to deeply connect with a good friend, someone who points you to Jesus. And of course, take that nap, knowing as you drift off into blissful sleep that it is God who will sustain you. Trust Him, and you will rest.
Question to contemplate: What am I doing to cultivate the kind of deep trust in God that allows me to truly, finally, find rest?
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