For many of us, busyness can become a way of life where doing overrides being. We care for the sick, volunteer, build businesses, and raise families, which are all wonderful things to do; but how often do we take time out from our busy schedules to slow down, relax, and just be?
Prior to discovering the power of rest, I continuously had to be doing. I felt guilty if I took time out for myself. Guilty if I received help from others. Guilty if I missed getting a task done. This all meant that rest took a backseat, which eventually caused my body to begin a slow descent into autoimmune disease.
One defining moment in that descent came on a summer afternoon. I stood at the top of our staircase talking with one of my stepkids. We ended our lighthearted banter and I turned to move on to my next task only to realize that my legs wouldn’t work properly. I had zero energy. None. I panicked and called for my husband and he assisted me to a bed to lie down. From that moment forward, I began to take the signs and symptoms of autoimmunity seriously.
I revisit that moment on top of the staircase infrequently. It took years for me to shift my thinking concerning rest and to appreciate the vital role it should play in my world. There were moments where I worked through guilt, shame, and self-judgment as I rested and other moments where I felt the peaceful presence of the Holy Spirit inviting me to stay in rest. But day by day, month by month, and year by year, I watched as my body responded in the best possible ways to rest.
The fact that God himself rested on the seventh day says a lot about the importance of intentionally entering into rest. Here are 5 verses that invite us to lean into God and find rest.
Psalm 46: Rest Shifts Our Focus
In my 30s, one appointment led to another; one new piano student led to several more; one home modification led to another; and all the while, I worked, studied, and tended to relationships as best I could. The stress of living was beholden to my own out-of-control schedule and I felt like the world was pressing in on me from all sides. I heard myself begin to say things like: How on earth am I going to fit everything in? My whole body aches. I am exhausted.
Scheduling time to rest was tricky, but after my body stopped complying, I was forced to learn how to say “no.” I then applied that “no” to one non-priority activity at a time. This freed up hours in my schedule so that I could implement regular Psalm 46:11 moments where I could “be still and know that he is God!”
Matthew 11: Burdens In Exchange For Peace
Chronic stress can physically, mentally and emotionally wear us down. Daily, I found myself with ultra-low energy. This was because stress and anxiety had heightened cortisol and blood pressure levels in my body, which had restricted my ability to see calmly, process information accurately, or even hear the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invited people who were “weary and heavily burdened to come to him and he would give them rest.”
Jesus helps us to enter into rest when we give him our burdens. This doesn’t mean that all of our problems magically disappear, but it does mean that the way we walk through our problems will change so we are aligned with the healthiest possible outcomes.
Psalm 23: Receive in Your Rest
King David knew the necessity of rest. He was a shepherd, a musician, a king and a warrior, and he journeyed through many stressful seasons in life. His psalms included lamentations about difficult personal circumstances all the way through to victories in history-making battles. His poetic reflectiveness in Psalm 23:2-3 draws our attention to God’s offer of rest: “In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.”
Think of reclining on that green grass beside those still waters for a moment. What might you see in the stillness? What might you hear? What scents might be floating in the atmosphere?
I have reflected on Psalm 23 in this way many times and I have been surprised by what I have encountered as a result. The way light refracts through the still waters and onto warm, golden sands below, the sounds of willow branches as they sway gently beside me in the breeze, or the scents of frangipani and sage wafting by serve to redirect my thoughts into a slower, more reflective pace. And as my senses open up, my heart begins to receive; my focus is drawn away from pressing circumstances and back onto the restorative presence of God.
Isaiah 40: Hope and Rise
Another amazing biblical truth about rest can be found in Isaiah 40:31, which says, “They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”
When I meditate on this passage, I think about how eagles do an amazing thing. When a storm is approaching, they spread their wings and utilize the power of the oncoming storm’s updrafts to lift them high above the storm where the air is clear and the perspective is fresh, and there above the storm they hover. It makes me think about how hope can lift us in a similar way. When life’s storms rush towards us and we are feeling the weight of exhaustion, we can place our hope in God, spread our wings, and rise into his renewal and strength.
John 15:4-5: Remain and Bear Fruit
If there is one especially poignant revelation I have taken away from my journey into rest, it is this: I am continuously joined into Jesus. This revelation began a huge metamorphosis in my thinking. One moment I believed that God was floating out there in the distance somewhere and not really a part of my world, and the next, I had a John 15:4-5 encounter where Jesus says, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
When I read this Scripture afresh a year ago, I saw the grapevine and the branches that were joined into it. There was no separation between the branches and the vine. The same sap flow that ran through the vine also ran into the branches, which was how the branches stayed alive and received the replenishment they needed: they rested in their connectedness to the vine of Jesus.
Rest has played a crucial role in my spiritual life. It has provided a space for my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and for me to live in constant communion with God. It has slowed me down physically to bring about healing and a deep sense of calm. I have learned how to stop fighting and struggling and have opened my heart to receive his restoration and his life. I am also so very thankful for his Scriptures. They have invited me deeper into rest and into his life.