Recently, God nudged my heart to pursue a greater level of consistent rest and joy and bring a healthier balance to committed service. As a retiree, I have the freedom to pack into my self-imposed schedule whatever I desire. Because I enjoy so many things, I tend to fill my time to the brim. Or perhaps over-pack would be more accurate! But I sense I am on the cusp of change.
Cusp refers to “a point of transition between two different states or a pointed end when two curves meet. With many curves to my life and ministry, I’m uncertain to the exact “cusp” ahead. But I need an opportunity to refresh. So, Lord, whatever Your plan, bring it on!
From the beginning, God created work for humanity and humanity for work.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
I look out my window and laugh as I watch a man walking his dog. Or rather a dog dragging a man through knee-deep snow while chasing a rabbit.
Sometimes my work bares resemblance. I too feel like I’m being dragged into knee-deep pursuits against my will. I wonder if God looks at the pace of my life and laughs. More probably, He shakes His head knowing His plan is better than that.
I find it interesting that God made Adam at the very end of the sixth day of creation. I’m reminded again that Adam’s first full day was one of rest. Timing perfectly orchestrated!
God planned Adam’s work to be so significant that he needed rest before plunging in. God repeats the pattern again and again for many other people.
- God removed Moses from the busy affluence of Pharoah’s palace, giving him a forty-year “rest” in the wilderness as a shepherd before his ministry began.
- The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days before He began His earthly ministry.
- After his conversion, Paul spent several years in Arabia before embarking on his ministry as apostle, writing the majority of the New Testament.
None of these illustrations would fit snuggly into our definition of “restful.” Even in rest, work was accomplished. But on the cusp of something new, God drew His chosen leaders aside for “rest” — away from the influence of crowds and earthly demands. Rest realigns our souls with God.
“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says, “only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.”
God designs the prime motivation of rest to turn, or “return,” our hearts and focus back to Him. When we quiet the chatter of “have to, must do, should do,” we find strength.
The word for strength, in Hebrew, also means “force, valor, victory.” In rest, God brings increased power and strength. He also amplifies our “valor,” or “courage in the face of danger or battle.” To ensure victory in the season ahead, He calls us to rest.
But we, like Israel, don’t always accept His loving invitation.
” … But you would have none of it.”
I’m not sure what Israel used for an excuse. I know mine. “I must finish _____.” “Let me do _____ first.” “Wait until it’s a little less busy.” “Rest might cost me financially.”
On and on my list of excuses roll. I clearly understand the pressures to work, but only vaguely comprehend the significance of rest.
Rest proves God’s Presence goes with us.
“And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
God gifts us with rest! Despite the insomnia which plagues our culture, God promises,
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Another passage resonates with many of us,
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”
Perhaps, our restlessness exposes our need for God’s Presence more than we realize. Will we listen?
If I find rest difficult, what about joy? At first glance, most people who know me would consider me quite joyful. I enjoy every aspect of my life. My faith, family, work, and ministry all bring me joy. And yet God welcomes me into deeper levels of both rest and joy.
I shared God’s prompting with a close friend. She laughed at me! Yes, laughed! Then she pointed to Jesus’ parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-28. The master gave one servant five talents, who quickly went out and earned five more. The master also gave another servant two talents, who faithfully went out and earned two more. Then a wasteful servant, who was given one talent, buried it in the dirt.
My friend asked, “What was the response of the master to the first two servants?”
I quickly responded,
“Well done, good and faithful servant!”
“And?” she questioned. Hesitantly, I responded,
“You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”
“And?” she asked again. My blank look invited her to complete the passage.
I remembered how the master gave each person talents. He rewarded their good work with more responsibility. But I forgot there was more. He invited them, as He is inviting us all, into the best part.
“Come and share your master’s happiness!”
What? How could I miss something so significant?
Other Bibles versions say, “the joy of the Lord!” How much joy does God have? Everything about Him, including His joy, is immeasurably more than we could ever think or imagine.
Do we consider God to be such a cruel task master, that He would deprive us of joy? Is that why it is easier to work “for” Him than “rest” in Him, experiencing His unlimited “joy?”
I don’t comprehend, even in a limited way, the exceedingly great joy God has for us — not just later in Heaven, but for us now.
Nehemiah refused to allow his people to become stuck in a rut of mourning or weeping. God gifts us with joy!
” … This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Both rest and joy come from God, originate with Him, and flow out of Him. Even amidst seasons of grief and loss, God offers us His gift of rest and joy. This combination becomes our strength, protection, power, courage, and victory.
I resolve to not follow the example of yesterday by committing myself to a season of God’s rest and joy. Whether that season is forty years, forty days, or forty hours, I trust Him to do through and for me what He knows I need.
My friend acknowledged that God was speaking to her in a similar way. Would anyone else like to join us for a little more rest and joy?