Rest for some people comes naturally. For me, however, learning how to rest effectively has been a struggle. God gives rest to the weary. It is a gift I am only just beginning to understand and receive.
My father would often admonish me to slow down, saying, “You always lean into the wind!” Obviously, even as a child I erred toward quick movement and constant action.
How about you? Are you like many people who fall exhausted into bed each night after high pressure days? Do you, like others, rise from a night’s sleep without feeling refreshed? Have you learned how to rest effectively? More importantly, do you know how to rest in God? True rest encompasses spiritual, physical, and emotional elements. Only then will we find the powerful secret of rest.
“It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.”
Step 1 — Discern When to Work and When to Rest
Psalms 127 describes me — overworked and anxious! God instructs us to work. Most people possess a desire to accomplish, to better ourselves and things around us. A good day of productive labor gives a sense of satisfaction, but God knows we need a healthy balance. He instructs us to work for six days, followed by a Sabbath rest.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . “
In some seasons of life, this may seem near impossible. How does a young mother not work to care for her children? Shift work or being on continuous call doesn’t afford flexibility to designate a consistent day for sabbath rest each week.
God created us and remembers we are “made from dust” (Psalm 103:14). He knows continuous work will cause us to implode! Between work shifts and serving in ministry, I, too, struggle to eek out a sabbath rest. Then what?
For people whose employment runs from nine-to-five o’clock five days a week, schedules may require very little adaptation for a sabbath rest. For many others, diligence to prioritize where and how to spend precious time becomes essential. One day a week (Saturday, Sunday, or any other day) to pull away from responsibility and work will increase one’s ability to enjoy refreshing, sustaining rest.
The first step in learning how to rest effectively comes with giving God permission to reset our focus away from work. Through sabbath rest, we give our bodies and minds a break from routine pressures.
“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
Step 2 — Get Away With God
Jesus faced similar pressures when He walked this earth. Many times, He invited His disciples to leave the crowds for time to rest with Him. He understands the unending demands of responsibility.
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'”
For me, just beginning each day fresh with God helps to set my pace and give me perspective. Finishing the day with Him, settles my heart and mind. My “quiet place” with God includes Bible reading and meditation on His Word, prayer, and worship. It also includes being still within to hear His gentle whispers in my heart — sometimes affirming, sometimes convicting, often giving direction.
The “quiet place” of rest might include going for a walk in nature, allowing Him to reset the rhythms of life. God often nudges our thoughts toward Him during these times. He seeks opportunity to simply “be with” us. Every thriving relationship requires uninterrupted time together, including our relationship with God.
Somehow, in the midst of time with Him, we find rest. This simple step helps to train us to rest effectively in Him.
Step 3 — Trust God is Good
Training ourselves to draw away from work and near to God sets the foundation of trusting Him with all the other “burdens” and pressures we pick up and carry. I worry over family, concern myself about the future, and feel anxious over the uncertainty of our times. Trust! Easy to say; hard to do!
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
So I work more, try harder, and attempt to control everything possible. I wear out, play out, and burn out. “Get away with me and you will recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest,” sounds too good to be true.
“Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it!” Instead, I resist Him, going my direction, doing things my way, and expecting Him to watch how I do everything! It usually ends in misguided effort, ultimate failure, and guaranteed fatigue. But as I learn how to trust and rest effectively in God, I walk more with Him, work better beside Him and through Him, while watching closely how He works. How peaceful and easy everything becomes, while trusting His ways and co-operating with the Holy Spirit.
Step 4 — Discovering God’s Grace
As an unaccomplished musician, I remember well the hours upon hours spent leaning over the ivory keys of an upright grand piano. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but it sure helps. From childhood into adulthood, hours turned into weeks, and week into years of practice and concentrated effort.
“The unforced rhythms of grace” play a different tune, however. Paint swirled upon a canvas by a skilled artist yields fluently to the flow of the brush. Clay upon the potter’s wheel offers no resistance to the will of trained hands. As we fully rest in God’s plan, we learn to flow freely in the unforced rhythms of His grace and love. Here we find sweet rest. Here we recover abundant life, living freely and lightly.
In “the unforced rhythms of grace” — where soul, body, and spirit find refuge and rest — guilt holds no sway.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power if made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
Learning how to rest effectively in God partners with grace. How peaceful the heart becomes when we acknowledge we don’t need all the answers. Success does not depend on our ability, strength, power, resources, or wisdom. It depends on God. As we rest in Him, He works through us all the more.
Learning How to Rest Effectively
Life, for all of us, continuously changes. We no sooner learn the rhythm of one season when suddenly we face another. Sometimes changes shift slowly. Often, they come like violent upheavals. My husband and I are learning again to rest effectively in God. In Him alone, we find rest in transition and change.
Learning suggests an ongoing process — a process of internal change and transformation. Learning also suggests a Teacher faithfully guiding the steps of that journey.
“O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.”
David, once a shepherd and then a king, wrote,
“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside quiet water, he refreshes my soul.”
Sometimes God, our Shepherd, makes us lie down. Usually, when we have forgotten to rest.
May I invite you to come with me as together we learn how to rest effectively. Let us allow God, our Good Shepherd, to give us times of rest “in green pastures” and “beside quiet waters”. Through rest may we recover our lives, living freely and lightly, and may we experience the “unforced rhythms of grace.”