Memorial Day has come and gone, and I am looking forward to the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” which will soon arrive. With summer comes the wonderful anticipation of REST: that warm and delicious, lounging-on-the-beach kind of rest that I love! This year, though, "summer" started earlier for me.
My husband and I spent Memorial Day in a little cottage on the Rhode Island coast. Only two blocks from the ocean, our tiny haven afforded us an opportunity to rest, relax, and refocus as we celebrated our 15th anniversary. Despite the still-chilly air in New England, and only a brief, obligatory appearance by the sun, we walked on the beach, dipped our toes in the water, and watched as hardier souls than we dared to submerge themselves in the icy ocean waters.
It felt decadent, this sudden plunge from a tsunami of busyness into the gentle swells of peace. I realized that part of the allure of summer, for me, is the return to nature’s slower rhythms as I abandon the world’s high-speed demands. Were we not designed to live this way? Yet there seemed to be a lingering guilt, as if it were somehow selfish to relax!
I sat, one night, on top of an abandoned lifeguard chair, soaking in the spray of the waves and the crisp freshness of the wind. I heard the Lord say to me, “You don’t realize how much you needed rest. You don’t see how stressed you were.”
I considered His words. Truthfully, I have not been nearly as busy as I used to be, having recently taken a sabbatical and invested more fully in the things I am most passionate about: family, friends, writing, and prayer. Still, stresses abound in family life, and with the transitions have come new challenges. We are still pushing through major obstacles to our faith, still believing God for newer, better things, still dealing with the day-to-day demands of raising children.
The Lord wanted me to know that true rest does not come from a ceasing of activity alone, but from a yielding of the soul to the rhythms of its Maker. As our bodies must cease from action, so our souls need stillness in order to be restored. The restoration of the soul is as important to the Lord as the healing of the body.
How does God restore our souls?
Here is a simple three-step process that illustrates how restoration takes place:
1. The first step is to set apart time to draw near to the One who holds the power of restoration in His hands: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” ~Matthew 11:28-29.
By intentionally making time for rest, my husband and I were stating our willingness to be restored to God and to each other. Our tendency as humans is to “keep on keeping on,” long beyond the point where we should have stopped.
As a biblical example, when Christ’s newly-empowered disciples returned to Him, full of joy at “what they had done and what they had taught,” (Mark 6:30), His response to them was to “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31, NKJV). This runs counter to what most people would suggest after a professional success, which would be to go back out and work some more, especially if we’re already on a roll!
2. Second, we become willing to submit to adjustments in our thinking or priorities. We stop long enough to hear His voice, to discern His next words to us, or to correct any thinking that is not aligned with scripture. In short, we listen to and obey the Word.
Just as my husband and I needed time to just “be” together, so our souls need time to just “be” in the Lord’s Presence. Neglecting to rest is not just detrimental, it’s disobedient. A reading of Hebrews 4 reveals that disregard for Sabbath rests leads to a hardening of the heart (or soul) and a separation from God’s promised peace. The command to be diligent about rest is, interestingly, followed by a description of the Word, powerful and sharp like a sword, and a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:11-12)
Mike Yaconelli, in his book Messy Spirituality, writes that rest is the “ultimate humiliation,” because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the world can get along without us, that God’s work does not depend on us. It is being with Jesus, not working for Him. (Messy Spirituality, Zondervan Publishing, 2007).
It is an act of faith to rest in God, acknowledging that He is in control of all things. Restoration comes as we saturate our minds and hearts with living water – the Word of God. Out of this refreshment will come the empowerment to do the “next thing,” whatever that may be.
Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked.
3. The final step is what I experienced on that lifeguard chair at the beach. It is in yielding to His rhythms for our lives that we are restored. Psalm 23 expresses it best:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Many of us recognize the need to give rest to our physical bodies after times of exertion or prolonged stress. We have been taught to honor the Sabbath, to take a day, as God did, to rest from our labors. But not as many of us have succeeded in finding rest for our souls. I think it might surprise some of us, to find that God is just as interested in restoring our innermost beings as He is in refreshing our bodies. As we yield to the Holy Spirit's direction, we find that He is a gentle leader, not a relentless taskmaster.
I want to end this article with a challenge: whether you recognize your need for rest or not, will you make a commitment to honor God on the inside as well as the outside? Will you set apart some time to just be with Him, to bathe in the pure water of the Word, to take time to sniff at the wind a bit and sense the changes that are coming? I promise, you won’t regret your decision!
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.