When We Settle for Less Than Rest

I am as guilty as anyone of cramming way too much into my schedule. It’s not that I have a problem saying “no”—I do that regularly—it’s that I just enjoy living a full life. I had three kids in three years. I’m a pastor’s wife, a writer, an occasional speaker, and a Bible study and worship leader. I own a small business and also try to maintain the organization and peace of my own home. All the while, I’m working my way through graduate school and value living a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, sleep, and investing in relationships and my community.

Just writing all of that makes me want to curl up in bed and take a nap. Many of us can identify with this type of craziness, or may have even more than that on our plate. It’s difficult enough to find time to juggle all our different commitments, what more find space for regular rest! However, I’ve found that when I have not made time for rest, I not only see a decline in the quality of what I do, but my soul is left utterly depleted of fuel.

This is because we were created to rest, and to do so in a way which enables us to live with peace and contentment even in the midst of our full lives.

Sounds too good to be true? Then perhaps we need to ask ourselves: What kind of “rest” are we getting?

It is important that we not only make time for rest, but that we get the right kind of rest. Recently, my husband, Andrew, and I realized that we often spend the little amounts of down time we have being sucked into our phones and scrolling through social media, watching a show, or catching up on work.

We reflected on our habits and recognized that we had been pursuing a false rest that checks us out of reality and puts us in a haze—instead of leading us to true rest that refreshes. Not only does this go against the call within Scripture to keep our minds active and alert (1 Peter 5:8-14, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Luke 21:34-36), but beyond that we’ve come to realize that true rest isn’t found in ceasing all activity or not doing anything, but rather ceasing from distraction and finding our strength by dwelling with Christ.

 

Where do we find true rest?

So, where can we, as believers, find truly rejuvenating rest? Scripture talks about rest frequently, and it tells us exactly where to go to find the rest we need. There is a specific way in which humans were created to rest—in the presence of our Creator.

In Matthew 11:28-30, we find this promise:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

The very words, “rest for your souls” sound so hope-filled and life-giving to me. I have found rest for my soul when I come to God’s presence by laying my burdens before Him through worship, prayer, diving into Scripture, and reading solid Christian books—all of these things are not passive activities, but active pursuits of Christ which have the potential to usher us before Christ in life-giving refreshment and renewal.

 

Resting as a discipline

We must seek out rest in Christ intentionally, as a matter of spiritual discipline. As a mother of young children, I often hear other moms say they don’t have time to get into Scripture. This breaks my heart. All of us could find excuses—I often have myself—but the reality is that I, and all of us, make time for that which we find important, and that normally means saying “no” to things that aren’t as important.

For example, if having our kids in sports is important, we say no to other opportunities in order to bring them to practice and games. If catching up on a show is a priority, we choose that over other items on our “to do” list. If having time alone with our spouse is important, we turn down other engagements or meetings to make time. Since having time alone with God is important in order for us to get rest, we may have to say no to extra sleep, to a show, or even to time out with friends, in order to make it happen.

After realizing we had been pursuing an empty form of rest for so long, Andrew and I have begun getting up before 5 a.m. every day so that we can spend time in Scripture, journaling, praying, reading good books for (hopefully) an hour or so before our children wake up. This simple change has given life to us both—helping us start our day on a note of learning and leaning into our Lord, and has even led to changes in our attitudes, parenting style, and a new level of depth in our marriage as we have conversations about our readings.

Is this fun? Not always. Do I want to hit myself (or my husband) in the head with a pillow when I hear the alarm? Almost every day. But this is the very meaning of a discipline. We may have to force ourselves to do it at first, but it’s something that we will come to hunger and thirst for eventually, because restful time with God is what we’re made for. It must be prioritized and sometimes, it must be planned.

I’ve learned that life will never slow down. Every season brings new challenges, new excitement and new stressors. If we do not live intentionally, life will pass us by, seasons will come and go, and all of the sudden 10 years will be gone and we will find ourselves just as exhausted as ever and further away from the Lord.

May we find our refreshment and our absolute delight in the arms of our Maker, saying with the Psalmist, “As the Deer pants for the water, so my soul pants after You” (Psalm 41:1).

 

Editor’s Note: For more practical tips on how to get the most of your rest, check out this article.

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