Most of the time we live in a whirlwind. We bounce around from activity to activity, task to task, and event to event. Just when we think things will slow down for a while, something else pops up on our calendar or an urgent matter gets dropped on us. As much as we would like them to, things never really slow down for us. This busy season seems to cross over into the next season which is just as hectic. We end up feeling over tired, over stressed, and overwhelmed with all the items on our plate.
What we long for is rest. While Jesus knew things would be difficult at times, he offered us rest for our souls. Matthew 11:28-29 says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls “
What a comforting verse! Jesus offers us what we long for! In Christ, we find rest for our weary souls. Jesus supernaturally imposes on us a sense of rest in the midst of life’s whirlwind and storms. But how do we find this rest? Let me give you three pieces of advice I’ve learned about trusting God in the midst of the whirlwind.
- Do not underestimate the COMMAND to Sabbath
This is a big one. The Lord was so serious about rest that he built it into the fabric of our very nature. We need sleep to survive. Our bodies cannot even go 2 days without sleep before we begin to hallucinate and our bodies start shutting down. Beyond sleep, however, is the command to practice Sabbath – a full day of rest every week. God commands us to cease from working every 7 days. There are two main reasons he gives us this command: to remind us that we are not God and to remind us He has set us free from slavery.
In the proclamation of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, God declares the Sabbath day holy, deserving of reverence and honor. Verse 11 says, “For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.” God is holy and He rested. Are we above God? Certainly not! If the all-powerful chose to rest and set aside a whole day to do it, who are we to think we are mightier than He? We must rest as a response to God’s holiness.
In the second giving of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5, Moses gives a completely different reasoning for resting on the Sabbath: freedom. Verse 15 says, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”
It is for freedom that God set us free. We are to cease our striving as a declaration of our freedom from slavery. While we weren’t all slaves in Egypt, we were slaves to sin and God delivered us. Resting on the Sabbath day is a declaration of freedom. We do not need to strive for freedom, we were delivered!
Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson the hard way. There was a season where I worked seven days a week. Even in ministry, I thought that if I didn’t do it, then it wouldn’t get done. As noble as my efforts were, it was evident that I wasn’t trusting God with His own work. I believed that it was up to me. Salvation for the people that I served was at stake. How could I stop even for a moment? I was essentially placing myself in God’s position of authority because I was ignoring His commands. I wasn’t honoring Him with my striving.
This was to my detriment. My ministry floundered. I burned out. My body and my mind turned on me and I broke down. A major factor for this was my inability or my refusal, rather, to Sabbath.
When God says something, He means it. Practice Sabbath.
- Create margin in your life
The second thing I had to learn the hard way was to create margin in my life for rest. My schedule was packed and my to-do list ran my life. I was overworking myself and I couldn’t stop. There was no space in between my tasks to take a break. If your calendar is so packed that there is no space left unscheduled, then you have no margin.
We are always in a hurry. We want to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as we can. Then once we get there, we want to finish our tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible so we can rush to Point C. I’m all for efficiency, but when we rush from thing to thing, are we really being efficient or are we just making ourselves feel accomplished without doing anything all that well?
Jesus was a busy man. He had the crowds following Him wherever He went. There were sick to heal, disciples to teach, and sinners to save. But He didn’t let the throngs of people around Him deter Him from stopping on His way to notice the blind beggar or the woman with a bleeding disease. His responsibilities did not stop Him from frequently going to a deserted place to pray to His Father. Jesus knew the importance of creating margin. Both for the sake of His refreshment and the sake of His ministry.
Creating margin isn’t easy. It means you are going to have to say “no” to something or even a few things. As a “yes” man I struggled with this. But when I learned to create margin, I found rest was waiting for me there.
- Do what gives you joy
The last thing I learned when resting is to do what brings you joy. Don’t get so caught up in your responsibilities that you forget to take time for yourself. When was the last time you enjoyed your hobbies? Have you forgotten what they were? I did for a while.
But I found new ones and discovered new things about myself. For instance, I learned that slowing down for mindful breathing reoriented my way of thinking and after learning to let go, that’s when I actually came up with some of my best ideas.
We all need rhythms of work, rest and play. Go out in the back yard with your kids and throw a ball around. Read that book that’s been collecting dust on your nightstand. Watch a movie. Discover some new music on Spotify. And don’t just have it on in the background. Sit down and really listen to it. Your soul will be refreshed.
Jesus offers us rest. If we don’t take him up on the offer, where do you think our rest will come from? Maybe you have the mindset, “I’ll rest when I’m dead.” Two words of warning: first, without regular rest, that day will come sooner than you anticipate. Second, practicing rest is practicing for Heaven. Our souls long for paradise and God offers us a taste of it here on earth. Don’t miss it.
I pray you find rest for your weary souls. The whirlwind may not be slowing down any time soon, but that doesn’t mean that you have to keep up the same pace. Don’t be a slave to the season, God set you free so live in that freedom!
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