The most important reason we need rest

 

Busyness. It can be worn like a badge, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve readily and proudly admitted when my answer to “how have you been?” is “Busy!” It makes us feel productive. Like we are worthily accomplishing something.

Rest is not easily accomplished as a mother, so I am learning. 24/7 you are now caring for the needs of a little one(s), your hubby, and your home. Plus likely balancing volunteering, work, family and friendships. Rest is utterly important, at every stage of life, and I don’t think it’s impossible, or God wouldn’t urge us to do it. We just have to be creative. For me, right now, rest looks like my morning coffee with some time in the Word before Elizabeth wakes up (that length changes daily!). It looks like trying a new recipe and experimenting with food. It looks like reading something other than non-fiction – currently, the story of the little Swiss girl, Heidi, lent to me by a friend.

My husband, Troy, knows this about me – that I have an extremely hard time resting after Elizabeth goes down for bed until clutter is put away, and the kitchen is clean. I rest better without clutter and mess. So the word “rest” has been on my mind as I mull over what God wants me to focus on in this season.

Did you know the word “rest” occurs 308 times (ESV) in the Bible? For a frame of reference, “love” occurs 551 times. So clearly, rest is important. But as I looked up this word, rest, it seemed that sometimes it takes work to rest. Doesn’t that sound funny? But if you think about all the work you put into planning a holiday, it does take effort!

Hebrew 4:9-11 says, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”

Other places where ‘rest’ is mentioned are when Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Or in Exodus 33:14 where God says, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” This is clearly a gift from His presence.

Psalm 16:8-9 also says, “I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure (ESV).” Some versions say “shall rest in hope”. What is King David saying? Because he has set the Lord before him, he is able to find rest and dwell securely in knowing His Lord has things in hand.

What do I learn from looking up the word rest? Two things:

1) Rest is both a place of peace (noun) where we find relaxation and strength, but it is also a verb, where we intentionally choose to refrain from our own way, trust, and find confident hope in the Lord.

2) Rest comes directly from His presence, from putting the Lord before us, and it keeps us from living a disobedient (unbelieving) life.

So while rest sounds like a passive word, it is actually a very intentional word that we are to seek.

As a new mom, and someone who is learning to be a homemaker all in the same breath, the idea of rest can seem like something far off – like 18 years from now. But God urges us to find rest in Him, and this will keep His presence in our lives and keep us from walking in unbelief in our hearts. Whether this is while you cook with a toddler at your ankles (amen, I have tried to find rest in this new season in this very act!), or while finding a few moments in the bathroom before your little one finds you (amen and amen).

I know there are areas the Lord has wanted to heal me of unbelief, where I don’t fully trust Him, even after all of these years. And that can only be done by coming to Him with my labor, ceasing to do it on my own, and abiding confidently in Him.

As an exercise, I took these verses and paraphrased them into my own words. Perhaps this will help you grasp what is being said…

Psalm 16:8-9 – I continuously run to Him, in my mind and in my heart. I feel His presence throughout my day, and I know He is the one that will keep me anchored. So I can live joyfully and at peace in my whole being; even physically I feel a peace as I choose to confidently abide in Who He is and what He’s done.

Hebrews 4:9-11 – There is still a way of finding total rest when you walk with God, because when you are in relationship with Him, there is a new peace that comes because you cease from doing things your own way, on your own strength. God is our leader, our Father, and even He rested after creating all of this! But it takes intention. You must work hard at resting in Him, in what He has already accomplished, and find confidence in that. This will protect you from falling into deep unbelief.

Matthew 11:28 – Come spend time in my presence, and my presence will calm and quiet your heart, and give you the strength you need.

Why is rest so important? It keeps us in His presence. And that keeps us from unbelief in our hearts, keeps us resting securely in Him.

I can’t think of any more important reason than to find ways to abide and run to Him!

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When desolate means beauty is on its way

He’s met me in dark places; places that were unplanned, but necessary. His hand reached out to comfort, bring hope. And breathe life through His grip. I’ve had dark places in life – my early 20’s when I didn’t know what path to take, but my emotions ruled me. After heartache, when everything felt unbearable. Upon great change in life when newness was everywhere, and my emotions felt raw. And as a new mamma, desolate places can be as simple (and as deceiving) as the distraction of the things we feel we must do to keep up, portray an image, but no one has actually asked us to do. No matter how hard I try, I am desolate without Jesus. I am not enough. I am not perfect. But. He is.

I’ll be honest, I have this tick-tock dilemma where I want to make everything have a purpose. At our mom’s group at church last week we were talking about personalities. Our table laughed so hard I nearly peed my pants, no joke. I went home with sore cheeks and a full soul! (TMI, but I just don’t care!) I went online after the fact to try this quiz, and lo-and-behold, I’m the rarest personality, 1% of the population. Funny enough, that didn’t surprise my husband. 😉  And in this frame of a personality, I want everything to be romantic and have a purpose, and sometimes, well, that’s just exhausting. And I try so hard to keep up, to a lot of expectations I set up, that at the end of the day I wonder sometimes what I really accomplished that had eternal value.

As we approach Easter, I felt the pressure to add my voice to the myriad of blogs and worthy posts by fellow writers of how much we love Jesus. I wanted to write something New York Times worthy. I want so desperately to tell you how Jesus has changed my life, and continues to redeem me. But this week, I just can’t find the words. I laid on myself the expectation to have something beautifully written… and I’m speechless. Sometimes, even making a difference can become an idol.

I read this morning in some prayers of Jesus where the word “desolate” was a common theme. Desolate means barren or laid waste, deprived or destitute of inhabitants, solitary, lonely. Sounds awful! But Jesus pursued those places.

Mark 1:35 and Luke 5:16 are two of the verses, among many, where it says that Jesus went or withdrew to a desolate place. He seemed to do that a lot. Go to places where no one else would go, and He would change them. Bring life. Have you ever noticed that He never left a place, or person, the same after meeting them? Whether He taught them a truth, healed them, restored sight or brought children back to life – people were changed after Jesus met them in desolation.

So in this self-induced dance of expectations and trying to make everything purposeful, I choose to let the King I love meet me in that place, that desolate place of expectations, disappointment, exhaustion of perfection… and bring His life. I choose to let His life be enough, and know that I don’t have to prove anything here, but share my heart, and hope that it rings true for someone else. That is my desire.

As we celebrate Jesus this weekend, I hope that you let Him pursue you in your desolate place, whatever it may look like. That you quiet your heart, and mind, long enough to hear Him running to You, full of life and newness. Whatever that looks like for you, in what season you are in. Throw open the door of your desolation, and let Him pursue it.

And wait and see what He does. Because in my mind, desolate places also mean something is about to happen. They are quietly waiting for beauty to be restored.

In His grip

Dating was hard for me. There, I said it. Being the hopeful romantic that I was, alongside the ambitious-wanting to please the Lord and make something of my life kind of girl I was/am, I had a hard time just letting love happen.

When my husband Troy and I met (thank God for my husband!), there were phone calls and moments for me where I had this idea in my head of how things should look, and I really wrestled when they weren’t as expected. I so believe God wrote our love story and it has been perfect for us, but not without a lot of communication, forgiveness, giving and receiving. Pursuit of a heart isn’t always easy, even though the desire be there. Letting your heart be caught, on the other hand, also isn’t easy.

I wanted to make good and sure my heart was caught, held, captured, and treasured and it all needed to look like X, Y, Z. And that has definitely leaked into my relationship with the Lord.

Have you ever had a season, or years, where you felt like He was MIA, or just not GETTING you? Like, Jesus, You KNOW I want to love You and know You, so… could you just sweep up this mess and make me new? Like, today? That has pretty much been my lifelong silent prayer.

But you know what? As Priscilla Shirer once said, “God’s grip on you is stronger than your grip on Him.”

If you read the gospels, Jesus had purpose in every encounter, every quiet restful moment, every prayer, every relationship … it all had meaning. Everything He did was about us. For us. In pursuit of us. Out of love. He doesn’t need our toiling, like Matthew 6 cautions us against. He takes care of the lilies and the birds, He can surely take care of us. And in His pursuit of us, I believe it’s always to enable us to walk out His commandments more freely – to love Him, and to love our neighbour. (Mark 12:30-31).

You see – Jesus is always pursuing you. I believe it’s always to bring freedom to love and be loved. And more often than not, it looks different from what we expected. Ultimately, like my dating relationship with my husband, I had to let my heart be caught, and trust that a deep love was on the other end.

I believe that sometimes we walk through life trying to ensure that Jesus “gets” us, and hasn’t forgotten us. Trying to white-knuckle our grip on the Father’s hand so that He does what we want Him to. Can I hear an amen? I’ve done a lot of white-knuckling in my life. But I would rather be free to love and be loved. I would rather let Him pursue me and cleanse me.

And let His grip on me love me the best.

Fat white bunnies and the changing of seasons

The last time I was home for harvest...far too long ago!

The last time I was home for harvest…far too long ago!

If I close my eyes, I can almost smell it – musty, earthy, with a bit of sweat and dust. I can almost hear the hum of the combine, and hear the wheat being cut and harvested into the hopper. Other than spring, when life was reborn everywhere, harvest was one of my favourite seasons on the farm. It was like you finally got to reap from the months of sowing, spraying, checking on things, and praying for just the right amount of rain.

My Dad has farmed just over 50 crops, dutifully and painstakingly at times, watching and praying as the seasons changed. But what’s the one thing you could always count on? There would be a harvest. Summer heat would eventually cool to the right temperature, allowing you to bring in the crop you’d waited months for.

God has a special affection for farmers, I think. What other job is there that so many elements are out of your control, determining your outcome?

I was reading in Isaiah this morning, using this study guide. It’s thick, long and daunting, but helps me ask questions of the text when I read it, rather than just reading. After prophecies of judgement on the people for how they had disobeyed God and followed their own way, God speaks in Isaiah 28: 23-29 about how the farmer tends to his crops. For dill and cumin and wheat – how there are specifics the farmer knows and is led by God on how to harvest, “For he is rightly instructed, his God teaches him.”

God basically says that you don’t harvest forever. You don’t “thresh it forever” (vs28). But in verse 29 we read the best part, “This also comes from the Lord of hosts, he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.”

As I stare out our livingroom window, fat white bunnies hide in the bushes in our backyard, foraging for bits of food. Daylight is starting to take form, and my heart longs for spring. How many more weeks? I am not a fan of winter. But winter forces rest, both on man and the land. And if we had a winter season of only two months, our Alberta land would not have the rest and hibernation it needs to produce the following year.

The seasons are the length they are for a reason, for what is needed to produce in the next.

And I am reminded… God is wonderful in counsel, excellent in wisdom. All seasons change, eventually. Always. And the tilling, and threshing, the sowing and the reaping – are all in his hands. My job? Is to be instructed of the Lord, and rest.

Whatever your season is today, trust that God has you in His hands, and will rightly instruct you.