To say that the Lord has taught me a lot about rest this year is an understatement. My junior year of college I was taking 18 hours (3 labs total), working around 35 hours per week (two of those days being 5:00 am shifts), working out 4-5 times a week, in a discipleship group, leading a bible study, teaching Sunday school, and attempting to have somewhat of a social life and seeing my family whenever possible. As I type this out it is obvious to see that that is WAY too much.
It wasn’t necessary that I took on all of that in one semester, but I did. I didn’t want to be lazy, I wanted to please the Lord, I wanted to sacrifice my life for other people, and I wanted to be the best, “most balanced” that I possibly could be. I didn’t know how to say no. I made a point to workout even when I was exhausted, I stayed up late studying and woke up early to study some more. I knew that I was taking on a lot, but I dismissed the fact that I was signing up for way too much. My mom tried to encourage me to rest and have some fun, and even not take the job. I was honestly just annoyed and thought to myself, “She doesn’t understand she doesn’t know how competitive it is to be a registered dietician. I will be fine.” It is only now that I can see the wisdom in the advice that she constantly and repeatedly gave me (and still does!)
In recovery I was literally told that I needed to significantly cut back on exercise and learn to just “be still”, sit, and rest. I had no idea what my treatment team was talking about….they were promoting laziness and apathy; they wanted me to just lay around all day and never be productive, they just wanted me to sit and gain weight, or so I thought.
Growing up, I have usually been able to accomplish anything I wanted to as long as I put in the work. A lot of things related to school, organization, and communication come very easily/naturally to me. I was pretty prideful and I convinced myself that I needed to do everything that I could to have a good resume and a bright future. I thought to myself that I would be okay and that God would give me the strength and guidance to be able to balance such a hectic schedule. I told myself that I would be able to rest in heaven and that Jesus fulfilled the sabbath so that I didn’t need to rest or sleep as much as I actually needed to. I felt like I was lazy or disappointing if I took a nap or wasn’t super involved in my campus ministry 24/7. I thought he would be angry if I wasn’t being a good enough Christian, as if there even is such a thing. I believed that in order for God to work in my life that I had to work as hard as possible at everything I did and that he couldn’t work in my life without my help.
I know this sounds crazy, but isn’t this how so many of us think? We have convinced ourselves that if we aren’t involved in 100 different activities that we are somehow not doing what we are supposed to be doing. We don’t sit down for meals, we get coffee to go, we have a 15 minute quiet time (if that), we feel obligated to say yes, we have an inability to say no, we have to perform, and we are tired. 9 times out of 10 when I ask someone how they are doing they say, “Good!! Busy!!” It’s become the norm. God did give me the strength to endure the business of this past year; he always has and always will. But, in all honesty, it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t understand the reality that I am saved by God’s grace and grace alone. I was using good works and business as a way to maintain my status with God, as if that was even possible.
After reaching my breaking point for pure and utter exhaustion, I got into God’s word and see what he had to say about rest. As he always does, God blew me away with the scripture he revealed to me that day. Here are some of the verses I read:
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”-Genesis 2:2
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works,[a] just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” -Hebrews 4:9-11
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” -Psalm 127:2
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–God revealed to me a connection between my physical and spiritual rest. When I am neglecting rest in a physical sense, I become irritable, tired, weary, sick, and exhausted. I was trying to earn my salvation and please other people. When I neglect time in God’s word, I am easily disappointed and discouraged, more vulnerable to sin, more sensitive, more emotional, and I feel as though I have to live life on my own. Both are important…we can’t have one without the other. If we are simply resting in a physical way and not a spiritual way, we are not being proactive in God’s kingdom and we are vulnerable for attack. If we aren’t taking care of ourselves and resting in a physical way, we are not going to have enough energy to do the things that God has called us to do.
For a long time I have tried to pour into others with only a minimum amount of fuel in my body, mind, and soul. It’s a slow process, but I am gradually learning to rest in the Lord, both physically and spiritually.
The past 3 Saturdays up here in school the Lord has laid it on my heart to rest. I’ve grown to call them my “Sabbath Saturdays”. I usually sleep in, eat breakfast, and lay in bed till around 9:00, and then meet one of my friends for coffee, connection, and the word of God. It goes against every single bit of what I would call “a productive morning”, but I know that it is exactly what I needed. Rest for my body, rest for my soul, and rest for my heart.
This weekend I want to encourage y’all to intentionally schedule rest in a physical and spiritual. In a physical sense, this could mean sleeping in an extra hour, going on a walk at the park, watching a movie, or moving around some plans. In a spiritual sense it could mean listening to worship music, spending time in God’s word, praying for friends and family, or reflecting back on the goodness of the Lord.
My resting place is found when I am writing, reading, sleeping, connecting, thinking, playing, singing, and most importantly, when I am in the presence of the Lord.