How Intentional Rest Empowers Us to Live for Christ

I am not very good at this rest thing. The way I see it is that since I am constantly in motion, doing good things, then I must be good. And if I am busy doing important things, then I must be important. Right? Nope. Not even close. I am famous for trying to cram 36 hours of living into 24. I can do it short term, but it always catches up with me. In the meantime, my very familiar companions wreak havoc in my life. Exhaustion. Too many irons in the fire. Emptiness. Doubt and fear.

For years, our family vacationed in the mountains of North Carolina. Dan loved to read and take long walks in the cool, green forests. The kids loved wading in creeks, looking for gold nuggets. My favorite activity was shopping for antiques. Now let me define antiques according to Mary.

The best antique stores were nestled in the mountains on some remote dirt road, and the antiques were what most people would call junk. It’s all a matter of perspective.

One year, I walked into a shop and stopped in my tracks when I saw the yoke hanging on a wall. Matthew 11:28-30 is one of my husband’s favorite passages of Scripture. “Take my yoke upon you and you will find rest for your souls.” For years, I searched for just the right yoke to give Dan. But every yoke I found was either too big or too small and in less than stellar condition. The yoke before me was in perfect condition and was just the right size and price. Upon closer inspection, my excitement faded.

Yokes have two loops of leather or wood attached to a sturdy wooden frame. Two working animals wear the loops around their necks in order to bear whatever load they are given. The loops on this particular yoke were not the same size - one larger than the other. When I pointed out the flaw, the shop owner said, “It’s supposed to be made like that. The stronger animal is placed in the larger loop to help the weaker animal pull the load.”

Boom! I bought that yoke and gave it to Dan, but it was really a gift for me as well - a beautiful reminder that a shared load is a lighter load.

Are you tired and exhausted from trying to live life on your own? I know that feeling. And I don’t like it. I was not created to live in bondage to anyone or anything. I was created for freedom--and so were you.

Don’t Get Stuck in Overdrive

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).

I heard our then two-year-old granddaughter bouncing down the hallway. Nori is a beautiful little girl with bright blue eyes and dimples that could charm the warts right off a frog. 

I could tell by the tone of her voice that whatever Nori was talking about was a problem, and she definitely unhappy! She rounded the corner pushing her baby doll stroller and intensely fussing, “Tuck! Beebee tuck!”

It took me a minute to assess the crisis.

Nori had jammed one of her large baby dolls into a small stroller and the doll was indeed “tuck.” I have to say that she had done an excellent job of getting her baby doll stuck in that stroller. Arms and legs were threaded through the plastic bars while the doll’s head was jammed between the handle and the basket.

Nori eyed me suspiciously, obviously doubtful that I had what it took to get the job done. But after several minutes of pushing, pulling, shoving and wiggling, Nori’s doll was finally set free.

When I handed the baby doll to Nori, she jumped up and down, clapping her hands in delight. “Beebee not tuck, Mimi!” she exclaimed.

My mind immediately went to a deeper truth about trials, hard times, and pain. I know what it is like to be stuck in my pain, to stare at life through the rough knothole of agony. But God covers each pain with His infinite love and mercy, bringing hope and encouragement where there was once only despair. God’s grace wins every time.

Shallow love rescues easily and quickly. Real love walks with us through each trial. God wants us to trust Him, even when life makes absolutely no sense.

The Lord says, ‘My thoughts are not like your thoughts. Your ways are not like My ways. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55:8-9).

The LORD is my shepherd. I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He refreshes my soul (Psalm 23:1-3, NLT).

Life is so daily and often filled with uncertainty, a reality that can make me very nervous. I want to know what the plan is and how that plan is going to be implemented. Details! I need details! 

Instead, God calls me to rest. I don’t want to rest. When I rest, I feel guilty. I have places to go, people to see and things to do. 

I hear the quiet whisper of the One who knows me best and loves me most, “Mary, it’s time to rest.” The Lord is my Shepherd. He is accustomed to dealing with stubborn sheep like me. He will lovingly make me lie down in green pastures and firmly lead me beside quiet waters. Why?

He wants to refresh my soul and give me the peace that can only be found at His feet. Rest is not really an option. It is a spiritual discipline that needs to become a spiritual habit in our life.

Find Rest in Jesus Christ

Restoration is an inside job and can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When we fully trust God, we will find rest.

When our son, Jered, was seven years old, he fell while skateboarding. We raced to the nearest emergency clinic where we were greeted by a young doctor who seemed friendly enough. Jered, however, took one look at the strange man in white and panicked in the midst of his first experience with stitches.

After several attempts to gain Jered’s trust and cooperation, the doctor grew impatient and threatened, “Son, this won’t hurt. If you cannot be still we will have to put you in restraints.” This man obviously did not understand who he was dealing with.

I had two major problems with the doctor’s statements. First, no restraints were going to be placed on my son. Secondly, of course the stitches would hurt. Glaring at the doctor I firmly explained, “If you will just tell Jered the truth and explain what you are doing he will be still for you.”

The doctor looked up at me as if I had just arrived from another planet and then sarcastically replied, 

“Lady. I know how to handle this.” So did I - but before I could rip off his head, Dan intervened, telling the doctor we had a plan! I knew what my plan was but thought it wise to consider Dan’s plan.

Gently holding Jered’s head in his “daddy-sized” hands, Dan softly explained what the doctor would do. Dan sweetly instructed our son to fix his eyes on me while I told him a story. It worked--of course.

Jered calmed down and the stitches were done in a matter of minutes. The doctor even offered a sheepish apology, thanking us for teaching him a lesson in working with children. I decided to let him live.

Even though Jered did not fully understand the process or trust the doctor, Jered did fully understand and trust his father. Godly discipline is the basis for trust and is found at the feet of Jesus where we will come to know Him better, love Him more and find the rest we so desperately crave.

Lay Your Stuff at the Feet of Jesus

The number one stress in our lives is the result of bearing a burden that is not ours to carry. Exhaustion comes when we take on a responsibility God never intended us to have. The twin of exhaustion is emptiness that comes when we fail to take on a responsibility God does intend for us to assume.

It is hard to admit our need for rest. That is because many of us have bought into the lie that who we are is based on what we do or don’t do. Busyness does not always equal productivity. When we admit our need to rest, we are acknowledging the fact that we are imperfect and that our human power is limited.

God empowers His plan and His agenda for our life. When we step outside of that plan, we are stepping into our own power. Choosing to depend on our own strength will soon leave us depleted, empty and exhausted. Can you relate?

Realize You Are Not Alone

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’ (Psalm 91:1-2). 

I had forgotten just how amazing the process of learning to walk really is until our grandson Justus reminded me. For the first 12 months of his life, Justus seemed content to crawl. But the day came when he began pulling up on various pieces of furniture. Evidently he liked what he saw, because he quickly graduated to the "One Step" method of walking.

Next came what I like to call The Toddler Shuffle as he tentatively positioned his stout and very determined little thirteen-month-old body between the sofa and loveseat. His big brown eyes seemed to measure the size of the step needed to reach his final destination.

Justus eventually let go of the sofa cushion, took "a step" and quickly grabbed hold of the loveseat. He then looked over his shoulder at whoever happened to be watching, a huge grin lighting up his face. That was our cue to applaud.

The One-Step Method of walking served Justus well--until he decided that what he wanted was not anywhere near the sofa or loveseat - and a new strategy was required.

I can imagine his little heart beating with excitement as he realized the profound ramifications of his next move. He had to completely let go of that sofa and loveseat and walk into unchartered territory.

And then it happened.

Justus did let go and took a step ... then another and another! Time seemed to stop as we watched this special little boy walk for the very first time in his life.

When Justus wobbled and fell, our daughter instinctively reached out to catch him. He didn't see her at first, but when he looked up ... there she was. She had been nearby, watching the whole time.

Choose to Rest

Have you ever felt like you have taken the step God wanted you to take only to find yourself dangling in thin air with no safety net in sight? I have. I don't like it. It frightens me to take risks.

Can I really do what God is asking me to do? And what happens if I fall? Falling is painful.

But God is near. His eyes are fixed on you. He delights in you. When God pushes you to the edge, trust Him fully… because only two things can happen. Either He will catch you when you fall, or He will teach you how to fly. Either way, God’s got you--and you can rest.

Photo Credit: ©KristiLinton

Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, Fit for Life, and 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life and Joy for the Journey. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.

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