The Accomplishment of Rest

Transitions can be messy. New boss, getting married, new neighbor, becoming a parent. These events can be awkward and punctuated simultaneously by loss and hope. Transitions can be beautiful – like the slow turning of summer into autumn.

September has been a month of transition in our home and in my heart. I’m afraid it’s been a bit more ugly than beautiful. As all my kids began school and sports, I was left with unusual amounts of time to myself. Some of you would probably do most anything for days like these. But, I somehow managed to twist this gift into a curse.

I failed to rest, or appreciate that I even had opportunity to rest. Instead, I worked my inner world into a frenzy of trying to figure out my new purpose and calling and life. I recognized the transition, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t have a map. Something ended and I wanted something else to begin, but I had no idea what. And God seemed so silent.

God, who knows all and holds all things together, wasn’t giving me even a trail of crumbs as to what good works He had appointed for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). I was ready for action. Heaven forbid I take time to relax. Rest is NOT an accomplishment. Is it?

So I filled my days with household work and worry. Wondering if I’d wandered too far to hear the Holy Spirit’s leading. Meanwhile, my soul was a turbulent mess. I felt like I was losing purpose and meaning – like God was silent and had stepped away. For someone who has tendencies toward depression, this is NOT a healthy path to trod.

So what’s a soul to do?

I’m learning, yet again, that there’s only one option. Believe. Trust. Have Faith. In the Biblical Greek language, it all stems from the same root word. But believe what?

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6 NASB

I want to please God, to know that my Maker doesn’t look at me and shake His head, but looks at me and nods approval. But, I mistakenly believe that in order to please God I have to DO something: make meals for people, go to Bible Studies, win souls, care for my neighbor, be a better wife, be a better parent, change the world. But no! God is pleased simply with my belief in Him and my seeking after Him! My flesh and fallen mind cannot begin to comprehend how such a thing is true, and yet there it is in God’s Word.

So I am willfully choosing to believe. Regardless of feelings. Regardless of knowledge of His plans. Oh my soul, believe in God and believe that He is pleased as I seek! What a pleasant place to dwell.

Belief is ushering me into rest for my soul. Rest from the striving and yearning. Rest from seeking to achieve. Rest from comparing my life to others’. Rest from trying to earn God’s pleasure.

The nation of Israel struggled to enter into God’s rest too. And similarly, their issue boiled down to belief.

So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.

Hebrews 3:19

How often God beckons me to rest in and with Him, and how often I fail to accept it. I believe lies of self-sufficiency, of purpose outside of Him, of worldly comparisons, of self-imposed expectations. All the while, God is only desiring that I believe in Him and in the sufficiency of His Son, Jesus, with whom He is well pleased. Jesus Christ, in whom my life is hidden and protected. So I can rest. That is an accomplishment!

Perhaps there’s a transition happening in your own life that is sparking tumult in your soul. I offer a simple prayer for us all.

Lord God, Creator and Sustainer, we recognize You as the One who holds all things together, even our souls. We confess our default setting of unbelief. We confess we often strive when we ought to be still, we often scheme when we ought to surrender. Thank You for Your faithfulness, even in the midst of our unfaithfulness. We need You. We need Your rest. Help us to believe You and seek You as the world all around us is changing. Amen.

Dear Tired Mom,

I’m tired too. I can’t remember the last night I slept through without waking up to tend to a child. I’m worn out by the emotional demands of trying to do what’s right when all my kids do is what’s wrong. I understand the non-stop demands of nurturing and caring for your family. And the sheer business of it all. Some days I still wonder what we were thinking having five kids in the span of six and-a-half years!

I’m guessing what you want is the same thing I want: Rest. Peace. A deep breath.

Fortunately, we live in a society that encourages moms to take a break; to take care of themselves so that they can better care for others. Even this fallen world recognizes that we all need rest – it’s the way God created us.

But, that’s where the wisdom of the world stops. In fact, I think even us Christian moms have bought in to some serious lies about self-care and rest from this world.

This is what a mom’s day off – or ‘rest’ – looks like in the world’s eyes, just to name a few:

A day at the spa

A girls night out

A Netflix binge

A glass of wine

A pedicure

A massage

A shopping spree

A cup of tea and a good book

Or for stay at home moms like me, even the thought of a part-time job out of the house, with adults, sounds refreshing!

Don’t get me wrong, most of these things sound like heaven on an average crazy day in my home. And I’ve sought some of these out as a source of refreshment, relaxation and rest on numerous occasions.

I bought into the need for ‘me-time’ earlier in my motherhood years. I craved moments when I could do what I wanted to do. I believed the lie that gratifying my own desires would rejuvenate me and make me a better mom.

But that rejuvenation only lasted about three minutes into my kids’ bickering. And what’s worse, I started getting bitter toward my kids. Because of my responsibilities toward them, I couldn’t do what I wanted to do more of the time. The problem was that the more I was concerned about my own desires, the more and more I thought about trying to fulfill them and the more I resented the obstacles in my way – usually my kids. And then I felt guilty for feeling this way about my kids. It was an awful cycle to be caught in.

Are you caught in this cycle too? Do you find that self-indulgence (sometimes conveniently labeled self-care) has left you bitter and resentful rather than refreshed? Angry at the very ones you love?

Consider this – we might be rejecting the true physical, mental, and emotional rest we so desperately need because we aren’t filling our God given need in the way He intended.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

The world says, come, tantalize your senses, fulfill your desires, indulge. The result will be a temporary satisfaction that leaves us dissatisfied and longing for more.

Jesus says, come to Me. The result will be a deep running, long lasting, supernatural rest for our souls.

I was convicted by this truth a couple years ago. I realized I was seeking rest and refreshment outside of God. I was chasing what the world told me would satisfy.

Though I still do enjoy some Netflix favorites, I’ve been filling more of my spare moments during the day with God – in His word and in communication with Him and learning from Him. And I’ve begun to experience that deep soul rest that He promises.

But here’s one of the other fantastic benefits of choosing to be refreshed by Jesus: the more I am learning about Him and about who I am in Christ, the more I am becoming Spirit controlled throughout my days. And the more I am becoming Spirit controlled, the better mom I am becoming! No other worldly indulgence can give me rest and lead me into more successful mothering at the same time! Jesus’ offer is the best by far.

Fellow moms, can I exhort you today with something I wish I’d learned years ago? There is true and deep rest to be enjoyed! Even in the most difficult seasons of life. Please don’t make the mistakes I have made of seeking rest in all the wrong places. I know that reading the Bible and praying doesn’t always sound like it will feel refreshing in our moments of thorough fatigue. But, will you heed the call of Jesus and come? Will you give Him a chance? Will you put the temporary pleasures on the back burner for a few minutes and lean on the Gentlest of all Teachers? I promise it will make all the difference – because that’s His promise.

“Work is not always required of a man. There is such a thing as a sacred idleness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.” George MacDonald