What is rest? For some it seems elusive. And for some, it may even be avoided. I’ve heard it said, “I’ll rest when I’m dead.” For others, trying to “rest” may be difficult, with a noisy world and an even noisier mind.
I think we all have a picture of what rest is. Maybe for you it’s a relaxing massage, a vacation on a beach, time with friends and family, spending time outside, reading a good book, or maybe it’s as simple as a nap. But I’m going to challenge us to go deeper on this topic.
Have you noticed that we tend to fill all of our empty time with activity? Why do we do this? What are we trying to avoid? If we rest or slow down, we have to face ourselves without distraction and I’m not sure we always want to do this.
But the Lord invites us to a different kind of rest. We’ll visit the Psalms again for more insight. It’s here, in Psalm 23:1-3 that a rest for our mind, body, and soul is described:
“1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.”
In verse 1, David states that God is his shepherd; the one who leads him and takes care of him, and us. Because of this, David had everything he needed, and so do we – when we allow God to lead us.
Although it may not always feel this way; the point of the verse is that it is this way; it’s the truth. Acknowledging God as our shepherd will allow us to have this mindset, or a change of perspective. If we know that God is leading us and taking care of us, it gives us the opportunity to truly rest. He’s in control, so we don’t have to be.
In verse 2, David describes that the Lord makes him lie down in green pastures and leads him beside still waters; to a landscape of perfect peace and refreshing water.
Can you picture this? Take a minute – close your eyes and imagine this scene; you’re lying in a green pasture, soft grass, with calm, still water nearby. Not fast-moving rapids, but water you can see your reflection in, it’s so still. Can you feel the breeze on your face? The warmth or cool on your skin? What a beautiful gift this image is from the Lord.
In verse 3, David says that the Lord restores his soul; he reinvigorates him in his weariness. He goes on to describe that God leads him in paths of righteousness, or shows him the right way to go, as He promises to do for all of us.
Maybe the avoidance of rest that I spoke about above has to do with hearing from God. Are we afraid He may tell us we’re on the wrong path? Or that He may confirm something we already know – that His plans are different than the plans we have for ourselves? Listening can be scary. Staying busy sometimes feels safer.
But who are we fooling? Do we really think God is limited in His creativity to get our attention or to change our direction? Think of Jonah (see Jonah, chapters 1-2). Could it be that maybe He just wants to tell us He loves us, or that He has more for us than we could have imagined for ourselves? We’ll explore this more below.
So what can we learn from this descriptive passage of Scripture, about what rest really is?
1. When we trust God to lead us, we will have what we need. I know there are times when this can be difficult to accept. You may be saying, ‘I don’t have what I need – I can’t even pay my bills’, or ‘I don’t have what I need – I’m alone.’
But, consider that we will find we have what we need by believing and trusting in God and what He says, during the dry spell; when it’s scary, things don’t add up and we don’t have answers? What if what we really need is deeper than bills paid on time or companionship? Not that God doesn’t care about those things; I think He does. But what if our rest is found in realizing what we need the most is Him?
2. God makes us stop the busyness and get refreshment.Some of us accept His guidance with ease, and others tend to fight the break from our agenda, which is why I believe that we sometimes have to be made to slow down or stop.
Most translations have the word “makes” in verse 2 – “he makes me lie down in green pastures”. Isn’t that interesting? Could it be that our Creator knows when we need to rest?
Have you ever wondered why you have gotten sick right when you thought you needed to be well – when the pressure was really on? Our bodies will sometimes get rundown, because we haven’t taken time to rest, and God can even use these times of infirmity to remind us to slow down and take time to rest. We are not machines.
3. Part of deep rest is connecting with God. He wants to connect with us, to show and guide us in the right way to go. Sometimes we’re already on the right road, and we just need some encouragement to continue on the journey. But sometimes, we need a reset, a U-turn, or an entirely different path. He loves us so much that He wants to tell us what we need to hear.
Not only are we blessed by connecting with God, and being led in the right direction, but doing the right thing allows us to rest. Think about it – when we are headed in the wrong direction or making choices that we know aren’t right for us, or we are going against what we believe (cognitive dissonance), we don’t have peace, and we can’t rest.
But if we listen to the way that God is telling us to go, even if the road is sometimes tough, we have peace; we can rest, because we know it’s the right way.
So, let me ask you – do you need some rest today? Are you a weary traveler in life? Do you feel like you may have lost your way? Ask God for rest today. Take time and read these verses from Psalm 23 for yourself. I believe He will meet you there. After all, He promises to.