It’s no secret that sometimes life just beats you down and exhausts you. I don’t think anyone will really dispute that fact. There are times in our life when everything will come crashing in and even the littlest add-on to our world will tip us over the edge into exhaustion. For some of us, that’s an occasional unpleasantry. For others, it’s a state of being. No matter the length of time we spend there, exhaustion and its corresponding need for rest comes to us all.
The problem is rarely that we need rest, but more an issue that we most often have genuinely no idea how to get it. Compound that with well-meaning (but tragically unhelpful) advice like “Just Slow down!” or “Take it easy!” or the all-encompassing “you should get some rest!” and we have a recipe for having absolutely no clue how to get that oh-so-precious rest. It’s hard to fault the unhelpful advice, really, when it just goes to show how little we know what we’re doing.
That still leaves us, however, with needing rest and having no real idea how to get it. Fortunately, God is well versed in our human limitations and filled his Word with truth that teaches us how to actually put it all down in realistic, meaningful ways. This is by no means a comprehensive list, for that would be a gross oversimplification of the matter. But this is three small ways we can reexamine our idea of rest from a biblical standpoint and take a step away from wanting rest and draw a step nearer to finding rest. It’s an elusive, ongoing, lifelong pursuit, but there are a few ways we can help ourselves fight the exhaustion in our lives.
This feels like it should be the biggest no-brainer, but even as I write this I find myself feeling convicted. Simply stopping to actually rest seems like the most obvious start, and yet all the time I don’t do it. I try to cut corners on rest all the time and am then genuinely surprised when I don’t feel any more refreshed. If you need rest, then you need to actually rest. Full stop.
There are no shortcuts to quality rest.
Rest means stopping. Rest means slowing down. Rest means you aren’t trying to do everything all on your own. If we can’t bring ourselves to agree to those terms, rest is going to remain elusive. We have to actually slow ourselves down to meet it.
In all those instances of God telling us to let him handle things, he doesn’t often do so by giving us more work to do or a thousand little tasks. More often, he outright tells us to stop. Just stop. Stop your feet moving. Stop your hands working. Stop your wheels spinning. Just stop. I’m reminded of when the Israelites are panicking as Pharaoh pursues them. While this is a different situation from simply needing rest, Moses’ words ring true with how we are supposed to act when he tells them. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14)
He doesn’t tell them to keep running at a million miles an hour or try to accomplish a million different things. He tells them to be still. At the end of the day, if we want rest we have to start posturing ourselves for rest in the confidence that we are already taken care of.
2. Adjust Your Expectations of Rest
Part of the problem of the unhelpful advice that floats around concerning rest is that we now not only have work to do to find rest, we also have work to undo. Unrealistic expectations for rest are a surefire way to kill it before we even get it.
Let me be abundantly clear. Life will continue to be hard no matter how much rest you get. The goal of slowing down and resting is not to magic away all your troubles but to take a breather so you can come back to them strong and fresh. If we expect rest to mean that all our problems or obstacles have vanished away, we’re in for a great shock. A shock so great I’d wager to say it will completely undo any rest that we may have worked so hard to get. They will still be there. They will still need to be dealt with. An attitude of resting to vanish your problems will only lead to more problems.
Instead, an attitude of resting so you can deal with your problems offers much greater results. This also takes care of any of the rushing our rest that we might be tempted to do or the feelings of guilt we have for carving out some time. Everyone needs to be rotated off the front lines every now and then. There is no shame or dishonor in that. Taking a much-needed rest is not unkind towards others if we are intending to return and keep up the work. If we adjust our expectations of rest, we get more out of it in the long run.
3. Recognize That Rest Is Not Self Powered
We humans are so fiercely independent and I’ve rarely seen that work out the better for us. We want to do it all. Like impatient little toddlers, we stamp our feet, insist on doing it ourselves, and then feel absolutely destroyed and frustrated when none of it pans out the way we were hoping. More often than not, our independence is our downfall. Apply this same principle to the art of finding rest and it’s no wonder we tend to stay exhausted.
I’ve yet to come across a verse in the Bible on rest that doesn’t directly relate to depending on God. Rest without God is not lasting rest. It just simply isn’t.
We can find pockets of rest without God, sure. I’d wager plenty of people with no faith have methods of finding rest that are very legitimate and helpful to them. I’m not suggesting that rest without God is impossible. I am however suggesting that it is nowhere near what it could be when we try to go it alone.
God is the author of all rest. It might just be worth bringing our need for it to Him. We can rest in bursts, but He can give us rest that sustains and nourishes. He can get us strong enough to come back to battles again and again and again and never be defeated by them. That’s how rest in God works. We come to Him, he dusts us off, and he gets us ready for more than we ever could have imagined. We are not rotated off of the front lines because we failed him somehow. We’re rotated back because he loves us and wants to carry us through. We can try our hardest to rest on our own, but the exhaustion of that effort is not worth it compared to laying our intense independence down and letting the Father stand in the gap for us.
After all, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40: 28-31
Let’s find some joy,
Your words were timely, they were just what I needed today.