the steps we take, the relationships
we build, and the life we create
we build, and the life we create
My body could still feel the fatigue of my restless night. When it appeared sleep would not be coming anytime soon, and morning was beginning to settle in, I decided to get out of the bed. As I made my way into the kitchen, I could see the sun had already begun to rise. I grabbed a blanket and my cup of coffee to stave off the morning chill and headed to our front porch. Wrapping myself a little tighter in the knit blanket, I let the steam from my coffee warm my nose that was growing cold in the morning air.
Nothing significant had changed in the past few days, but I could feel uncertainty all around me. I was in a new season professionally, and while it had been a chosen transition, my mind would often circle around the unknowns of this new season. Especially at night. Numerous factors were beyond my control, and as much as I had needed to create some space in my life, I had not realized how much security I had placed in productivity, especially when it came to meeting others’ expectations.
Five years prior, my husband I stepped out to plant a church in a community about thirty miles from where we were living at the time. We had sold our house, transitioned out of a church and ministry position where we had been for over twenty years, and moved our kids to a community they didn’t know. Thankfully, the school where I worked, and where our kids went attended, remained a consistent thread in that particular time of life. However, it meant commuting each day of the week in an already busy family schedule. Though the travel time was manageable, the distance between the town where we were now living and the one where I was working were worlds apart in more than miles. I had already been working full-time and working with my husband in his ministry for several years, but now I was trying to keep community alive in two distinct places. Adding to the complexity, we were ministering in an entirely new arena, not just in terms of the people we were meeting but in the responsibilities we now carried.
There were days I felt I was barely holding life together, and I had little time to create space for rest. So when my husband and I made the decision that I would make a career change (for various reasons), I was grateful. Not only would I not feel the constant tension between ministry hours (which often function outside of a nine to five schedule) and the demands of a school day, my drive time would significantly diminish, and I would be able to focus my energy investing in our church family.
As my sleepless night had proven, though, I was much more rooted in a demanding schedule of work than in rest. All night long, I had tried to solve life’s problems as I had tossed and turned. My body had been horizontal in the bed but I had carried the burden of self-effort. There were problems to be solved, future concerns to be anticipated, and uncertainties to be considered. Rest was anything but near.
In our culture today, we are masters of distraction, and yet, I am convinced that what we really long for is rest. I understand the temptation. Sitting down to watch a television show that doesn’t demand any investment on my part, or scrolling mindlessly through any social media platform, might pull my thoughts away from feeling overwhelmed by all that I have to do, but it only removes me from that source of responsibility or stress temporarily. Any relief I might feel happens only as long as I am able to separate from the source of my stress. When life returns to its normal pace, everything I set aside in my time of distraction remains the same. Not only have my circumstances not changed, but I myself have not changed.
True rest demands we trust in a sufficiency outside of ourselves, one that brings more than an interruption or diversionary tactic. Only the God of life can refill us with life.
The other day, as I was studying the idea of rest in scripture, I came across Genesis 5:29. A simple verse I had encountered many times before became one of those moments of connection for me as I read these words: “Now he called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands [arising] from the ground which the LORD has cursed.’” Work certainly didn’t end with Noah, so how would his life create rest? Then I began to think about what Noah’s life represented in scripture. Genesis 6:8-9 tells us that though God was deeply grieved by the depravity of mankind, “Noah found favor with the LORD . . . [he] was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.” But Noah’s life of promise didn’t end there. He was a man willing to obey when circumstances would have otherwise deemed him crazy. His life revealed the power of resting in a promise rather than trusting in what he could see and control (Genesis 6:22, 7:23).
One of my favorite verses, Psalms 27:8 says, “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ My heart said to You, ‘Your face, LORD, I will seek’’ (NKJV). Speaking to the intimacy we have in Christ, the Psalmist reminds us that relationship with Christ is first found in being with Him, before we begin doing for Him. Matthew 11:28-29 reiterates this same idea, when Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
In this most recent season of transition, I have learned again how often my desire for productivity and excellence are little more than an effort to avert the unpredictable turns of life. Perhaps if I can plan enough, work harder, dig deeper into my own efforts, I can minimize the unexpected. When I wrap myself in the truth that He is the God who not only knows the future but whose character is consistent (Psalms 90:2,Hebrews 13:8) and whose love for me is sure (Romans 8:38-39), I begin to understand what rest really means.
Excellence in our work matters, whether that be in our profession, community involvement or the investment we make in our families and others we love. Psalms 90:17 attests to this truth by reminding us, “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Our desire to be productive is part of the imprint of God’s image on our lives (Genesis 1:27).
But so, too, is rest (Genesis 2:2-3).
Creating respite in our lives begins with setting aside our list of tasks, but we must also allow our minds to push back the questions we cannot answer, the possibilities we cannot control. The only real safe place is in spending time with Him, resting the weight of every care and concern in the goodness and strength of His heart. A test of our faith in One far more capable and stronger than our best efforts, making the choice to rest seats us before our own insufficiency. But it also opens our eyes to realize God sees much farther into eternity than we do. Entrusting ourselves and those we love to His care is the most strategic place to be. Only then can we sense the surety of His presence. Only there can we know what it truly means to rest.
Our daughter who lives in New York City texts me throughout any given day. Sometimes, I am awakened by an early morning sound from my phone as she navigates her 6:30 a.m. commute; other days, she sends me a message me from her afternoon class as a thought crosses her mind. Still other days, I find myself laying in bed answering a late night series of messages as she shares something important from her day. In these late night hour exchanges, I often end our conversation with these simple words: Rest well, love.
I believe Christ speaks the same to us.
Rest well, dear one. You are so loved.
As a writer, Regina draws from her experiences with her own family, her work in education and her love for her local church family. The author of two books, Who Calls Me Beautiful and Designed by God, Regina was also a regular contributor to Our Daily Journey, an former online and print publication of Our Daily Bread Ministries. Regina has also written for Discovery Series, contributed to devotional compilations (God Hears Her, God Sees Her), and published with Church Planter Magazine as well as The Quiet Hour Devotional.