By Beth Ann Olesen
If you have read any of my blog posts, you know I love structure and routine. And nothing makes this organization-loving heart happier than the start of a new school year. Color-coded weekly calendars. Morning routine charts. Homework stations. I’m getting giddy just typing about them. (Side note – for those of you wondering, yes, I have always been this way. I used to ask for trips to the office supply store for my birthday.)
But as much as I love the structure September brings, it also ushers in busyness and rushing. Packing lunches. Signing endless amounts of paperwork. Asking, and asking again, children to put on their shoes or to check for their library book. Shuffling from one extracurricular activity to the next. Attempting to make dinner and feed my family in the 20 minutes we are home in between said activities.
I end most days exhausted. As an introvert, I am exhausted not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Although I usually have big plans for things I will accomplish once the kids are asleep, it takes all my reserved energy to sit on the couch and catch up with my husband. I scroll social media, put on TV shows I don’t actually watch, and text with friends.
In anticipation of this sense of weariness, I began a devotional in August: 100 Days of Less Hustle, More Jesus by Shanna Noel. What has really come to light as I work through the devotions is the idea of rest. What is rest? And not what society would have us believe is rest, but true rest in the way God intended?
See, I am always looking to recharge and relax. To put on my own oxygen mask, as they say. But I don’t feel relaxed. Often, I end up feeling more tired, more cranky, more restless. But that’s because when I rest, I surround myself with noise—TV, conversation, social media—that leaves me feeling unproductive, lazy, or inadequate.
Jesus, however, knew how to rest: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). Jesus withdrew. Often. Not to scroll Facebook or to binge Netflix, but to pray. To spend time in God’s presence. To hear God’s voice.
I can’t hear God’s voice when there is so much noise during my rest. When I slow down, I tend to shut down or shut off, but that’s not what the Lord calls us to do. The Lord is calling us to look up—not down at a screen. He doesn’t want me to be absent. He wants me to be present in Him. He doesn’t want me to be passive. He wants me to be actively listening for His voice. How can I hear His voice when it is drowned out by all the noise I have chosen to turn on?
An amazing thing happened when I began to see rest for what God intended it to be. My soul feels refreshed. I feel more able to show grace to myself and to others. I feel reminded about the true purpose of my time. I feel lighter and free.
As I started to consider rest and turned to God’s word, I was surprised by how many references there are to rest in the Bible. Our human nature pushes us to do more and more. And God, in His loving mercy and infinite knowledge, makes sure we know we were meant for rest. True rest. Rest in the Lord: “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
If you are interested in some other passages that talk about rest, here are some of my favorites: