The Meaning and the Method of True Rest

What is the Meaning and the Method of True Rest?

Sunday Scripture

My not-quite-two-year-old grandson has an extensive vocabulary, and one phrase that is serving him well these days is, “Do it self.” Instead of holding his mother’s hand on the slide: “Do it self.” Climbing the stairs or building a block tower with Bam: “Do it self.”

Clearly, he is both loveable and capable!

However, what is adorable and even laudable in a brown-eyed toddler can turn devastating in an adult who has lost sight of her limits–or a nation who has forgotten their God-ordained purpose. When Israel sent spies into the Promised Land, they ignored all its benefits and God’s promise of rest. Instead, they focused on their fear of the unknown. Their lack of trust in God’s goodness and providence earned them a forty-year walking tour of the wilderness around Kadesh-Barnea.

Then, in a colossal “do-it-self” move, they changed their mind and decided that maybe they could take on the Amorites single-handedly–against Moses’s warning and God’s command to the contrary. Naturally, they were chased back down the mountain again in utter defeat. Instead of earning God’s approval and immediate entrance into God’s promised rest, they earned God’s displeasure, and that generation died in the desert, never to experience the rest they craved.

A Busy Striving After Rest

God was not after Israel’s performance or valor. He was after their hearts.

Reading through the book of Deuteronomy this winter, I hear his gentle rebuke about my own striving, for isn’t all our busyness a striving toward whatever “promised land” we crave? Ironically, so much of our busyness is a striving after rest.

Productivity becomes an idol we serve as we project an image of effectiveness, competence, importance, relevance. Our people praise us for it, reinforcing the false worship, and we keep ourselves going with false promises of eventual rest:
“When I finish this project…”
“When my kids are all in school…”
“When I reach this milestone…”

Instead, can I find grace to believe that God is not after my performance? He is after my heart.

Productivity becomes an idol we serve as we project an image of effectiveness, competence, importance, relevance. Can I find grace to believe that God is not after my performance? God is after my heart.

The Paradox of True Rest

The rest God invited Israel to experience–rest from their enemies, rest from danger, rest from their wandering–would be a God-glorifying experience resulting in worship, and the people of Israel would “rejoice before the Lord their God.”

The irony of God’s call to rest is that nowhere in Scripture does God say that effort is our enemy. On the contrary, he invites us into a yoke, an instrument designed to facilitate the hard work of pulling:

Come to me, all 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

As Jen Pollock Michel has said in A Habit Called Faith, “Jesus offers us a path to knowing God that isn’t strenuous–but also not effortless.” The meaning of true rest in a following life may look like a 5:00 a.m. rising time to meet one-on-one with God in a quiet house. Or it may mean saying no to a “great ministry opportunity” in order to make room for better self-care or focused family time.

Romans 8 assures me every time I read it that God did not give us his Spirit with the intent of making us his slaves. His concern for us is that of a Father, not a task-master, and his requirements are intended to carve out space in our lives for intimacy with him, not to place us under a burden.

Lord willing, I intend to spend 2022 learning more about the meaning and the methods of true rest. Because it’s my focus word for the year, I’m inviting you to travel along with me, but don’t come looking for spa recommendations or pedicure how-tos. I’m going to be trusting for grace to slaughter my idols of productivity and effectiveness, all the while asking God for wisdom to know and then to do what’s most important with the energy and ability he provides.

In 2022, I’m going to be learning about soul rest.

Book Talk

With that in mind, at the beginning of this new year, I’ll be experimenting with the idea of posting just once a week here at Living Our Days. Because so many of you respond to the Sunday Scripture post, I’ll be keeping that timing, format, and biblical content, but will follow it up with reviews of whatever I’ve been reading recently. I hope you’ll let me know how this new format works for you!

Deeper by Dane Ortlund

The key to our growth as Christians is not found in self-improvement projects. It’s not about becoming my best self, but rather, an experience of going deeper into the gospel, the truth that I already know, but just barely live out. Dane Ortlund’s presentation of the gospel has profoundly impacted my thinking about the Christian life, particularly on two fronts:

  1. Justification and sanctification are powered by the same gospel engine. At the time of salvation, we receive Christ’s righteousness from outside ourselves, and his perfect record of holiness before God becomes our own. Then, by his Spirit, we are empowered to live in actual holiness, a miracle of grace that produces inside-out righteousness. It’s only when we get into fuzzy thinking about our source of righteousness that we stumble into legalism or laziness.
  2. With piercing clarity, Deeper spotlights the importance of honesty with other Christians in maintaining our walk “in the light.” Confessing our sins to one another, owning up “to being real sinners, not theoretical sinners” is key to our growth process, but not something we relish.

If it’s your goal in the new year to live a life that matters, begin by inhaling: take truth like oxygen into your way of thinking. Breathe out prayer as if your life depends on it. Spiritually, it does.

Carved in Ebony by Jasmine L. Holmes

I have been pitifully unaware of the historical contributions of women of color, so I approached Carved in Ebony: Lessons from the Black Women Who Shape Us like an explorer headed into uncharted territory. Fortunately, Jasmine Holmes, herself a woman of color, is a reliable guide, and while she is a historian and a woman of faith, she is also a gifted storyteller. Therefore, each of the ten women she introduced to me was presented with crystal clarity, not merely in the context of her contribution to race relations in America, but also relative to the unique challenges she overcame in order to be heard.

Living inside their own brown skin, created in God’s image, these little-known and barely celebrated women span a century of oppression that stretched from our country’s founding through the end of the Civil War. Holmes weaves her own story into the narrative as a writer, teacher, and mother, particularly sharing how her subjects have impacted her own story. Her personal response, coupled with the powerful impact of ten dynamic lives, whetted my appetite to dig deeper and to trust God to honor my own small faithfulness as it is offered to him.

Thank You!

That’s it for this week. Thank you for your eyes here so faithfully, and, again, I welcome your input about this new format. May you experience true rest as we begin a new year together in Christ.

Holding you in the Light,

In 2022, I’m going to be trusting for grace to slaughter my idols of productivity and effectiveness, all the while asking God for wisdom to know and then to do what’s most important with the energy and ability he provides. #truerest

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

46 thoughts on “What is the Meaning and the Method of True Rest?”

  1. Michele, my word for 2022 is “Wait”. It will be interesting to see how both words intersect as I read your posts. May this new year bring a rest to your body and soul as you follow the Lord’s lead.

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  2. Ah Michele, I’ve just copied your words on a notecard…’take truth like oxygen into your way of thinking. Breathe out prayer as if your life depends on it. Spiritually it does.’ Words I’ll keep with my New Year intentions.

    And ‘idols of productivity’…. hmm this sounds familiar though I’m sure it looks very different in my life than in yours, Michele. I am excited for you trying a new format and reduced number of posts this year. Your reading and writing productivity has held me in helpless awe and I’ll admit, envy. It will be sweet for you to see a year from now what new avenues open up for you and what the nature of ‘rest’ will look like for you this year. The wilderness wanderings and Matt.11 passage have long been things I’ve pondered and the elusive rest depicted in Heb 3 &4 and Ps.95 a rest I’ve craved. I look forward to your insights and writing this year ( : So glad you are here.

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    1. I’m going to read the scriptures you referenced, and I so appreciate your response to this pulling back. It’s so counter-intuitive and feels like self-sabotage on one hand, and yet I am clear that it’s the right move for now. Already, I am seeing the wisdom of it.
      And it’s so good to know that you are hanging in there as a reader. I do appreciate it—and hope everyone is well at your place now?

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  3. I remember my daughter saying the same type of thing at that age…No, I do it! My word for the year of 2022 is abide. I hope to spend this year resting in where I am. My mother passed away in June and It’s certainly going to be a year of growth for me as I change not only how I see myself but how I look out at the world. Your words are thought provoking for me.

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  4. I love the book, Sacred Rest, by Saundra Dalton-Smith. It was life-changing for me. I strive to have a Sabbath each week, even if it doesn’t fall on Sunday. Some weeks, Saturday is my day of rest. And I feel much more productive for taking a day to align my heart and calendar with God’s will for my life.

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  5. I like the idea of being yoked with Christ showing us that He bears the greater part, but it is a yoke for pulling after all, so there is effort involved. And resting brings to mind Hebrews 4:10: “whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” And now “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting” is floating through my mind–one of my favorite hymns.

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  6. When our eight-year old granddaughter was two, her favorite words were, “By myself!” I too couldn’t help but see that I sometimes prove to be a toddler in God’s family with that same attitude! May 2022 unfold into a glorious year of basking in God’s presence, worshiping him in all his glory, and reveling in his gifts around you, Michele. My focus-word is REVERENCE, which will undoubtedly involve the same delightful activities!

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  7. What an awesome reminder to us all. Thanks for your support and links shared at our Linky and may you have a blessed 2022 and beyond. Shared on SM

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  8. This is going to be such an interesting journey this year, Michele! I’m so excited you have chosen rest because I often do battle with those same demons of efficiency and productivity. This: “I’m going to be trusting for grace to slaughter my idols of productivity and effectiveness, all the while asking God for wisdom to know and then to do what’s most important with the energy and ability he provides.” Soul rest is so inviting to each of us…we should take Jesus up on his offer more often.

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  9. I’m putting Carved in EBony on my to-read list this year as I have committed to reading biography this year. Coming from Inspire me Monday.

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  10. Rest is so vital and so neglected in our world. We need to find a new way to celebrate the Sabbath! I am so looking forward to sharing your journey and what you discover through this beautiful word and intentional practice.

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  11. Thank you for sharing your early insights into “rest” for this year’s journey. I loved the quote from Jen Pollock Michel from her book, “A Habit Called Faith.” “Jesus offers use path to knowing God that isn’t strenuous–but also not effortless.” Yes…and just this afternoon, my Texas church posted definitions of sanctification and justification on their Facebook. Here you have Duane Ortland giving such. I believe I needed that. Thanks, Michele.

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