True Purpose of Rest

The True Purpose of Rest: Let It Make a Change in Your Direction

When you read the Psalms, what do you do when your eyes encounter the word selah? Do you pause as the meaning of the Greek word suggests? I’ll go first and confess that I usually don’t, and I think I’m in the majority.

What if instead of using selah as a convenient mile marker for scripture memory projects or (worse yet) an unnecessary interruption of the flow, what if we received selah as an invitation?

In the psalms, Selah shows up for the first time in Psalm 3:

Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
‘There is no help for him in God.’ 
Selah
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”

Psalm 3:1-3

What begins with trouble, with wearying voices pointing toward hopelessness, ends with praise and a clear view of God in his role as refuge and strength. The psalmist went from “There is no help” to “Lord, YOU are my helper!” And it happened after a pause.

What Is the Purpose of Rest?

Scholars differ over the true purpose of selah in the original context of Hebrew worship. Does it mean a thoughtful interlude of silent reflection? Some believe it signifies a sudden burst of instrumental music to accompany corporate praise.

In Thou Givest, They Gather, Amy Carmichael suggests that selah’s invitation to pause turns our inner struggles into peace. “We look away from self, away from the enemy. We look up!”

Rest is not simply a cessation of work. Rest is a gateway to worship. A pause for praise is a U-turn away from weariness and discouragement and toward strength and peace.

Rest is not simply a cessation of work. Rest is a gateway to worship.

What if you began taking God up on his invitation to rest wherever you find it—within the text of a psalm, with the sweet and satisfying presence of a loved one, in the simple beauty offered by the view through your kitchen window? What if you began to experience God as your helper and your source of true rest?

Holding you in the Light,

And Now Let’s Talk Books

Since most things that “go without saying” do, in fact, need to be said from time to time, I will say that true rest encompasses both body and soul. This week, I’m pleased to be offering resources to encourage you in that endeavor, and both are the work of online friends whose words I have come to trust through their other published work AND through their online ministries to their readers. Both Rebecca and Lucinda are great follows on Instagram, and you can simply click on their names to see for yourself.

God’s Purpose for You

It’s not too late to begin again in 2022, to drive a stake in the ground on some healthful practice that you’ve been flirting with since January 1, but never quite got around to implementing. Under the umbrella of First Place 4 Health, Lucinda Secrest McDowell has developed a resource to guide you in the process of becoming healthier on every level.

God’s Purpose for You offers nine weeks of daily inspirational readings that are challenging in scriptural depth, but also realistic in scope.

McDowell’s cheerful and positive voice comes through as she shares her own story of trusting God for solid spiritual, mental, and physical wholeness. She also draws on the wisdom of trusted professionals like Dr. Richard Swenson who exalts the uniqueness of God by recognizing our human limitations. You can dare to rest because God is sleepless, you can feel all your feelings because God has hardwired you with emotions, and you can trust God around every hairpin curve because he is never surprised.

Addressing the whole person, God’s Purpose for You includes recipes and menus for healthy eating and scripture memory encouragement to feed your soul. If you’re motivated by tracking progress, you’ll appreciate the forms for recording weight loss and exercise, all with the goal of giving Christ first place in every area of life. It’s clear that our soul care and our physical health are a seamless adventure as we turn toward God to meet all our needs in the formation of strong habits of faith to last a lifetime.

It’s not too late to begin again in 2022. Drive a stake in the ground on some healthful practice that you’ve been flirting with since January 1, but never quite got around to implementing. #GodsPurposeforYou @FP4Health @LucindaSMcDowel

Healing Devotional for Women

Like it or not, we are all in the process of healing. For some, it’s simply healing from some thoughtless word spoken yesterday by a friend or a spouse. For others, it’s a soul wound inflicted in childhood but suffered in some measure every single day.

Jesus came for this. His heart is tender toward the messy and the broken, and Rebecca Hastings has backed this up with solid evidence from scripture. Her Healing Devotional for Women offers a new beginning, first by laying a foundation of connection with God, a path toward understanding God’s no-condemnation love toward you.

With this firmly in place, healing becomes a journey of listening to the truth and letting it be louder than the screaming banshees in the culture or in your own head, of making the choice to place your faith in God and to displace faith in yourself.

Hastings is a reliable guide in this journey toward healing, because she writes from the solid ground of scripture and then shares her own messy story in which God has shown up for her. As women, we learn that God is present in our mothering and our work, in the days of focused accomplishment and on the days when we feel like a failure. A daily dose of scripture, even just one verse, read thoughtfully and applied skillfully gives your mind a good place to go–along with the reassurance that healing and hope are on the way.  

Like it or not we are all in the process of healing. Jesus came for this. His heart is tender toward the messy and the broken. #HealingDevotionalforWomen @myinkdance #RockridgePress

And One Last Thing…

Have You Received this FREE Gift?

I’ve developed a free guided meditation to encourage you in a deep dive into the truth of Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I’ve found that the surest antidote for the poison of the lies we tell ourselves is LARGE doses of truth, and I’m committed to the process of helping women to become confident Christ-followers and students of God’s Word. Click on the button below for your free gift…

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Many thanks to First Place 4 Health and Rockridge Press for providing copies of these books to facilitate my reviews, which are, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and an affiliate of The Joyful Life Magazine, two advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books or products I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to the seller. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash

65 thoughts on “The True Purpose of Rest: Let It Make a Change in Your Direction”

  1. What a lovely cover on the Simplify magazine! I think rest is a good way to recharge and renew focus on things, Even if it’s just having a quick bath and reading a book or going out for exerrcise.

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  2. I had not always thought about the rest, or pause, in-between sections of a psalm. In the passage you shared from Psalm 3:1-3, I like to think that the “selah” provided time for the psalmist to ruminate on what he had just said and to be reminded that he was not without help. So many psalms show that change from grief or angst or worry to trust and rest and praise. I’ll have to make it a point to observe whether a “selah” occurs at those junctures. I wouldn’t be surprised now if it does.

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    1. Yes, that’s a wondering I gained from this bit of insight from Amy Carmichael. I have to conclude too that her enforced “waiting” and “resting” that followed her accident must have been the seed bed for so much of her wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this insight so much, Michele: “Rest is not simply a cessation of work. Rest is a gateway to worship.” We sometimes think rest is just for our benefit, but the results of it overflow into honoring God.

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  4. I’ve understood that the Selah is likely a pause for an instrumental interlude, and to meditate on the Lord, but hadn’t really considered that it might be the pause in which the psalmist’s worshipful “silence” also changes his attitude. Lots to think about and chew on here – thanks for a very good word!

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  5. Thanks for sharing! I usually have a Sunday meditation on my blog, Yesterday’s wasn’t a reflection – instead I posted the first chapter of my story about Matthew, Jesus’s disciple. Today is my first Book Date Monday post. Glad to join the blogroll. Happy reading! – Lyn

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      1. Thanks. When my brother thought up the app idea I told him about The Chosen but he’d not heard of it yet. As we developed the stories (we have authors who submit stories and we share royalties with them), it felt like our app and the TV show could complement each other. Love the backstory idea for biblical characters. And so when I wrote Matthew I had to make sure it was a different take on Matthew than the TV one! lol The app is called Faith Journeys. Hope you can check it out some time. Thanks!

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  6. It’s like the breath before the pivot – pivoting away from what the world says to focusing on what God says. Sometimes a rest is needed, a breath to make that move! I’m going to be thinking about that now when I read through psalms!

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  7. In my NIV Bible the “Selahs” have been removed from Psalm 3:2, 4, and 8 (and elsewhere) and included as a footnote, presumably because the original meaning of the word is now unclear. I gravitate toward the definition you shared, Michele: “a thoughtful interlude of silent reflection.” We could all do with more of that! And the “Selah” reminders sprinkled here and there in the psalms offer worthy places to start. I too appreciate your insight: “Rest is a gateway to worship.” I’m thinking the opposite is true as well: “Worship is a gateway to rest” as we praise God for who he is–his attributes–and all he has done. When worship is genuine, peaceful restoration of our spirits cannot be far behind!

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    1. Ooooh! Love the inversion!
      I have the annoying habit of trying to fill every empty moment with activity, forgetting that those moments are NOT empty. Silence, rest, pausing to reflect may be the best thing I do all day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I too gravitate toward busy-ness, and not pausing often enough. LOVE your last insight about “the best thing I do all day.” Very insightful, Michele! And good truth to keep in mind.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Michele, this is such a good observation. To think of Selah as a rest and looking up. I usually ignore it, and then wonder how did the Psalm go so quickly from dispair to praise and confidence in good.

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  9. I have learned to pause when I read Selah. What was the writer saying, feeling, seeing etc? What is God doing? I’m learning to have a Selah in my life. It’s a process, not perfection but I am doing better than I have in the past. I desire to have the pause that leads me to worship.

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  10. I love the change of direction that so often takes place in the Psalms. The psalmist may start out crying out to God, even asking “why?” But then as they turn to God in faith and remembrance, their focus changes. It seems “Selah” offers us an opportunity to do the same.

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  11. Michele, this post was a blessing. I loved that in this portion of Scripture, Selah, comes between the doubt and lie that there is no help for him and the truth – “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.” When we tired and in turmoil, it can be difficult to hear or see the truth. As we pause, and rest, our heads clear and we are able to see that He is our help, our shield, and the One who will lift our head.

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    1. What a great point, Joanne. We do need to train ourselves to turn away from the the discouraging evidence of the present moment and allow God to change our minds. I think we get a new song when that happens.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is such a lovely perspective. I think I tend to skip over “selah” in scripture. Thank you for defining this word as an invitation to pause and consider the quiet beauty that may be right in front of my nose. -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

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  13. A very important observation that rest is an invitation to worship. I think our modern lives are so full of being busy that we need these quiet moments more in our lives. Thank you for linking this up.

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  14. Michele, hi! And thanks for the thoughts on ‘selah’ … I find myself releasing angst and whatever else is lurking with a deep exhale when I read that word.

    So good to hear what Rebecca Hastings has written. I miss her in the blog world, always appreciated her insights and the way she presented her posts. A breath of fresh air.

    Blessings to you this weekend, friend. And thanks for the new titles to peruse.

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  15. Michele, I’m looking forward to the next “Selah” I encounter as I read through the Psalms. Will it be a restful pause, an instrumental interlude or an opportunity for a perspective change? I’m so thankful that looking up changes how things look.

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  16. I think I definitely need to work on taking a pause to reflect. These days I feel like I’m chasing my tail non stop – but when you’re doing that, so much is missed as it becomes out of view. Thank you for joining us for #mischiefandmemories

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  17. Taking time to reflect and understand is so important. Life has become too frantic for me so I am reducing my work hours so that I no longer feel overwhelmed and unable to appreciate the wonderful things in my life. Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAndMemories

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  18. Yes, I read ‘selah’ and read on. But in rereading the Psalm I found myself taking a rather deep breath at ‘selah.’ I need to just begin with a breath and as I get used to that, I will start taking two and three or holding my breath a bit to rest. In reading the Bible through in 365 days this year, I am reading with more purpose and there are some rests in there. Thanks, Michele for this fine and needed reminder.

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