We all need rest. Rest is a biblical concept. We are approaching our two week fall break for school, and I thought it would just be the children who needed a reprieve from school, but it turns out that I feel I have benefited the most from our little respite.
Rest is a powerful source of energy and renewal for our bodies and souls. As I have raised our four little souls, I have learned from experience the power of giving others time to rest and taking time to rest myself.
Most mothers easily recognize the signs of a tired child. Children rub their eyes, cry, seem easily agitated, and become altogether impossible to manage when they are tired. Little people have bodies that are constantly changing, growing and learning. With such busyness as a child possesses, much more essential is his or her need for rest.
Every mother easily recognized the signs of weariness in her children. A grumpy, exasperated, unmanageable, child can often be transformed through the power of a nap. Sometimes a child simply has too much stimulation like a long trips from home, being around lots of people, stepping out of his or her routine, or illness and simply needs a bit of quiet time, even if a nap doesn’t happen.
Just as ignoring the need for my own children’s rest has brought no peace to me or my child, so ignoring the symptoms of my own need for rest only allows my soul to build in its turmoil.
How often we can see the exhaustion in our children but fail to recognize the signs in our own lives. Or if we know we need a rest, we refuse to take that needed time to give ourselves space.
I would really like to explore the topic of rest. What it looks like when we don’t take time to rest, why we don’t allow ourselves to rest, what rest looks like, are important to discuss, but so is our need for applying what we know about our need for rest and building that space into our days.
Recognizing the need for rest:
I so often ignore the signs that my body needs a rest from something or from the daily grind of life.
- Being irritable or easily agitated are the first clues that I need rest. I haven’t changed much since my toddler days. If I am grumpy, a nap can do wonders for my attitude. If I am finding my emotions difficult to control, I need to recognize that I very well may need to stop and take a break from something or get a nap in my day.
- No Joy in the things that once brought joy. Some people may see lack of joy as depression. But lack of joy can be complete and utter exhaustion as well. So many care-givers, mothers, elderly folks, and those with ongoing illness need more rest in their particular season of life than they might have needed in the past. People who are in grief can also need extra rest. As can people who are in a life crisis. I have seen complete exhaustion swallow up many a merry heart.
- Physically tired and lack of energy. This is the obvious sign of tiredness that we all recognize. We simply feel tired. We know we are tired. Our head hurts, our body doesn’t want to move. We have trouble getting out out words.
Why we Don’t rest:
Ok, so we can recognize when we are tired. Many of us do not see a way to give ourselves a needed respite.
- Pride is often at the root of our ignoring of rest. We think we can power through and that we are strong enough to keep pressing on. We think if we take the time to rest, the world will come tumbling down around us. (Yes we are THAT important.) We think that we will fall behind if we take a break and what will other people say or think of us then?
- There is really no time to rest. This is an actual crisis. I am not going to try to find rest in days that have none. Or give hope to people who have no time to rest. Full-time care-givers and parents with babies, people pacing the floors with grief and turmoil in their souls, or those who have inescapable physical conditions that prevent sleep…like menopause. Sometimes rest simply cannot be had despite our best efforts to carve it into our lives. I cannot offer options where there are none, but I will say, Matthew 11:28 was written for those with greatly troubled hearts and in need of rest (all of us) as Jesus tells us: “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.” Resting in Christ is our primary source of true rest whether we can take the time physically or not.
What rest looks like:
Restful activities bring the soul space to think. What gives me rest is different than what might bring my neighbor next door rest. I enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend, writing out my thoughts, a walk in the woods, a book by the fire, a canvas and paints, and sometimes quiet music and sleep. Rest is a wholesome activity that re-centers my heart and soul on its God given purpose. For another person rest means climbing a mountain and going camping, or running a marathon, cleaning windows, or spending a weekend alone.
Rest is worship. The activities I engage in during rest are not busy helps my heart focus on truth, God’s purpose for me, and worship. This is a very important thing to note. Anything that distracts me from spending my rest on reflection and focusing on Christ are not providing my soul with true rest. Spending time reading Scripture ought to be a large part of our restful moments. Sleep can also be a benefit, if I find I am tired and my weary body is preventing my soul from being able to rest.
I am going to take a moment to explain this a little more. Our minds are so full of input. It comes from things we watch and hear. Input is often by our own choice, but sometimes it is unasked. In any case, adding to that input with anything but what turns our hearts to Christ, is not providing our souls with true rest. If I binge watch Netflix during my time of rest, I have not rested. I have added to by already busy and overwhelmed mind more things to consider. Rest comes from Christ as we read in Matthew 11:28. Quiet is very helpful for us to help our souls find stillness in Christ. But, an edifying conversation with a friend can be of use. So can just being alone with the Lord and our thoughts while we are busy with our hands can be a good use of our rest. Journaling and writing can also help organize our thoughts. I have a friend who would randomly take a day off work to “do laundry.” What she meant by that, was that she would take a day off to sort her thoughts and bring them into the light of truth. Such thinking is essential. Rest is really giving ourselves time to self-counsel. Bringing our false thoughts to light and and reminding ourselves of truth won’t happen unless we take time to do it.
How to rest:
Plan the Time: One thing I have also learned, is that rest will not happen naturally…on its own. If I am given free time, it is used for fellowship, housework, phone calls, doctor appointments, and anything else that needs doing while I have the time. I do not believe that is unusual.
So, rest must be scheduled into our lives, just like everything else. And that time of rest must be guarded like a doctor appointment or visit to Grandpa’s for Christmas.
Daily Rest: When my children were small, I gave them a quiet time. When they turned five, they could graduate from that time, but until then, sleep or not, each child spent and hour and a half alone each afternoon. Children really need their own space, just like we adults do. Little one do not see their need for it, but I noticed my children were so much more calm, at peace, and easy to be with if they were given a regular space to play quietly alone each day. I had some children that always fell asleep and others who needed less sleep, but they all needed that personal space each day. I also found that time alone was essential for me too. Sometimes that quiet time it meant a nap for me. There were other times, I invited another lady (without young children) over for tea and we could visit in peace (something that never happens for most young moms), I also found time to read Scripture and pray or journal during those much needed moments of silence. I no longer have rest time each day, but I rise early. That is the space I have to create during this season of life to rest.
Seasonal Rest: We are just finishing our two weeks of fall break from school and I am finding that the break was much needed. I am remembering what it is like to just be “mom” to take non-school adventures with my children and to arrange play-dates with friends. I am remembering why we are home-schooling and the preciousness of my children. I am having time to write, read, and study Scripture. I feel refocused for our next term of school and am ready to jump back in with renewed focus and vigor. Sometimes taking a rest means an arranged break from an ongoing situation, like a job, a routine, or a ministry. These breaks are not “quitting.” They are patterned with every intention of re-focusing and getting back into it. These breaks are also not breaks from what God requires of us. We don’t take breaks from faithfully gathering with other believers and church, we don’t take breaks from loving others, we don’t take breaks from Bible reading and prayer (sadly, this is often the case during what we Americans call “vacation.”) we don’t take breaks from our marriage, we don’t take breaks from being wife, mom, or daughter. We only take breaks from the extra-obligations we are called to do.
Healing Rest: This is a very special kind of rest that follows life-changes, loss, trauma, or even a rest recommended by someone like a husband who sees the need of it in his wife. We tend to power through so often that we do not allow ourselves to Biblically process what has happened in our lives. We need to give ourselves time to grieve, time to adjust, time to think about changes in our lives in a Biblical way. If we do not, it is far too easy for lies from our heart or the world around us to take a foothold in our pain and cause us to loose faith. We need to give ourselves time to read the Bible, talk with a friend, see a counselor, journal, create music, walk and let our hearts naturally unwind and settle into Biblical truth.
May we all peruse the true rest as our Savior gently bids us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt. 11:28-30.