Sometimes when we don’t pay attention to a nudge, God has to hit us with a sledge hammer. Lovingly, of course, but hard nonetheless.
By the time I reached 3rd trimester with Colin, I was exhausted. So exhausted that standing at the counter to make a sandwich left me feeling like I’d hiked 5 blocks to the top of the hill behind my house–pushing a stroller and pregnant! I had no energy left.
Two pregnancies in 2.5 years, PPD, moving, and getting settled into a new ministry had utterly depleted any energy reserves I had. But I couldn’t figure out how to slow down. After all, I had a baby on the way. I’ve never been good at slowing down or pacing myself. Now was no exception. There were so many things I wanted to do before the baby arrived.
My body became so stressed out that it went into pre-term labor. Each week the contractions grew stronger and closer together. Each week my midwife put more and more restrictions on my activity. Finally, on our 8th anniversary, I developed a small amniotic fluid leak. My body was ready to get the baby out.
When my midwife imposed “couch rest” on me, along with a long list of restrictions regarding stairs, lifting, activity, etc., I was less than happy. When 1 week became 2 and then 3, I got restless. I’ve never been good at sitting around, and here I was at 35 weeks pregnant with way too much time on my hands to sit and look at the cleaning I wanted to get done, the sewing projects for the baby that weren’t completed, and to remember all the activities I’d planned to do with my son and daughter.
But God knew what I needed. I needed rest. And lest I forget that and become bitter, He reminded me of it through my devotions.
For over a year, I’ve done Sweet Blessings’s Scripture writing plans for my devotions. Once again, the month’s topic correlated with my life: REST!
I’ve never thought much about the concept of rest in the Bible. As Christians we hear a lot about working for the Lord, staying busy doing good works, being more involved at church, etc. Not a lot is said about taking time to rest.
But the Bible is full of the concept of rest. And if God takes time to rest, if Jesus went away from time to time to rest and recuperate, why don’t we?
When God created the world, He rested in on the seventh day (Gen. 2:1-3) once His work was done. Later, when He gave the law to Moses, He ordained times of rest–not just a Sabbath for the people (Ex. 20:8-10), but rest for the animals and the land as well (Ex. 23:12).
In Exodus 31: 17 it says, “It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” (Emphasis mine.) Even the perfect, almighty God of the universe needed to rest so He could be refreshed!
The Psalms are full of verses about the importance of sleep and rest. Psalm 127:2 is one I repeat to myself as a promise when I am struggling with insomnia: “It is in vain that you rise early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
Rest is not just an Old Testament concept. In the Gospels, Jesus and his disciples often went away to rest. Mark 6:31-32 follows a time when the disciples had gone away to minister. After traveling through Israel sharing the good news of the kingdom and working miracles, the disciples were tired. In verse 32, Jesus tells them, “‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”
That amazed me. Even Jesus encouraged his followers to take time off from ministry to rest. He didn’t chide them for being tired or urge them to keep pushing on. He recognized they were human and needed rest. By taking time to rest, they could be refreshed to serve Him more effectively on another day.
Finally, Hebrews 4 declares that the concept of rest is not just for the Old Testament, but applies to New Testament believers as well (vv. 5, 9-11). Just as God rested, we are urged to enter God’s rest–both present and future.
As I copied these passages, and many others, I realized God knows we are human. He created and encouraged the idea of rest because we need it. Just as fields need to rest so they can yield more the following year, so we also need rest. When we don’t rest, we become burnt out and cannot function properly in the roles God has given us.
I would not have chosen those weeks of rest. I had to be forced into them. But, do you know what ? By the end of them, I had so much more energy. I was less depressed. I could care for my family. I was ready physically, mentally, and emotionally for my baby’s birth. I was refreshed and renewed spiritually and ready to serve Him further. That is the blessing of God’s rest.