I do not think it means what you think it means… REST
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
You know when you open a present from someone who loves you and you really hope the look on your face doesn’t show, but you have NO idea what to do with the present you just got? You smile and say, “oh thank you sooo much- I love it!” But what you really mean is, “What IS this?” Don’t lie I know you have. One time when I was about 9 I got a china bowl from my great aunt-you know the heirloom kind- as I watched my brothers open a toy. I’ve always been terrible at faking things (hey at least you’ll know how I really feel!) This year I got one of those gifts from someone that deeply loves me. I tried really hard to enjoy my gift but the truth is, I simply had no idea what to do with it AND it was quite uncomfortable. So I took a walk outside last night to gear myself up for an honest conversation with said beloved and the Holy Spirit whispered into my ear. However, it sounded oddly like Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride….
“REST. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Oh forgive me- that’s what I was given this Christmas from the Lord- rest. It’s quite boring and feels awfully un-purposeful. It felt a bit like the china bowl to me- lovely to glance at for a moment, but not useful for everyday life and certainly not something I knew how to enjoy. About a week ago I had a crash and burn melt down of exhaustion from our new pace of life with starting up Wildfire and learning to let the Holy Spirit lead each day. Often that has looked like a revolving door of people in and out of the house. One day while Esther was napping I stopped for a moment and glanced around at the scene before me. Four adults were sitting in the living room having an amazing God connection and telling stories of the miraculous. Six children were playing outside, (none of which were mine) and I got a knock on the front and back door simultaneously for a clothing drop off and Wildfire meeting. I literally laughed out loud and thought- what am I DOING?! Every day has become so unexpected and filled with awesome adventures but I would for sure say that REST has not been on the menu. You know-
REST- n. that thing we do only after we’ve completely exhausted ourselves and run out of fuel so we don’t feel guilt about it…
I did try, I promise! Everyone kept telling me- rest Ashley! I rested in the best way I knew how- I watched Hallmark movies at night so I wouldn’t try and solve the worlds problems and had a glass of wine when my husband saw the deer in headlights look on my face. I took a bath one day and tried really hard not to think about planning things. I even stayed in my PJs one day before Christmas (turns out people still show up at your house even if you have your pjs on). I tried EVERYTHING you’re supposed to do to rest. Hallmark people. Simply put, my “rest” was forced and I was left feeling guilty for needing it so much and guilty for not appreciating it when presented. As my other beloved told me last night- “you’re just really bad at rest honey.” Or maybe I just don’t know what it is!
I realize of course that when the God of the Universe gives you something and you don’t like it, it’s most definitely your issue and not His. So I decided to do some research on this gift and see if I might be able to understand more what on earth He was giving me and why I needed it (and why perhaps I’m so bad at it).
Do you know that the English word REST is translated from 10 entirely different words in the Hebrew and Greek? I searched over 400 verses and could have gone on for hours more just researching how many times God mentions rest when He talks to his people! Here are some of the definitions of the original words used. It’s not as simple as taking a nap!: (OT/NT for Old and New Testament)
-a day of rest (Sabbath) OT
-an open area (referring to land and space between Gods people and enemy lands) OT
-to cease, to stop, to come to an end OT
-to be quiet, at peace, silent, remain calm (referring most often to God giving the land rest after wars and harvests) OT
-to dwell, inhabit, stay, settle down, remain OT
-to stop and soothe, refresh NT
-a place of fixed habitation to remain in NT
Let that soak in for a little bit! One of my favorite gifts this year was a window frame painted with the words “I will give you rest.” from Mathew 11:28. Its hanging above my fireplace so that I constantly have to look at and deal with it. It reads like this: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you REST (refreshment, soothing). Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find REST (fixed dwelling place to remain) for your souls.” I love that Jesus is offering us two different kinds of rest here.
Refreshing Rest. When we are exhausted and weary he says its ok to come pull away and get filled up again. In Mark 9:31 ‘He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and REST for a while.” For many were coming and going and they had no leisure even to eat.’ Jesus got it. But this kind of rest was not meant to stay in, it was meant to refresh us so that we could go back out and and obey. Matthew 26:45- “He said to the disciples, sleep and take your REST later on, the hour is at hand.” When we stay in the refreshing rest too long we become complacent and lazy. We forget we have an active purpose here as Christ followers. But when we choose not to seek out this refreshing rest at all, we quickly burn out and function in our own strength that doesn’t last very long.
Remaining Rest. Jesus offers us a permanent dwelling place in the land of rest. If we learn from Him and allow Him to be God- in control, the One that takes on the cares and burdens of the world, He promises us a place for our souls to settle even in the midst of chaos. This rest we stay in, it’s not one day a week or a 2 hour getaway on a nature walk. Its constant rest. Yes please! This of course leads us to ask the question- where do we get that kind??!
When we dig into the Word we find some nuggets of goodness…
Jeremiah 6:16- the Lord says, “Stand by the roads and look, ask for the ancient paths where the good way is and walk in it and find REST for your souls.
Proverbs 19:23- The fear of the Lord leads to life- whoever has it RESTS satisfied.
Hebrews 4:6;9-11 It still remains that some will enter that REST and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in because of their disobedience…There remains then a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from His own work, just as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that REST, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. **This is the same word for rest used in the second part of Matt 11.
The point is- God tells us to rests. For goodness sake God values it so much He promises it to the dirt itself (Exodus 24:31, Josh 11:23, Isaiah 14:7)- so how much more does He want it for us! But I believe He was teaching me (and if I get this wrong just expect a follow up blog next week) that both kinds of rest are valuable, fruitful and a command. But we also have to make sure that our refreshing rest is actually refreshing- (binge watching rarely fills us up it just turns our brains off) so that we can keep obeying. We have to choose to enter the remaining rest that carries the fear of God – the kind that’s ok with the worlds problems still existing at the end of the day, knowing our souls can’t handle the weight of the world like His can. But also the remaining rest thats given to us when we walk in righteousness and obedience. It’s God’s promised reward! (1 Kings 8:56)
I don’t know if it means what I think it means or not, but I know that today Im going to go read a book and enjoy the rest He’s giving!