He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23:2-3
Water lilies, Fondation Claude Monet, Giverny France
I’ve gotten used to it. Nine out of ten times when someone asks “How are you?”, the other person’s reply is, “Busy.” Busy has become a favorite word, a knee-jerk response to describe one’s life. And why not when today’s culture worships being busy. Few will admit it but no one wants to be thought of as not busy. Among Christian circles, we hear the same thing. Armed with Proverbs 31, we calibrate our to-do lists after this Old Testament wonder woman who is knowledgeable in international cuisine, market investments, real estate; she even plants a vineyard, weaves her own bedding but doesn’t get enough sleep (v. 15 “she rises while it is still night”). Seriously, I do love Proverbs 31 and it is not about what she does but who she is – a woman who fears the Lord (though that warrants a separate blog). And although my intention is to talk about rest, I do have to be careful to not swing to the other extreme – that of idolizing rest. This is where the worldly clamor for “me time” may be deceptively hidden in the “God rested on the seventh day” church lingo.
In everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. Eccl 3:1 I do not claim to have the stewardship of time all figured out. I see myself stumbling in both extremes of busyness and idleness – neither glorifies God. But I do believe that like all of creation, time belongs to God and not to us, which means He has the rightful authority over how it must be used. He has given us 24 hours a day because what He wants to accomplish in us and through us can be done within that time frame. When I say there’s never enough time, I’m in fact questioning the sufficiency of his provision and in effect, doubting his goodness. In her book, Secure in the Everlasting Arms, Elisabeth Elliot wrote: “One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”
So what about rest? What does that look like? I believe that rest is not so much a physical place or time, but rather a condition of the heart that knows its complete security lies nowhere else but in the arms of a loving Father. I don’t mean that God does not ordain specific times for us to set ourselves apart physically to restore our bodies and our minds. In fact, I absolutely treasure each time that God allows me to take some time off. But without the knowledge of God as our sole refuge, we can devote a huge amount of time (and money) in the most secluded place and find rest evasive. The psalmist knew where to find rest. Psalm 32:7 says “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. ” So it isn’t so much where do I rest or how do I rest, but more of Who is my rest or on Whom do I rest. Psalm 62:7 says “On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. The word refuge refers to a situation that is safe and secure, free from harm and trouble. We all long for that but it is nowhere to be found apart from God. It is Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who makes us lie down in green pastures, leads us to still waters and restores our soul (Psalm 23). Let us thank him for the rest he desires for our hearts to know. What he wills for us, he also faithfully accomplishes. We need only to be still.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” hymn by Helen Howarth Lemmel (1922)
“Thou hast made us for thyself O Lord and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” St. Augustine