This year, for my birthday, my wife surprised me with a day at the spa – all by myself. And, though it took me a while to get used to that kind of idea for a birthday gift, I eventually discovered that I loved it! In fact, I can’t wait to go back!
(Fellas, before you go judging me, go to the spa for yourself, first. It’s amazing. You are treated like royalty! You’ll feel like a king!)
I spent the whole day relaxing, swimming, hot tubbing (is that a word?), reading in an essential oil-infused fireside room, sipping jasmine tea, eating really nice food, swimming some more, napping, and reading some more. I tell you what: I have never felt more recharged after a day than after my 29th birthday at the spa.
That being said, I was struck at how hard it was, initially, for me to actually relax and find rest. Even though I had just walked into a building that had room after room specifically designed for me to find rest, I was still thinking about things I needed to get done after I left, projects I had been working on, and ways that I wanted to document this day so I could talk about it later (which I’m doing right now, ironically). And in all of those thoughts, my mind and spirit had a very hard time actually relaxing to the point of enjoying this wonderful day in the spa.
So I did something drastic – I locked my car keys in the locker, I put my phone on airplane mode…and locked it in the locker, and decided to believe – just for the moment – that things were going to be ok if I didn’t attend to them for a few hours. And then I went to the hot tub!
Here’s what I discovered: it actually takes work to rest. There is an exerted effort necessary to relax and enjoy the good things that already exist in our lives. But we are often so consumed with a sense of production that we slip into the dangerous world of defining ourselves by what we do or how much we have. And when this happens, we look past the abundant blessings that exist right in front of us.
If we are ever to get back to this point of rest, it will take an intentional effort to resist the urges to define our existence by our production or consumption. We are actually going to have to strive to rest, trusting that God’s got a handle on things and I don’t need to do it for him. God does have things under control. I don’t have to hold everything together. And it’s going to be ok. It takes work to choose to agree with these truths. It takes striving to rest in God and his eternal provision!
This is part of what the writer of Hebrews was referring to when he said, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:9-11). In other words, we will be easily tempted to play God and exhaust ourselves trying to artificially hold our lives together if we don’t work hard – frequently and consistently – to rest in God’s sovereignty and provision. We will be tempted to all sorts of useless exertion and vain self-promoting if we don’t regularly challenge the blasphemous idea that we need to hold all things together with our working. It takes striving to rest in God and his eternal provision.
But as selfish humans, we always tend to go back to a basic heart condition of pride and lust. That’s part of the fallen sinful nature inside of us. So how do we let go of our pride to rest in God’s eternal provision when it’s so hard to do – especially on a consistent basis?
I love what Jesus says to each of us in answer to this question. How do we truly find rest? Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). There is a rest that is available for your soul – a rest that is deeper, more satisfying, and longer-lasting than a good night’s sleep. You – all of you – can finally find real rest. And that rest is found when you come to Jesus! He alone can take all of your burdens!
But it takes striving to find this rest. It isn’t easy. So here are 5 ways to strive to enter into the rest that Jesus offers:
- Lay aside the things that distract you or hinder you from regularly coming to Jesus. There are some things for each of us that constantly steal our attention from drawing near to Jesus. They aren’t bad things…until they keep distracting you from coming closer to Jesus. Lay those things aside.
- Schedule it. You need to have a plan for unhurried time to be with Jesus, distraction free. Unless it actually makes its way into your calendar, it probably will get forgotten, overlooked, or replaced by something that seems more urgent. Put it on the calendar/schedule/plan and don’t mess with it!
- Make it a discipline You need to work hard to rest – as much as you are able. I guarantee you this: at first, this will not be something you have a desire to do. As much as we say we want more rest, when it comes to actually performing actions that lead to rest, we tend to stop just short. Why? Because we don’t usually like the feelings of being unproductive. It typically triggers feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness inside us. Why? Because we usually associate our worth with what we do or achieve. But when we actually believe that we are chosen children of God and that he is in control – even in control of this very moment – it is amazing how much more appealing rest is. But we have to start by disciplining ourselves to enter this rest. and then eventually, the discipline will morph into a desire.
- Put your screens away. I know you think that it’s restful to zone out and scroll through a social media, news, or email app without anyone bugging you…but you’re wrong. There, I said it. You’re wrong. What you are actually doing is zeroing in on one of the worst places to rest. Without even getting into how unrestful it is for your brain to be locked into an unbroken gaze at thousands of little lights that are very intentionally placed to keep your attention for hours, you are also introducing some of the worst things into your heart for the rest. You are bringing up hundreds (or thousands) of images and advertisements to your attention that will viciously and relentlessly tempt you to work harder and longer to live up to an unrealistic standard of being more impressive and holding your life together – an expectation that only Jesus can live up to. And so after you finally put your screens away, you are left more exhausted and less filled up. Don’t buy the lie. Screens don’t help you rest.
- Open your Bible – and your heart. Listen to what Jesus wants to say to you right in this moment. Spend time hearing Jesus speak to you through the Word of God. I promise you this: there is actually nothing more restful and energizing than hearing from God, knowing he is with you, and feeling freedom as his truth washes over you. You will only find real rest – rest for your soul – when you come to Jesus.
So stop complaining that you’re worn out and start striving to enter God’s rest.
Want to dive deeper into a daily walk with our gracious God of rest? Check out my 30 day devotional for Christian living called Walking With God. Click below to view a FREE PREVIEW, and purchase for paperback or Kindle ebook.