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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO REST?


 

 

1 Kings 19:3-18


3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.


All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.


And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”


10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”


11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”


Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.


Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”


14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”


15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”


 


Matthew 11:28-30


28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


 

What does it mean to rest?

 

I suppose we would all admit that one of the positives of the pandemic has been that our schedules were a little less full. However, as things begin to open around us with less and less restrictions there is a danger that we will try to make up for lost time. I suspect that for some the schedules are getting fuller with each passing week. I fear that we will return to a programmed and planned out life that leaves little to no room for anything that might rejuvenate us and offer us rest. So, as we are now in the season of summer, I believe it is important for us to pause and think about how we can include “rest” not just on a vacation but program “rest” into all of our living no matter the season. Over the next few days let us take the opportunity to think about practices of rest that can result in a less anxious and more joyful life.


Too often we think that rest means lazy. It means we can totally “chill out” at home and do absolutely nothing. While there may be an element of that in our restful times, that is not the whole story. There is a healthy rhythm we should stive for.


Rest is about recovery. Rest is about refreshment. Rest is about renewal. Rest is knowing when we are drained, exhausted, and need to breathe deeply for a while. It is knowing our limits and how we are handling the demands of our daily lives.


REST IS EMOTIONAL HONESTY. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden … and I will give you rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28 Jesus doesn’t say, “Come to me happy, cheerful and optimistic.” It’s the opposite. True rest is radical because it’s honest. We can come to Jesus, regardless of how we’re feeling: distracted, numb or discouraged. In this place of honesty, Jesus can give you the emotional rest of safety and understanding. It is OK to not be OK!


REST IS A RETURN TO YOUR TRUE IDENTITY. The world loves to label us by what we can do, who we know and our past or future potential to perform. Just as God was calling Israel to return to him, He is calling us to say no to the roles and responsibilities others try to place on us, and say yes to who God created you to be, and return to a place of rest.


Brennan Manning says, “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” What different choices would you make, if you gave yourself permission to let go the expectations other people push you to be or do?


REST IS RADICAL AND COUNTER-CULTURAL. Danish theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “If I were allowed to prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence.” He said that because of the noise saturating us, even if the word of God came to us, we would not be able to hear him.


We cannot drop our jobs and move away from our family and friends, but we can inject pockets of rest, to pull away from daily routine. Even Jesus told His disciples to leave and escape the masses by boat, even though needs were still unmet!


Could God be prompting you to “leave by boat”(literally or figuratively) to take a radical break from your routine to get some rest and enjoy silence, so you can hear God’s whispers and hear his nearness again?


REST IS SPIRITUAL INTIMACY. Elijah had done everything he knew to do, even defeating the prophets of Baal. Yet, his problems did not go away. Stress broke Elijah’s spirit. In despair, Elijah woke up to find fresh bread baking on hot stones and water—left just for him.


Not only that. God sent an angel—to touch him–twice. God knew Elijah needed physical rejuvenation first, in order to be able to hear God’s gentle voice, God’s “Still small voice” whispering to him.


God did not say, “Well, I’ll just move on to use someone else.” It is the opposite. God loved Elijah deeply, and had a purpose and plan for him. I wonder could God be inviting you to deeper intimacy through rest?


Sometimes it takes greater faith and courage to admit we are tired, and we need to re-examine why we’re doing what we’re doing. God welcomes this kind of soul searching. Our God loves being with us on that intimate journey.

I suppose what I am trying to get at is that “rest” is learning what energizes us and what does not. It is choosing to incorporate activities or stillness that will bring refreshing times to our spirits. Let us be honest if we continue doing things that deplete us when we should be finding things that fill us, Recovery, Refreshment, and Renewal will never come. As I read recently on a sign, “We must make more deposits than withdrawals during our times of rest.”


Rest is experiencing a deep renewal in all parts of our lives. It is spending time with God so that we are spiritually made new. While we may love to do certain things that refresh us mentally, ultimately, we need our spirits refreshed by spending time with God each day.

 

PRAYER


Refresh my heart Lord

Renew my love

Pour your spirit into my soul

Refresh my heart

You set me apart Lord

To make me new

By your spirit lift me up Lord

Refresh my heart


And I will worship you Lord

With all of my heart

And I will follow you Lord

Refresh my heart Amen


 

TAKE AWAY REFLECTION


When you think of getting rest, does it feel like an impossibility?


What area of your life do you feel needs the most rest? Body, mind, or spirit?


Write down any revelation that God speaks to you through today’s Bible reading or devotional.


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