Lately I’ve found myself longing for rest. Longing for things to slow down. Needing relaxation. Needing rejuvenation. With a busy schedule and responsibilities beckoning, I just wanted some time to relax. Getting ready to depart for a Christian young adult conference this past weekend called Passion, I was so excited to get away for a few days and have a refreshing time with the Lord. I enjoyed the drive down and felt a peace with the Lord that I so needed. But as the following day or so progressed, my anticipated relaxation morphed into an apparent fatigue.
My expectancy and excitement for all that I was about to ingest, from great preachers to awesome worship music to community group time, started to turn into downright exhaustion.
I was confused at why I was so tired because the sermons were so powerful, the music was touching my heart and I really felt the Spirit of the Lord in our midst. But I was getting more fatigued by the minute. And I so longed for rest. I just didn’t understand why I was feeling so tired in a place that has always been a place of restoration for me. I loved being there. My desire wasn’t the issue. But the rest and rejuvenation I was hoping for just wasn’t materializing the way I expected.
By the second day of the conference I still found myself exhausted. Then for the first time in a long time I was fluctuating with whether or not I wanted to go to the worship service that was going to take place at 11 pm that night. And anyone who knows me knows this is a rarity for me as I am a music fanatic! But I was just so tired. And it was affecting my joy and my want-to.
I started whispering to the Lord, “God, I’m tired. I don’t think I can go…I just want to go back and rest. Please, can I just leave and rest…” And God convicted my heart in those moments telling me that He didn’t want me to have rest the way I wanted. I didn’t really understand why He wouldn’t want me to have rest except that He wanted me to be obedient and continue on in the conference I had committed to. And that He would take care of me.
Tired and spent and a little discouraged about why I was feeling this way, I walked with a new friend to the arena. Our leaders had told us during community group time to walk back silent as we walked back for the worship night. So as we walked through city streets back to the arena, thousands of us moved in silence. No words. No chatter. Just silence.
And right there, God started working in my heart. There was something about that silence that just renewed my spirit.
Right then and there, God started to teach me what real rest is.
As we continued, I sat down in the arena and we waited for the music to start. Then they began to play. Softly and quietly.
There were no lights like the session before. No drums. No flashing colors. No jumping up and down. Just a sound. Just our voices. Just worship.
In that moment I sensed God moving in my heart reminding me of the power of stillness. Reminding me of the simplicity of His presence. Refreshing me with the calmness of united praise to Him. And I began to experience how He was giving me rest.
And though my body and mind were still tired and exhausted, God met me in that night to show me that real rest comes from a different place. Not the place I wanted to go to rest. But the place He wanted me to go to rest. God is showing me that despite my impoverished soul God can bring forth rest from His Spirit to impart to me. Temporary rest may give me a boost of energy, but real rest eases the soul. Long-term. Only God can manufacture this kind of rest. And it was the rest that I needed.
In looking back on this it seems strange to me that I would have been longing for rest in my soul. I mean I was at a Christian conference for crying out loud, what better place than that to tap into the rest of the Lord, right?!
Or so I thought.
But I see now that I was not resting. I was too busy doing.
I was not letting God’s spirit wash over me. I was not resting in Him. I was too busy taking notes and listening and teaching myself what I needed to apply that I was missing out on the real rest of God to still me. I prioritized the knowledge of God over the experience of God. And that’s why I was feeling so drained and so spent.
Until I got back from this conference and started to think about what God had shown me concerning this, I wasn’t even aware of how much rest my soul was longing for. I had mistaken my longing for soul-rest for a physical kind of rest. But I realized that there had been a steady deterioration occurring in my soul on behalf of my busyness, my school work, and my unmet expectations that had started to whisper lies of discouragement to my soul. Lies that told me I was striving for nothing. That I needed to hide away from it all. That God didn’t want me to have relief. That I wasn’t getting the rest I deserved.
But what I really needed was God’s rest deep down in my soul.
I needed to be reminded that God is God and I am not. To take my focus off of myself and put it onto God. And that there is purpose in what I’m doing because it is preparing me for the next step.
I needed His rest to quiet me. His rest to calm me. His rest to put me at ease. His rest to let me know that everything I’m so worried about will be okay. I needed Him to put my soul at rest.
Psalm 63:1 says, “God, you are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate and without water.” Like the psalmist I find myself totally impoverished and in need of God. For He alone can provide the rest my soul is thirsting for.
Now I see that this kind of real rest can only come from God. And it cannot be manufactured on my own. Rather it requires me coming to Him completely empty and exhausted so that He can then still me with His love and give me that rest that I need.
So strange as it may seem, God’s rest flourishes best in me in the torrent of my exhaustion.
For my emptiness makes room for Him to move in my heart. I am no longer in His way. And He can be my only supply. My only source of life.
Through this experience, God is teaching me that expecting rest and relaxation through accumulating knowledge of God doesn’t always promise the rest of God. I thought that going to this conference would give me rest and energy like it had in the past… but really…it wasn’t until I was utterly spent by the end of it after working so hard to accumulate all the knowledge I could hold that I broke down and became tired and empty…that I finally met with God in a way that satisfied me.
In Philippians 3:7 Paul says, “Everything I counted as gain I count as loss because of Christ.” Paul understood the all-surpassing significance of experiencing closeness and rest with God through Christ. For him, knowing Christ was more important than all the other knowledge he had accumulated in his life…and Paul was a pretty knowledgeable guy. So for him to say that everything he had learned was a loss compared to Christ is a pretty extreme declaration. I can’t get past it. Because of Paul’s confidence that Christ is worth far more than every other thing he had worked for, I am inspired to also see everything I have and hope to have as nothing in comparison to knowing Christ.
For as I get to know Him, I do find rest.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-29 that we will find rest for our souls when we come to Him. So I just want to keep coming to Jesus, letting Him give me the rest that I can’t find on my own. Then I will find that all the things that drain me are actually meant to redirect me towards Jesus.
God is having to reteach me how to rest in Him. God is having to teach me how to just sit quietly with Him.
How to be with Jesus.
How to stop thinking, and just let Him speak.
How to stop singing, and just let Him still me.
This is hard for me sometimes because I feel like I’m not connecting with God if I don’t think or sing or learn and so on…but God is teaching me where real rest comes from.
He’s teaching me how to let Him be God and how I can just lean in to Him.
Now I’m realizing that real rest is not found in the place that I wanted to look for rest. If it were, I would have left for the night, went back to my hotel room and went to sleep. I would have gotten physical rest, but I would not have gotten the rest I was really longing for…rest in my soul. God gave me the rest He knew I needed even when I didn’t know it myself. Because His idea of rest and my idea of rest are completely different. And He will always do what is best for us, even despite us.
If He would have given me the rest I wanted which was to skip the last worship session and go back so I could sleep, I would have missed out on the chance to experience God providing rest for my soul in that acoustic worship session.
I would have missed out on the beauty of 15,000 college students walking in silence before the Lord.
I would have missed out on a chance to be still before Him in total exhaustion, desperate need, and emptiness.
I would have missed out on the chance to bask in silent worship, listening to the voices around me praising my King.
I would have missed out on the chance for God to fill me. For Him to give me the rest that only He can give.
Now I’m learning that God has not been giving me the rest I’ve been wanting because the rest that I want will not help me whatsoever in finding peace. It will rather give me a false sense of serenity. A complacent hideaway. And I will not be taught anything if I rest how I want to rest. I will not grow. I will not learn.
I have to let God teach me how to rest in Him even when I feel exhausted so that I can learn how to practice obedience and faithfulness.
So now I’m asking God to change my “God, I’m tired” prayer to a different kind of prayer:
When I’m exhausted and weary and feel like hiding away for any moment of relief, I’m learning to ask God to help me say, “God, I’m tired… But I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to run away. Please help me to be obedient to what you have called me to. And give me the rest that only You can provide. Help me as I am so weak.
I know that He will be faithful to answer, even when it’s hard for me to feel joyful in that moment. For God cares about the condition of my soul far more than anything else about me. And the same goes for you too. He will fight for you and me to bring us to the point where we have no other source of rest apart from Him. Then we can experience a kind of rest that is unattainable by any other means. For we find it from Him alone.
So I pray that we would be brought to the end of ourselves in total exhaustion, just ever needy of Jesus. I pray that we would be keenly aware of the rest God is waiting to pour into our souls. I pray that we would ask God first for rest before looking for it in and through ourselves. I pray that God would meet us in that moment, filling us up with His fullness. And I pray that we would all come to that place where we are so desperate for God that He becomes our only source of rest, our only source of peace and our only source of hope. May we get to know Christ better and find that in Him is rest everlasting. A rest that satisfies.
“Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5
Questions for Today:
- Where does real rest come from?
- What should I do when I feel exhausted and weak?
- How can I ask God to help me when I am feeling this way?
- Why is it significant that God wants to give our souls rest and not just our bodies rest?
- What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?
“I Surrender” by Hillsong Worship