Take a moment to think about the periods of your life when you experienced the LEAST amount of sleep.
I immediately think back to my summers as a counselor for jr. high school students at Pine Cove Christian Camps. 6 days a week, 24 hours a day for 12 weeks I gave everything that I had. My skin endured the sun and my hair the pool’s chlorine. This partial introvert had less than 15 minutes a day to call her own. Everything was timed down to the minute: eating, sleeping, even free time. Physical activity was almost constant. I entered into my 24 hours off with nothing left to give… even my voice was gone by the end of each week at camp. I was physically and emotionally spent – but spiritually my cup was running over.
How is it possible to expend every ounce of energy and yet remain rested and filled?
1. Freely admit weakness to the Lord. I recognized within the first week that the task was impossible. I was forced to turn the workload over to the Lord and trust Him to give me words, energy, and love for the girls in my cabin. Sometimes rest starts when we look upward and say through tears, “But I can’t do this. I’m too tired and there’s too much to do.” Our Savior smiles and says again, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28, JBP)
2. Cling to the Word. Carve out that time. Those fifteen minutes each morning before I woke up my girls are some of the sweetest times of connection I’ve ever had with the Lord. Because I was dependent upon Him for every physical need throughout the day, I was desperate to feast upon His Word each morning. God’s Word really was the lamp for my feet and the light for my path.
3. Ask for Help. I would not have made it through any of my summers without the encouragement, support, and prayers of the staff around me. I quickly learned to be vulnerable and share my requests, to let the tears fall, and to allow myself to express needs. If you find yourself panicking because of your to-do list, I would encourage you to examine your life and see if you can ask for help; whether that be through presence or prayer.
4. Protect the Sabbath. The temptation with a day off can be to fill it with the items that keep getting pushed off of our to-do lists. We find an open Saturday or Sunday and quickly begin to fill them with lots of good things while God has the BEST thing for us: REST. On my trip to Israel this spring I began to view Sabbath in a whole new light. It wasn’t a rule to follow, but a GIFT from God. He wants us to rest from work because we need it! “God presents the Sabbath rest as a shelter we can enter.” ― Charles R. Swindoll. I don’t know what Sabbath will look like for you, but for my 24 hours off from camp I needed time alone. In order to be refreshed for the whole week I spent a portion of it reading, a portion filling up on the fruits and veggies that my body was craving, a portion of one-on-one time with a friend or family member, and a portion worshipping with the body of believers. I knew not to schedule much, but to train myself that just “be-ing” was necessary to keep my spirit at rest.
5. Walk by faith. Faith brings rest. When I trust God’s hand in my life it frees me from worry. The answer to my fears is faith in the One who calls. That faith allows me to live unrestrained from worries: the plane is held up, the car is protected, the tasks will be completed… or not. Rest comes when we finally settle in and trust that God is in control. For “faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.” (Oswald Chambers)
For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God’s goal for us, we need to be careful that we’re not disqualified. We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith. If we believe, though, we’ll experience that state of resting. But not if we don’t have faith. Remember that God said,
Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going,
never be able to sit down and rest.”
… And so this is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God. So let’s keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:1-3, 8-11, The Message)
“At least one indication of unbelief is the tendency to measure life’s challenges against our own adequacy instead of God’s promises. To enter our Sabbath rest, we must put an end to self-reliance – trusting in our own abilities to overcome difficulties, rise above challenges, escape tragedies, or achieve personal greatness.”― Charles R. Swindoll
Obviously these points aren’t meant to be a complete and final list, merely an encouragement for each of us to find rest even in the midst of service to our King. What would you add to the list?