Rest for Your Weary Soul

I was driving home this past weekend and a song called Nothing Else by Cody Carnes came on the radio. My mind began to wander and to consider Sabbath and rest. I thought about the various ways the Bible tells us to rest. I think about the way our current society is over-stimulated and overworked. My heart was tired from all the things going on in the world around us and I thought how wonderful and refreshing it would be to just sit at Jesus’ feet while all the things happen around me.

I picture myself Jesus’ feet, leaning in, with my head on his knee. I picture all the disciples around. I’m just listening to the deep timber of his voice, his hand rests on my shoulder. It is a picture of peace and rest, where nothing else matters.

That’s when I realized that’s all I want in my daily life. I must work, I must write, I must live into my calling and my purpose on this earth. But, as the lines of the song says “I’m caught up in your presence, I just want to sit here at Your feet … Nothing else will do, I just want you.”

Last year I burned out. I kept going through that burnout so that I damaged my emotional health. Then I crashed and burned. I was planning my wedding, managing a business that was failing, writing a book, trying to form new relationships and maintain older relationships, balance budgeting, and maintain my home. Without asking for help and without taking any breaks. I went full throttle seven days a week. Until I couldn’t anymore.

Then, I thought if I didn’t work for myself any more, it would be better than trying to do all the things, be all the things to all the people, all the time. It didn’t work. I remained a burned out mess who tried to be all the things to my boss, all the time. I continued to go seven days a week, longer hours, and no breaks.

During that whole year of working through burn-out, I thought if I just read the right Bible verse enough times that I would find some divine inspiration. I must have done at least ten YouVersion plans on Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls…the burden I give you is light.”[1]I must have read it over and over. I reviewed what the concordance said about it. I prayed daily to keep going, to be enough, to be better. I still did not take a break.

Until I couldn’t anymore. I couldn’t keep going and doing.

Only then did I stop. After an entire year living in burn-out, I finally stopped. I had to stop, because I was too exhausted to keep going. I quit my job. I stopped doing everything for an entire week and sat on my sofa. I was too exhausted to even read a book. I just laid on my sofa, or my bed, or the guest bed, watching TV or staring at the wall.

I felt guilty and ashamed all the way to my soul. Because I was supposed to keep going. Always, it was my job to go and to do. Always it was my job to help, to support, to perform, to live into purpose and calling, to save the world. But was it really? Really?

After having taken that week off, I resumed planning my wedding and that’s all I did for a month. Then I went on my honeymoon. When I returned it was March 1, 2020. I cleaned for two weeks and resumed my writing. Then the Covid-19 pandemic has kept my desire to return to work stifled for an additional three months.

For many of us the three months of quarantine has been a welcome break. We are forced to rest. Our society seems to tell us that we should do more, be more, achieve more. It does not tell us how that over-achieving affects our health. It does not tell us how over-stimulation affects our ability to be still.

God has a perfect plan that I have begun to live into – Sabbath, rest. I’ve read a couple books on how and why to Sabbath. Basically, we need a rest at the end of all that activity. To restore our soul and maintain our health. We need rest for both physical and mental health. In order to stand against all the things that happen around us and that we have to deal with on a daily basis, we have to stop. Let me repeat – we. have. to. stop.

I want to be like Mary who is sitting at Jesus’ feet while he talks and Martha runs around trying to make everything perfect for him. It’s what society has told her that she is supposed to do. Martha finally gets annoyed with Mary who is not doing what Martha does – she is resting at Jesus’ feet. Not helping. Not cooking. Not cleaning. Not striving and doing. Martha comes to Jesus for support, but he is counter to culture, as usual. He says “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”[2]

I think that my picture of sitting at Jesus’ feet is what Mary looked like. I think that’s what he wants from us. We’re not made to do everything always. When we don’t take that break, working seven days a week, we’re not trusting God to provide for us. When we don’t trust God to provide, we become slaves to work and fear and self-reliance.

This is why in the Old Testament God instructed his people to take a break. He created a whole structure of society around how and when to take a break. He spent forty years teaching them how to take a break while they wandered in the wilderness. Part of the reason why they wandered in the wilderness for so long is that they refused to trust God after having spent so long in slavery. All they knew was work. It was hard to just rest.

When we trust God to provide, it looks like sitting at Jesus feet while the whole crazy world goes on around us. When we rest in true Sabbath, “He leads me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters; He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”[3] That sounds like heaven on earth to me. How about you?

[1] Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

[2] Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)

[3] Psalm 23:2-3 (NKJV)

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