“God Rest Ye…”

Dr. Shawn Shannon
Group of students pose in front of wooded area with waterfall

What is rest? If we are seeking rest, it is good to know how to recognize it! It may be helpful to begin with what isn’t rest. Rest is qualitatively distinct from amusement, entertainment, distraction, or even taking a break.  All of these things have their place, yet they are not the same as rest. To rest is to cease from labor, take ease, abide, keep quiet, dwell. It is more about fullness of Who is there than the emptiness of what’s not there.

Rest is both a command (Sabbath: the longest of the Ten Commandments!) and a gift. We are wired to need rest. The Lord rested on the seventh day.  (What was the first thing God called holy? Time. Time to rest! Genesis 2:3.) And Jesus rested… 

Follow Jesus’ Example

Jesus gave his life for us… and this includes giving us his example of how to live life in a way that helps us become like him… which, in our best moments, is what we most want to do.

“We can become like Christ by doing one thing, by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in.” (Dallas Willard)

And Jesus rested. He observed the Sabbath* (Mark 2:27). He stepped away from the crowds (Luke 4:42). He fell asleep in a boat (Mark 4:38). He called his disciples away to rest (Mark 6:31-32). In You Are More than You’ve Been Told, Hosanna Wong invites us to read the Gospels not through the lens of “What did Jesus do?” but through the lens of “How did Jesus live?” (146) Ask Jesus, your teacher, shepherd, and discipler, to teach you to rest.

Accept Jesus’ Invitation

Remember Matthew 11:28-29? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Here is Jesus beckoning the weary and worn—the needy—to come to him. What kind of person invites that? And what does he offer them? Rest. And what provides the rest? Coming unto him.

What does “coming to Jesus” look like in your life? Being quiet in a sacred space? Moseying through a gospel? Watching the Chosen? Taking a walk with the awareness that Jesus truly is with you? Singing or listening to Jesus-focused music?  

Ask others what they do to come to Jesus and see if you are invited to a new adventure with him. 

Ask Jesus to help you respond to his wonderful invitation to come to him.  He is good at such things. He knows how to draw you to himself.

Not always talking to Him or about Him,
but waiting before Him;
till the stream runs clear;
till the cream rises to the top;
till the mists part,
and the soul regains its equilibrium.
F. B Meyer

Enjoy Jesus’ Dearness

The Lord drew C. S. Lewis to himself by giving him a longing for joy. Then Lewis discovered it wasn’t really Joy that he sought but the Joy-Giver.  He said, “[Joy] is a by-product. Its very existence presupposes that you desire not it but something other and outer. …when I want more joy, what I’m really wanting is more Jesus.  Joy is simply the signpost that points us to Jesus.” I believe it is the same with Rest.  Seek and find Jesus, and you get Rest (and much more!) thrown in.

For those who serve in ministry as a vocation, we can come to view the Lord as our boss and ourselves as his employees; we report to him, and he evaluates us.  And yet this is not the truth of our relationship with the Lord.  At the core of our connection to him, we are his children, his sheep, his workmanship… Jesus even calls us his friends (John 15:13-16). 

Spend time simply enjoying Jesus, the One who also enjoys you.

“Just these two words He spoke changed my life, “Enjoy Me.”
What a burden I thought I was to carry-a crucifix as did He.
Love once said to me: “I know a song, would you like to hear it?”
And laughter came from every brick in the street and from every pore in the sky.
After a night of prayer, He changed my life when He sang “Enjoy Me.”
Theresa of Avila

Practicalities of Practicing the Spiritual Discipline of Rest

  • Don’t wait for the ideal time to rest. Even short “minute vacations” restore your soul.
  • Be still. Settle. Drop all other occupations or tangles into the skilled hands of the Lord. Leave them there.
  • Plan and protect unhurried time. You may have to ‘sacrifice’ time elsewhere in order to have time for rest.  Treat a planned time to rest as if it were an appointment with a person important to you: yourself! And Jesus!
  • Find what feeds your soul and feast on it.  (See Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas)
  • Practice the Hebrew rhythm of ‘beginning’ your day at sundown.  Then rest is the first thing you do, and you move from rest into all else in your day/life.
  • Enlist your community in helping you find and dwell in rest. Ask them to help protect your times of rest.
  • Consider the needs of your body, soul, and spirit. All need rest.

What resting practice would you like to explore or to cultivate as a habit during this season?

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62: 5-8

Now: Rest!

“. . . I cannot read.  I cannot pray.
I cannot even think.
Where to from here? and how get there
with only darkness everywhere?
I ought to rise and only sink . . .
and feel His arms, and hear Him say,
‘I love you.’ . . .  It was all my soul
or body needed to be whole.”

Ruth Bell Graham, “The Little Things That Bug Me,” Sitting by My Laughing Fire

  • “Sabbath is the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.” Walter Brueggemann

Helpful Reading:

An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms oof Wok and Rest, Alan Fadling.
Sabbath-Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest, Lynne M. Baab
Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God, Gary Thomas
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, Ruth Haley Barton
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer.
You Are More Than You’ve Been Told: Unlock a Fresh Way to Live through the Rhythms of Jesus, Hosanna Wong

Additional Reading, “Slow Me Down Lord”,  by Wilferd A. Peterson

Dr. Shawn Shannon is a former Texas BSM campus minister and currently serves as the Minister of Spiritual Formation for Tallowood Baptist Church. Her email is: sshannon@tallowood.org.

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