Last week I had a meaningful and very needed week of vacation. A theme of my time away with God and my family was rest. But not just the physical kind. If we are physically tired, we all know what needs to happen…we need sleep. But what do we do for the deeper kind of exhaustion that many people in all stages of life experience? I was recently asked by a newly engaged young man why people my age always seemed tired. Ha. He isn’t wrong, just extremely observant. We are tired. I simply smiled and said, “You’ll find out soon enough.” As our responsibilities increase, as our stresses increase, as pressures and requirements increase, as the mundaneness of repetitive life increases, deep soulful exhaustion begins to set in. I cannot tell you how many people have set on my couch and explained to me in some way or another that they are tired. And in each instance, I could relate. We all can. Life is exhausting.
So what do we do when we are soul tired? I suggest five things:
1. Get Better Rhythm –
First, take a look at your weekly rhythm of life. You cannot make it 2 chapters into the Bible without rest becoming a central theme. Listen to Genesis 2:2-3 – “2 By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.” Here is a question: why did God rest? He’s God. He wasn’t tired. So why did He rest? I have a theory: Just like every other day of creation was about bringing life forth and calling it good, God was bringing life forth on the seventh day as well. He was bringing about healthy life for His creation by weaving rest into its very fabric of existence. And He didn’t just call it good, He called it Holy. In fact, being on the seventh day, rest completed creation and made it whole and perfect. The rhythm of six days of work and one day of rest is set apart as Holy from the beginning. The Hebrew word for rest is shabbat, from which we derive our word Sabbath. While we have turned Sabbath into meaning a day for worship, it originated as a day of rest. Those two things are not separate, but it does beg the question: are you living by God’s Holy rhythm? Are you purposefully stopping activities each week for the soul purpose of resting your mind and heart in the completed work of God? In other words, do you have a Sabbath every week? God is our example. Could He have worked on the seventh day? Sure. He’s God. But He purposefully stopped activity and rested in what He had already done. Take a deep look at your weekly schedule. Is there a day you are setting aside to refrain from all work (house and professional) and simply enjoying God’s handiwork? Rhythm matters. It is stamped onto your soul.
2. Stop Trying To Complete The Work –
Have you ever noticed that the work is never complete? At home and at the office it feels like a hamster wheel. Want to know why? Sin. Listen to what God tells Adam after he is kicked out of the Garden (a place of rest) because of his sin: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.” (Genesis 3:17-19) Man was meant to live in the completed work of God, but because of sin, we now have to live in the perpetual work of our own toil. It never ends. So why are we always chasing the finished line of work like it will bring some great satisfaction? With every completed project a new project arises. With every cleaned mess a new mess is made. If we convince ourselves that we will finally rest once the work is done, we will never truly rest. If we accept the fact the work will always be there tomorrow, we will give ourselves the grace to rest today. And if our minds refuse to rest because the work is not done, we know it is a direct result of sin.
3. Rest In Christ –
While we can no longer live in the completed work of the Garden and we now take up residence in this fallen world, Christ represents a drastic change for creation. We are now invited to rest in the completed work of the cross. Jesus invites us: 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.” (Matthew 11:28-29) Our souls will find rest not when our work is done, but when we come to Christ and rest in Him. There is a direct correlation between our prayer life and our soul’s restfulness. Where there is no prayer, there will be no rest. Where the prayer is a constant petition and no gratitude for what Christ has already done, there will be no rest. The peace that surpasses understanding comes to the heart that is filled with thankfulness. Take time to simply be still and quiet and be with Christ. Thank Him for what He has done.
4. Recognize The Shepherd’s Work –
A curious line from the 23rd Psalm has jumped out to me recently. You know it. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, 3 He refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3) I can’t tell you how many times I have read and quoted this familiar Psalm. But I’ve never paid attention to “He makes me lie down.” Notice that. God values our rest so much that He will literally force us to lie down when we refuse to do it on our own. I sat with a friend recently who is going through a hard time and we both realized that the hard situation wasn’t all bad. In fact, he was being forced to “lie down” more than he had for a long time. Rarely does the sheep see the Shepherd’s activity of “making him lie down” as enjoyable or good. Unless, of course, the sheep has the eyes of faith to say with the Psalmist, “He restoreth my soul.” And indeed He does. God created you with a need for rest in Him. He knows that because of sin this world will be perpetually restless. He opens the door in Christ for you to find rest once again. And if you won’t take Him up on the offer, He will often force it upon you in order to restore your soul.
5. Lean On The Family of God –
We say it often, but I’m not sure how often we actually hear it: we are not meant to journey through life alone! God surrounds us with His family. And He commands us: “2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) When we feel burdened by life, pride will often keep us from sharing our burdens with others. And in so doing, we are breaking “the law of Christ.” The law of Christ is to love one another. But if we refuse to let others into our hurt and heaviness, then we become law breakers. We need each other and in no way is fighting the battles of this life on our own honoring or obeying Christ. But when we lean on each other, Christ’s love is put on display, and we find rest for our souls. Who are you regularly letting into your weariness? Or is pride keeping you unnecessarily burdened on your own?
Are you tired, friend? I’d love to visit with you about real Soul Rest. Please reach out to me!