July 15, 2015

Are You Well Rested?

Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes (Psalm 37:7 NLT)

Resting. Resting. Resting.

Apparently, I do not know what the word "rest" means because I find myself constantly struggling to rest well.

Today is a good example. I slept well last night, well somewhat well, to be precise. It seemed that every time I rolled over in bed, I woke myself up. I mean, not to the point of "waking up" completely, but rather, it was just that feeling that you are roused from deep sleep, only to find you need to slumber a bit longer. I think in total I woke up 5-6 times last night. Needless to say, the night was filled with "fits and starts," which I am sure, made for a less than restful night. Still, I woke up feeling better, and that is something. God's grace enabled me to feel refreshed even when I didn't find the peaceful sleep I longed for and needed. He is good, so very good to me.

Well Rested

What does it mean to be well rested? According to the Wikitionary, well rested or wellrested means "Having had sufficient (or even more than enough) sleep or rest to function optimally during waking hours." In the comparative form, you can say "more well rested" or in the superlative form, you can say "most well rested." Ah, the English language...I love it! The idea behind the adjective is the feeling of  "having slept or rested sufficiently to be free of fatigue" or to be completely rested (Wordsmyth.com). Yes, I long to be well rested for certain.

Sleep and rest seem to be on my mind this morning. Perhaps it is because I am such a stickler for a good night's rest, and I understand how poorly I function with a lack of proper sleep. For me, a good night's rest consists of 9 hours of undisturbed sleep. This means that I need to rest deeply, to sleep without waking (even lightly), until my body naturally rouses me in the morning. I am particular about my sleep habits, and I prefer a certain type of sleeping space. My bed, for example, is oriented a certain direction (head faces south, feet facing north). I sleep on the left side of the bed only. My room is dark, with just the smallest night light in the corner. I do not sleep with the ceiling fan on because I get cold at night. I sleep with a year-round down comforter that helps me regulate my body temperature so I can sleep comfortably. The only noise in my bedroom is the fish tank filter unit, which gurgles ever so slightly. I have gotten used to this noise, and now I even find it helpful to soothe me to sleep. Rest, therefore, is a particular thing. It requires a certain approach, a dedication to performance, and a consistency that gives it importance. Yes, I want to rest well.

When we think of resting, we normally associate "rest" with "sleep." These two words are used interchangeably, but in truth, they are considered differently in the Word. For example, in Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG) we read "rest" to mean "letting go of a heavy burden." This word-for-thought translation states it this way,
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly."
The words of Jesus remind us that we don't always understand what it means to rest. Consider it this way, if the Bible was only speaking about sleeping (physical rest), then we would all know and understand how to do that well. I mean, babies sleep most of the day. Animals, such as cats (I have two) are said to sleep 22 of 24 hours each day. God gave man rest in the garden, physical and spiritual rest, but because of our sin legacy, we have lost the ability to rest spiritually. I guess I should say that sin interrupted our ability to rest spiritually, and as a result, we go, go, go without ever experiencing true rest, rest, rest.

How Does One Rest?

The Bible tells us that our sin legacy has interrupted our relationship connection with God. This interruption, which began back in the Garden of Eden, has been passed down to us. As such, in our normal state (before Christ), we are separated from God, and unable to enjoy communion with Him. This is a temporary and eternal condition that requires intervention in order to remedy it, namely a Savior. For those individuals who have trusted Jesus as their Savior, they find a sweet reunion as they reconnect with God and enjoy His presence in their lives. For those who reject Jesus, they continue to strive to figure out how to find rest in this life, and they fail to grasp the fact that there is no other way to secure eternal rest than through Christ's redemptive work on the cross.

Thus, for the believer in Jesus, eternal rest is assured. The friend of God, the child who has placed their faith in the finished work of Christ, now has the assurance that they will find eternal rest. However, while this blessed assurance provides comfort during and at the end of one's natural life, it doesn't always translate to peaceful rest in and through the difficulties and challenges faced in the "here and now." Yes, for many believers, of which I am one, finding temporary rest (daily spiritual rest) is a challenge. My life is filled with so many wants, needs, and desires -- many of which are good things -- but all of which, seem to suck the life, the joy, and the blessed rest from me. I find that most days I am "running on empty," and desperately in need of a refilling of my tank and a recharging of my batteries. 

Christians are encouraged to spend quality time with God to rest and to recharge. Yet, for many of us, we simply avoid spending the time because it means giving up something else that we deem necessary or important. For example, we know that spending time in prayer or in Bible reading is essential to help the Christian maintain their walk, testimony and character. Bible study, prayer, and fellowship (church attendance) all serve to build up the body (the church) while providing nourishment to each member individually. In order for us to understand the value and the importance of rest, we must first stop the busyness, and second, run to our Father in Heaven, who will give us sweet, restorative rest.

Resting from the busyness of our lives, therefore, is necessary to finding daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rest. Eugene Cho (2009) says it this way, "If Jesus – fully God who also chose to be fully human – saw that it was good and necessary to rest – how much more do we need to withdraw to out of the way places for prayer, rest, and reflection" (Eugenecho.com)? Cho is referencing Luke's comment that states, "As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer" (Luke 5:16 MSG). Yes, Jesus knew and understood how to rest, and as such, He told His disciples (and those that followed) that He would help them find rest if they would come to Him and learn from Him.

Cho recommends the following steps to finding rest:
  • Breathe.
  • Pray.
  • Be reminded of your love for your family.
  • Be reminded of God’s love for me.
  • Breathe some more.
  • Pray.
While this list is not exhaustive, it does center on one particular thing, and that is to stop what you are doing and pray. Cho reminds us that Jesus was busy too, yet He always took the time to step away from the busyness of His life to rest, to recharge, and to reconnect with God. He writes, "I think it’s clear that Jesus was busy, sought after, tempted, pulled in numerous directions, and clearly on a very important world and cosmic changing vision but he always took time to rest" (Eugenecho.com).

If Jesus did it, and He was God, then we need to follow His example. Let us not foresake resting today. Take the time to stop, to breathe, and to pray. Rest in God, and be refreshed so that you can carry on. Selah!

Another Thought on the Importance of Resting

As I was writing this post, I came across a blog entitled, "Leaving Laodicea," written by Pastor Steve McCranie (pastor of The Church Without Walls, Gastonia, NC). McCranie's blog features numerous sermons as well as some blog posts related to topics on books of the Bible as well as sundry current issues. Interesting reading, to say the least.

I happened to land on a post he wrote in January of 2015. I was searching on the phrase "sin interrupting rest" and found his article discussing God and His interruption tactics (my words, not his). In this post, McCranie (2015) offers three Bible personalities who experienced God's interruption in their life (David, Paul, and Mary). In all three examples, God interrupted the busyness of human life to "do something important." The individuals who experienced the interruption were faced with a choice, a life-changing, life-altering, life-enhancing choice. They could accept the divine interruption or they could reject it. McCranie writes, "God never forces His will on anyone. He offers us the blessing of His interruption and the choice to obey and accept or to reject and walk away is always in our own hands. It’s our call, our decision."

The important point here, my point really, is that often we allow the busyness of our lives to keep us from being "available" for a divine interruption. If we do not rest, do not take time to recharge our batteries, so to speak, then we are in no shape to do anything God might ask us to do. We will be weary, tired, run down, and unfit for any good work. Think of it this way...God uses ordinary people to do extra ordinary things, and despite our limitations, our failures, and our inabilities, God enables us to participate in His grand scheme, His great plan for the redemption of mankind. Yet, if we are so busy, so focused on getting, achieving, doing in the world that we forget our purpose -- God's design for our life (which is by the way to come to faith in Jesus Christ and to help others do the same) -- then we lose the vital connection to God's will for the church and for us personally. The Bible tells us that Great Commission applies to all believers, and that it is the mission statement of the Church of Jesus Christ. All believers are called to love God and to love others (serve God and serve others is another way to put it), and within this great mission, God uniquely calls, equips, and enables individuals to fulfill the specific roles and responsibilities necessary to accomplish that great work. However, many believers allow their busy lives to predominate their existence. They are busy with life -- with marriage, with school, with work, with families, and even with church -- so busy in fact that they are unable to spend quality time with the God who created them. Yes, they are so busy that they cannot take time away from their day to sit with God, to listen, and to reflect on the message Christ has for each of His followers. We know the Holy Spirit will guide us into all understanding, but His "still small voice" is often drowned out by the clamoring of the ruckus of the world. Thus, we must be still, we must sit, and we must rest (Ps. 46:10).

McCranie writes, "The greatest blessing a Christian can ever experience is God’s divine interruption into one’s life. God’s interruption means He wants to speak new truth to us, to lead us in a new direction, to infuse new purpose and meaning into our very lives. It’s a profound blessing, a gift of grace". If God is calling you to rest, perhaps it is because He is waiting to do something wonderful in and through your life. Perhaps God has a unique and wonderful plan for your life, and in order for that plan to come to pass, you must first, STOP, second, LISTEN, and third, REST.

Believer, remember that, "God’s interruption means we’re not forgotten, we’re not forsaken, we’re not simply an afterthought or a footnote in the pages of His glorious dealings with mankind. But God’s interruption means He has chosen you, and me, to do something specifically designed by Him and for Him" (McCranie, 2015).

My prayer today is that you and I may find rest. May the Lord of all Grace give us sweet rest, peaceful, blessed rest. May our lives be found in Him alone, and may we recognize that within the busyness of every day life, there is the recipe for loss of connection, loss of communion, and loss of comfort simply because the world is not interested in the things of God. No, the world is against the things that matter most to God. Let us remember the God we serve, we love, and let us stop being so busy that we forget He is waiting to spend time with us today.

References

Cho, E. (2009, July 6). need to learn to rest well | Eugene Cho. Retrieved from http://eugenecho.com/2009/07/06/need-to-learn-to-rest-well/

McCranie, S. (2015, January 13). When God Interrupts Your Life - Leaving Laodicea. Retrieved from http://leavinglaodicea.com/god-interrupts-life/

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