Finding True Rest When We’re Weary
Maybe I should journal, I thought.
Sitting beneath a canopy of mountain pine, the air was exhilarating, clarifying, refreshing — the epitome of relaxation. And yet, I felt antsy, like a proverbial five-year-old doing her best to sit through a long church service. And quite without a lollipop.
What time was it? I looked at my phone. Still no service, I noted. A thought flickered through my mind like a smartphone notification — I hope that nothing pressing needs my attention right now.
At the beginning of the week my heart lighted at the thought of a mountain excursion. A whole day to enjoy His creation! A whole day to rest and get out from beneath a busy season, enjoying the company of friends. A whole day to journal memories I hadn’t had time to caption. Or I could finish that biography I had been reading longer than I cared to admit. But there I was, mid-page with distractions pressing in and burdens encumbering themselves around my mind and heart. I closed the book, suddenly feeling “mid-page” in life and announced to my friends that I was going for a walk.
Not being much of a mountaineer, I set out expecting every bend in the trail to reveal a scene straight out of National Geographic. Yet as my course unfolded with each step, I realized that the trail before me was rather ordinary. The sandy trail was studded with rocks and the buzzsaw of the cicada cut through the silence with news of summer’s end. The haze that shrouded the mountains that morning had burned off, but I wouldn’t have known. My path was hemmed in by lodgepole pine and boughs scattered sunlight to the sandy floor, yet I barely noticed as my stream of silent prayer turned to whisperings with my unseen Friend and Faithful Shepherd.
“Lord, this is hard.” I admitted. “And I feel … so weak … and weary.” There, it was out. I wasn’t referring to the trail, but to the season I was presently walking through. Without realizing it I had stopped, overheated from the sun’s rays and slightly frustrated that views of purple mountain majesty were veiled by trees. And that’s when my heart stopped in its tracks as well.
That scene was a representation of my heart. I was standing amidst a forest of my own feelings — lots of trees, low visibility, and a languishing spirit. Each tree trunk represented a burden, a trial, an unmet expectation, or a current disappointment. And I was beginning to feel the resulting splinters press themselves into my thoughts and actions. My tired faith was straining to see the forest in spite of the trees.
Reasons for Weariness
Our culture is well-acquainted with weariness. One definition describes it this way: to be utterly spiritless, exhausted, to lose courage, to faint. Weariness affects the whole and covers the gamut of body, mind, and spirit. And we seek to eradicate it through working harder, studying smarter, sleeping shorter, medicating more, scrolling on social, or binging on food, movies, or music. And still we hear the murmurings, “There is no rest for the weary.”
But there is a rest for the weary — His name is Jesus.
Listen to this mighty description of who God is and what He has promised to do in our lives:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40:28–31, emphasis added).
Weariness reminds us that we are the creation, not the Creator. God is … God. There is simply none like Him! We do not possess unending strength, intellect, energy, vitality, etc. within these earthen and dust-made frames! And you know what, that’s okay, because He does! And He is all we need for life and for godliness. (See Psalm 103:14 and 2 Peter 1:3.)
Weariness isn’t a sign that we are not enough, but that He is enough! He is our Supply, and that which we lack can be found in His inexhaustible resource.
Weariness proves that God designed us to be dependent and fueled by His Spirit — but we often forsake that divine fuel and choose to be sourced by our own strength for the task ahead. The fact is that we will be dependent on something — the choice is what or who will we be dependent on.
At one time or another, we all will hear the whisper of weariness calling our name and inviting us to give sway to things like self pity, self-indulgence, discouragement, or spiritual apathy. In those moments, we are faced with a choice of where to find our rest. I hope that the simple truths expressed below lead you beside still waters and guide you in how to navigate seasons of weariness in a grace-filled way.
Rest for the Weary
1) sabbath — Find True Rest
I find that I’m often baited towards busyness when the true need of my weary soul is to be still and know that He is God. It can be tempting to mask weariness by filling the social calendar or volunteering for an extra helping of tasks to keep our minds off of what is begging attention in our spiritual lives. Usually, when I experience weariness, I must admit that I have been working the wrong way or I haven’t been resting the right way.
In reality, weariness brings me back to the simple premise that we are created with a need for rest.
God modeled this pattern for us on the seventh day of creation and has commanded us to, “Be still and know that I am God.” (See Genesis 2:2–3 and Psalm 46:10.) Sabbath is not so much about a certain day or a certain practice, as it is about ceasing from the strife or schedule of the everyday to find comfort in the Comforter of our Soul and to rest our head upon His shoulder of truth.
Helpful Tip: Take inventory of how much rest you are getting — physically and spiritually. Does anything need to change so that you can partake of the God-honoring rest you need? Also, be sure to check your heart on how you are approaching your work. Are you approaching your tasks with a heart that is dependent upon His grace and enabling?
2) Selah — Pause for perspective
This word flows from the Psalms and means a purposeful pause, accent, or interruption that conveys meaning and importance. When we pause for perspective, the “tree trunks” of life shrink in proportion to the majesty and incomprehensible ways of God.
Amy Carmichael’s words convey a beautiful picture of perspective. She said, “Two men looked through prison bars, one saw mud, the other stars.”1 On my hike, I realized that rather than looking up to see how God was working all of these things for good, I had looked down to see the messy bits of the present situation. When I got home, I journaled every discouraged thought and exchanged it for His truth. Re-labeling negatives into faith-filled promises removed muddied perspective and provided clarity I hadn’t experienced in a while!
Helpful Tip: Recount the ways He has been faithful, pour your heart out before Him in prayer, and take courage from the Word. As you spend time in His presence bending your heart around the truth of His Word, it will clarify your current circumstances and transform your perspective to wondrously behold the “stars” of the situation.
3) Shalom — Experience peace that passes understanding
One of the “trees” that cluttered my mountain view that afternoon was of my own planting. Unknowingly, my hands began to close around a precious gift God had given to me. As a result, my mind churned with how in the world this sapling gift would ever blossom without my aid. Almost unconsciously, I was attempting to foster the formation of this budding gift, rather than letting it be cultivated according to His will. The result was frustration — an absence of peace.
Jesus is our Peace (Eph. 2:14), and the ways in which He works are often above our understanding. His magnificent ends will be accomplished in the earth — may our hearts be surrendered and in cooperation with His Spirit. Open hands invite surrender and surrender brings peace. I needed my Heavenly Father’s gentle reminder of this very lesson that day on the mountain path. He tenderly revealed that frustration always follows on the heels of withholding surrender from Him who has our best at heart. As I loosed my grip on my temporal blessing in wholehearted surrender, the Faithful Husbandman’s peace flooded my thirsty soul.
Helpful Tip: Pour out your treasured hopes and possessions upon Him as a sacrifice of praise for who He is and all He is worthy of in fresh surrender. Worshiping at the feet of Jesus clears our path and our vision, leaving us with peace that passes understanding.
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Whether we are withering or flourishing, in a forest of lodgepole pine or being led beside still waters, my encouragement for you is not to grow weary in well-doing. The Lifter of our head, invites us to find our rest, perspective, and peace in Him for every situation at hand. As others witness His hushed and holy rest gracing our lives, may they see and know that there is a God who gives strength to the weary.