How To Find Rest and Strength
There are seasons and rhythms to every life. Looking back over the two years we spent in Oxford, I would mark that season as one characterized by rest. Our pace of life slowed down dramatically. Truth be told, it felt as if we had slammed into a brick wall when we first made the international transition.
We decided to forego the purchase of a car once we saw what the transportation system was like in Oxford. It was one of the best decisions we ever made as a family. I wrote a post on this a year or so ago: The Deadly Power of Rushing About.
Our family slowed to what we lovingly referred to as the Oxford Rhythm. Our options were limited. And that was a good thing. We had to adhere to a bus schedule. We couldn’t just hop in our car whenever we liked and go blow two hours at Costco. We chose to walk the countryside instead.
We learned how to rest. And in that rest, we found strength.
It seems odd to connect the two: rest with strength. We live in a culture that says in order to succeed, we must do more. If we rest, there is always someone waiting behind us to take our place. There is no end to the American work ethic. But look at how Jesus puts it in Isaiah:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
Repentance + Rest = Salvation
Quietness + Trust = Strength
I find it interesting that repentance and rest are coupled together to give salvation. Could it be that in order to find salvation, we need to repent from our search for rest outside of Christ? It is so easy to search for our meaning in what man thinks of our work. We punch in our time cards and forget to ever punch out.
Years ago, the family unit contributed the primary source of meaning to an individual. But today we are living in a generation that finds its meaning primarily in vocation. And we must never rest long enough to appear unproductive.
Have we lost the true meaning of rest altogether?
"’Returning and rest’ may be designed returning to rest, that is, to Christ, who is the only rest to weary souls.” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible)
It is interesting that Jesus calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath in the Scriptures.
What does this mean that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath? It indicates that He has completed our rest. When Christ hung on the cross, He looked back at His life and said “It is finished.” He accomplished all He came to do. And part of that was to give us rest: To be the Lord of the Sabbath.
The way we repent is through our rest. We don’t strive to reach this salvation. We rest in the One Who completed all that ever needs to be done: The Lord of the Sabbath.
Could this be why so many of us are still not at rest even though we do all the things the world promises will bring us rest? We take vacations, only to come back more exhausted than when we left. We get weekly massages but after are tense within minutes as we get in our car to drive back home. The spa is wonderful for the day but does it transform our week? Our lives?
Shouldn't we desire a kind of rest that transforms our lives?
True rest, rest that is derived from the Lord of the Sabbath, is the only thing that brings salvation.
But it takes discipline to rest. We must train ourselves to be quiet. The second half of this verse couples quietness and trust with strength. This is a parallel to the preceding line where repentance and rest bringing salvation.
When we discipline ourselves to be quiet, we will find that we possess a level of trust unparalleled to the world and what it offers. This trust spurs us on to have the strength we need to face the challenges of the day. We trust that we no longer need to strive.
The grounds for our trust in Him is our knowledge of Who He is. This can only be found if we take the time to be quiet. To rest in His Word, His Truth, yielding to His Spirit.
When disappointment looms large, run to the hollow of His hand, seeking His face in quietness and trust.When fear grips your heart, release your fears to His strong arms of protection. When lies and bitter words are spoken, trust Him as you wait upon His vindication.
He is for us. And He works in us so that we may move forward in strength and salvation.
It is only a quiet state of mind that can produce this strength. I find that I am weakest when I am spread thin, tossed about by the demands of the day. We have an enemy that seeks to devour us, and we make it too easy for him when our hurried lives invite unrest, fear, and deception.
So how do we do this practically? How do we invite rest and strength into our lives? Here are just a few practical steps:
1) Love the Home You Are In--Make your house a sanctuary from the raging world. Don't give in to the lie that says if you are not living in a hurried manner, running here and there to various activities, you aren't doing enough. Remember that the culture you set within your own home is the best way to influence the surrounding culture.
2) Look for Ways to Replace the World's Idea of Rest with True Rest--Maybe this means changing your idea of what vacation looks like. It might be foregoing a resort style holiday for time in the wilderness, hiking and talking to the Creator. Or, maybe it's going away to a cabin alone for a day or two with just a Bible and a few good books. We can always forego that crazy Saturday trip to Costco and instead bike the greenway with our kids.
3) Put Down Your Phones--Last Sunday, we spent the whole day with other believers. After church, some friends invited us over for lunch. We laughed and talked for hours while the kids played and ran in and out of doors. We then left their house to return home because we were having other friends over that evening. We spent several hours with them just talking, eating, and fellowshipping. Not once did I look at my phone all day. When they left around midnight, I closed the doors, and my heart felt so full. I felt so rested. A day of real life communion with the body of Christ was so much more refreshing than virtual interaction.
We can find true rest. A rest that produces salvation and quietness of strength. True rest transforms our lives. We will find strength for the days ahead. Let's lean into the Lord of the Sabbath and travel His path together.