Rest. The word conjures up many ideas and pictures of what rest looks like. It is different for everyone. What do you think of when you hear the word? Lounging on a beach? Is it a quiet walk in the woods just listening to the sounds of nature? Taking a nap in a boat? Stealing away to a quiet place with a book? Swinging in a hammock? These are all excellent ways to rest.
If we look at scripture as our sure foundation and Jesus as our teacher we don’t have to look very hard to find times when even He rested. Jesus was often stealing away to “quiet places”. He would slip away from the crowds after preaching and healing the people. One time in particular He took a nap in a boat. In that instance, He was in such a place of rest, that even when a mighty storm blew in, it did not wake Him. Oh to find that kind of rest!
Resting During the Storm
In Matthew 8:23-27, we see the benefit of rest, AND how to rest well even in the midst of great turmoil. In this story, Jesus has gotten into a boat with His disciples after preaching the gospel and healing many. Serving in ministry can be quite exhausting.
My husband and I lead a Pro-life Prayer ministry called Bound4LIFE. Once a month we host a prayer meeting, which I lead. Every month when I leave that meeting I am full of joy, yet exhausted. This is not a worn-out kind of tired because I didn’t want to be there leading the meeting. I leave feeling fulfilled and exhilarated, yet tired because I gave it my all. I imagine it was this kind of tiredness that Jesus was feeling after a long day of preaching and healing the sick.
The verse says they got into the boat and “suddenly” a great storm arose on the water. The very next verse says, “BUT Jesus was sleeping.” To have fallen into such a deep sleep so quickly after getting onto the boat and not waking when the storm started raging, He must have been tired. Well, that and Jesus understood REST! He knew how necessary rest is, but also how to rest well because He knew who His father was and He knew that He could trust Him.
The disciples obviously did not know this kind of rest, not yet. The very first thing they say to rouse Him is, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” These men are experienced fishermen. They have been out in boats on this lake many times and I”m sure have seen their fair share of storms. Yet, this one was enough to make them think they wouldn’t make it out alive. In the end, Jesus calms the storm and they are amazed.
I’ve always heard this passage taught from the perspective of Jesus calming the storm, but the more I look into it the more I see another perspective. When you look at it from Jesus’ perspective it looks a lot more like a lesson on rest. Yes, Jesus calmed the storm, but in my opinion, He did something more for those men that day. He saved them from drowning that day, and He taught them how to rest. Jesus was teaching His disciples that it doesn’t matter what storm may be swirling around you, rest.
It is in our nature to fight the storms. When I face a storm I immediately go into problem-solving mode. I try to figure my way out. I usually end up beaten down, exhausted, and burnt out by the end. Sometimes I even get to the point where I feel disillusioned with God and ask where He was and why He didn’t break in and make it stop. I Expect Jesus to calm every storm as soon as it starts even as I”m trying to make it stop on my own. Jesus still calms storms, but sometimes we have to rest in the boat as it’s being tossed about.
Burnt Out and Exhausted
Just because Jesus CAN calm storms, doesn’t mean He will calm them in our time table. His ways are not our ways and we don’t always see the whole picture. Not trusting God or leaning into His rest has brought me to a place of feeling weak, and burnt out. This recently came to the forefront during a cry session I was having with my husband. I was lamenting how very tired I was after years of intercession for our nation.
I’m looking at what with human eyes looks to be a steep and steady moral decline in our nation. The destruction of the traditional family, the roles of male and female, and even gender itself. Not to mention the injustices of abortion and human trafficking. In the midst of this little vent session, I told him I didn’t know if I could keep doing this. This standing as an intercessor for the nation. Asking God to come in with mercy and heal our land. I told him I was tired and didn’t think I could stand. I was ready to lay this assignment down. To tell God, sorry, I can’t anymore. Find someone else to carry this burden. I’m done.
My husband is very logical and most of the time when I’m crying about something I just want listening ears, not for him to “fix it”. But, in this case, he offered a solution that stopped me in my tracks and I actually said, “Oh, I never thought of that.” He simply said, “Then rest.” What a simple, yet complicated solution.
I’ve been warring hard for a decade-plus hoping for a shift in our nation towards righteousness. There have been glimpses, but they always seem to fall short of a full turn. I’ve put all the pressure on myself to turn this ship, and I’ve forgotten how to rest in Him. The God we serve is so good! And He is always faithful. While He delights in partnering with us as intercessors, ultimately He is still in control. We can and should engage, but we can not forget to rest in Him.
Learning How to Rest
Isaiah 40:29-31 has brought me comfort and a game plan in this season as I’m learning how to rest.
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; BUT those who hope in the Lord WILL renew their strength. They WILL soar like eagles; they WILL run and not grow weary, they WILL walk and not faint.” (Emphasis mine)
Even youths grow tired. What a relief! So it’s not simply from age. But here’s the promise, as we lean into Him, and REST, He WILL renew our strength. I don’t know about you, but I need my strength renewed. I need to soar like an eagle and run without getting tired.
These things can not be accomplished by my sheer will to keep going. They are only accomplished when I hope in the Lord. I must remain connected to Him, my ability to run and do all that He has called me to relies on that fact. I will be starting the new year from a place of rest. And as I learn to shift my perspective I will see that even though the storm rages and Jesus can and does calm storms, I can also have peace DURING the storm as long as I keep my eyes fixed on Him.