Receiving Rest
A Discipline and an Invitation

Do you regularly lie down to rest?

It’s not an easy thing for most adults living in western cultures. With never-ending lists and demands piling up, the pulse of productivity ticks on, making it difficult to prioritize anything else, especially stopping to rest. There is simply SO. MUCH. TO. DO!

If you are anything like me, sleeping in is a luxury seldom realized. Naps? Forget it. The second I try to settle down I know someone will need something. It’s not that we avoid good rest or doubt the value of a power nap, it’s just that attempted self care or r&r time seems virtually IMPOSSIBLE!

Chuckling to myself, I listen to sermons admonishing Martha, a woman from the Bible, as a busy body. If you are not familiar with her story, it is worth reading. It’s a story of two sisters: Mary and Martha. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words and being present. Martha is occupied by all the preparations that had to be made. In other words, Martha was a distracted doer, running around the kitchen performing ALL THE THINGS that needed to get done in order to host someone as amazing as Jesus in her home. Jesus tells her point blank: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better” (Luke 10:38-42). Few things are needed. Before you think that might have been a bit harsh, consider Jesus’ tone. Understanding someone’s tone is almost as important as the actual words they say — it’s the message underneath the message.

He was gently and graciously offering Martha an invitation to sit down with Him and enjoy the time together.

In terms of the CVI, Martha was likely more on the practical side. She considered all the implications of what needed to be done as well as the cost of the those tasks not being completed. Worry was her companion. Mary, probably more on the relational side, was never interested in practical things; the dishes could wait. What she needed most was time with Jesus.

Isn’t time with Jesus what we all really need?

Though I don’t think Jesus was making a commentary on which Core Value or hard-wiring is better, He was speaking to the heart of our motives. Specifically, He was asking Martha to recognize the importance of sitting down with him, suggesting that there would be time enough to complete all the other items on the to-do list later or to let go of some tasks.

The Psalmist says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalms 23).

If God desires us to “lie down in green pastures,” then what is it that keeps us from resting, from sitting at the feet of Jesus and just receiving His presence and peace? 

No doubt 2020, and the first several months of 2021, have brought FORCED REST. The problem with anything forced is that it often stirs up anger, resentment, and a bit of our stubborn streak. I do not want to be told what to do. I am not tired! Yet, by March of 2021, with activities starting up again and plans being made, I found myself saying, “YES!” to them all! Perhaps it was out of starvation for something “normal” or for much-needed social interaction for the kids. Whatever the motive, I watched many people, myself included, go from 0 to 60 pretty quickly. After twelve months of forced rest, so many of us anxiously pushed the productivity throttle all the way back up (and not just in the drawers and cabinets that have been re-organized ten times around the house).

In all the excitement and relief that comes with life picking up speed again, we would be foolish to forget the clear message that Jesus gave Martha about stopping to rest. If you’re paying attention, can you feel God’s gentle Hand pressing upon your shoulders saying, “Sit down and trust me. Let me do the work.” Can you hear Him whispering to you to “enjoy, breathe, and take in the work I have already done”?

We have a compulsion to value results — what we can see accomplished. And yet, Jesus clearly stated that, “Mary has chosen what is better.” Resting is both a discipline and an invitation.

In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, we are reminded that there is a time for everything:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2) a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3) a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
4) a time to weep and a time to laugh,  a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5) a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6) a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7) a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8) a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
9) What do workers gain from their toil?  10) I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  11) He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

As a practical tool, I often refer to this list in Ecclesiastes, circling the numbers that come easily. I also ask God to help me with the ones I resist. It’s actually a great passage to use to take inventory of our ability to balance priorities and our rhythms in life. Teaching our children to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, as well as to love others, requires us to model in real life moments, slowing down and more fully experiencing what God has done.

It means teaching our children to live in a culture that awards productivity and achievement (we’re still giving away trophies even though everyone gets one now), but to live differently — with their eyes open and clear. We need to help them understand where their true identity comes from and that wholeness requires both work and rest. Raising children as believers requires us to keep this at the forefront of our own minds so that we can model the unhurried pace; not with the goal of being lazy or unproductive, but to allow time to taste and see that the Lord is good. To sit and to experience the fruit of who He is and what He has already done.

Learning to rest is a vital part of practicing the greatest commandment. It also means that we’ll be swimming upstream in an achievement-based culture that breeds performance-based spirituality. Believing that it’s “all up to me” is a product of our culture and can be seen in each of the four CVI values:

  • If you are a MERCHANT, you may think it is up to you to make others feel at home and appreciated. You carry the conversation, cook the home-made soup, respond to every text thread, and love on every friend and stranger that passes by.
  • If you are an INNOVATOR, you have the tendency to think it’s up to you to solve every problem that presents itself. If you don’t come up with the solution, no one will. Challenges find you, even when you sleep, and they often prevent you from ever truly resting.
  • If you are a BANKER, you might believe that every T must be crossed and every I must be dotted; precision must be achieved before you’ve “earned” down time. Excellence oozes from you while order is your middle name. And yet, in a fallen world, your job will never be done.
  • If you are a BUILDER, you may want nothing more than to write out a to-do list and see every last item crossed off by the end of the day. There is no person, email, or tornado that will stop your tenacious can-do attitude. Completing tasks is a badge of honor.

Thankfully, no matter our hard-wiring, God finds ways to put His kind Hands on our shoulders and says, “Come to me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-29).

God says we are loved even when we rest. Do you believe that for yourself? How about for your children? For your spouse, your friends, or your staff?

I can love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength while I nap. I feel His presence as I take time to breathe in fresh air, when I hear the sounds of birds, and even when I read a book for no other purpose than to enjoy it. We must understand that our value and worth is separate from our achievements; this understanding helps us to love others apart from their achievements, too.

As you consider Father’s Day, the first days of summer, and recovering from this past year of forced rest, consider what slowing down looks like for you. How does time for rest take shape in your days? There is no formula — that’s the beauty of it. Resting is both a discipline and an invitation from a God who modeled the importance of this by creating the world all week long and then intentionally rested on the seventh day. Did the God of the universe need rest? No. He demonstrated to us how to slow down and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Rest is a discipline and an invitation.

The next time God gently puts His hand on your shoulder and makes you lie down in green pastures, when He leads you by the quiet waters, remember to pause. Don’t hurry through the experience, anticipating the next agenda item. If you allow Him to, God will refresh your soul. He will guide you along right paths for His name’s sake. And then, when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death (the storms of life), you will fear no evil. For then you will know — not just with your mind, but with your heart, your body, and into the depths of your soul — that He is with you and that you will lack nothing (Psalms 23: 1-4).

Written by Terra Mattson, MA LPC, LMFT
Co-Founder of Courageous Girls & Living Wholehearted
Author, Speaker, Podcaster, Executive Coach

Be Loved, Love Well