There I was on a ranch in Montana sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch looking at the deer walking by, listening to the creek rushing and birds chirping with the purple mountains majestic in the distance…and I could not relax!! I was anxious, antsy, and over-thinking everything. It was as if I was incapable of resting. Of stopping. Of not producing.
Our society has trained us to continually strive to get as much done as we can. Fill our schedules to the minute. Do everything with efficiency. And in some ways, it is a badge of honor to work, produce and to be busy. Which often makes it feel like a failure to rest.
Well, that all came to a screeching halt for most of us when the pandemic hit home in the United States mid-March. It felt like the world was forced to slow down. Schedules were cleared. Only the essential activities continued. All of the “extra” was tossed out.
Being on staff at our church for seven years at the time, I was gifted with a seven-week sabbatical. I had it planned in 2019 for the summer of 2020. Exploring Montenegro, Croatia, and Italy was already on my calendar. Instead, because of COVID, I found myself road tripping to Montana to a stunning and secluded ranch to spend a couple weeks in solitude. Once I got there, I found it impossible to rest.
I felt as if I was failing or falling behind by not providing some sort of proof that I was still doing something each day. So, I brought a suitcase full of non-fiction books, had sermons to listen to, podcasts ready to go and projects to work on. If I’m going to relax, I’m going to be productive while doing it!
But, the Holy Spirit brought me to a passage in Luke 12:27-28. Jesus says, “Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he do for you—you of little faith?”
You of little faith.
The realization hit me in that moment that I had been laboring, striving, and “spinning thread” by not believing that resting was required of me. Why? Because it felt like laziness. It felt like failure. I was fearful of falling behind. And truthfully, I felt guilty for stopping.
Have you ever felt that if you stop, if you don’t get everything done that day, you will be so far behind in the next that you won’t ever catch up? Maybe you have reasoned that since you are working for the Lord and leaning into the call on your life, the level non-stop hustle is required of you. Or maybe you feel guilty for saying no to the endless to-do lists for the sake of rest. For me, I can say I’ve felt all of the above.
On a porch in Montana, the Spirit revealed that I had no longer been trusting in God’s strength to produce, I was trusting in my own ability…and I was exhausted. But I didn’t know how to stop or believe that I could.
“You of little faith” – the truth and the kindness of these words stuck with me. If God takes care of the wildflowers, He will take care of me. Not because of anything I am doing but because He loves me.
That day, the decision was made not to post on social media, only read fiction books, listen to podcasts for fun and be okay with not producing something tangible each day. I would go hiking, take naps, journal, sit in silence – whatever I found rest doing.
Now, of course this isn’t normal life. Most of us don’t get time off or away like that. I don’t get another one for seven years! But, what I did learn, was the importance of rest and why it needs to be incorporated into the rhythms of our daily and weekly life.
We have to make the choice of rest so that we can consistently reset our hearts and minds on God who does the producing. In fact, the Word commands us to rest so to keep us from striving.
In Hebrews 4:10-11 we read,
“For the person who has entered his rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from his. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall in the same pattern of disobedience.”
Make every effort to enter rest. Why? So we do not fall into the same pattern of striving or trying to make something happen out of our own will or effort instead of relying on God to be the one who produces the outcome through us.
You are created to create. You are called to go and make disciples. You are designed to work. But we are not supposed to do that without rest. Actually, I would go so far to say we cannot do all that we have been created, called and designed to do without rest!
When we do not rest, we are saying that it relies on us. It is on our shoulders to carry it through. But, we are called to make every effort to enter rest so that we reset our focus and trust on God alone.
Rest reminds us that we do not need to strive for the things of this world or the accolades of others. Rest trains us to trust that God will take care of the details.
Rest gives us the space to breathe, to watch the birds, to hear God’s voice.
Rest is critical for us to run the race marked out for us.
So get away for a morning, a day, a week. Turn off the podcast, read a book for fun, sit in silence for a bit. Remind yourself of who you are away from all that you do. Find what rhythm works for you and stick to it!
Rest to reset your focus on who God has called you to be.
Rest to remember who you are in Him.
And if you aren’t sure about who you are, you are a child of God. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are loved simply because God created you. There is no need to strive for His acceptance. Come as you are. He will meet you there with open arms & loving words. And if you are willing, He will prune the things that need to go, reveal the places you are holding too tightly to, and heal the broken places in your soul that you too often neglect in the busyness of life. He will fill you with all the joy, hope, peace and faith you need to make it through each day and yes, that includes rest.
And He will take care of you, just like He takes care of the wildflowers.
Written by Ali Gentry, Church Leader and Arise Founder