My first introduction to Paul came through some friends at my church who kept talking about a series that had been preached a few years earlier about depression and loneliness by this guy. He had already moved on by the time I moved here, but soon enough I listened to the series and then stumbled across his blog. This guy is biblical, empathetic, and humble. I'm so blessed that he not only reads Sayable, but that when I asked him to guest post he was excited and able!
Rest, it seems, is more than closing the door, then closing our eyes. It’s first opening the heart, then opening our hands.
A friend insisted that his wife always travel with him. He said: “If I am going somewhere to do God’s work, I want to give it my best. That requires sleep. And I don’t sleep a wink if my wife isn’t there. Curtains, comfy beds, and controlled temps don’t matter. I want her with me.”
To many, it sounds romantic. To me, it sounded pitiable. “Really?” I thought, “I rest better if it’s just me. I like beds to myself! I pity him whose sleep depends on the presence of someone else.”
Something in that exchange grieved the Spirit—the same Spirit that Jesus says “dwells with” me and “will be in” me (John 14:17)—and I felt it. Truth be told, I hadn’t been sleeping all that well myself. And, greater still, my lack of true rest was a symptom of a deeper reality: pride.
Concerning the fourth commandment, to keep the Sabbath holy, theologian Sinclair Ferguson wrote: “Man was not to work, but to rest. Externally, that meant ceasing from ordinary tasks in order to meet with God. Internally, it involved ceasing from all self-sufficiency in order to rest in God’s grace.”
God goes with us. I must relish His presence. Otherwise, I am not entering His rest…
Even saying it incites my flesh to resist. I readily admit there is no true rest apart from God. But, at times, I want a rest from God—rest from the whole “God” thing.
“Give it a rest, God! I’m tired of this whole ‘follow Me’ shtick. I need a break! Would you get off my back? I am exhausted trying to keep up with it all. It’s just too much to bear.”
That’s how Jonah finally got some sleep. He wanted a rest from God. Mind you, it caused a storm:
“Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep” (Jonah 1:5).
Jesus was asleep on a boat once. There was a storm too:
Yet why was it okay for Him to get some sleep, while the storm raged? For Him, in that moment, it wasn’t a matter of fear and flesh. It was a gift of faith and fellowship. Not “taking a rest from” the Father. But receiving rest in the Father.
Still today, the same hand that commands the wind and waves also gives rest. Time and again He tells us, true rest is something given—a thing received. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).
But, in my self-sufficiency, I am prone to close off my soul, close up my fists.
A friend recently got a puppy. The puppy began whining in the night; it hated being alone, in the dark. So my friend pulled the crate next to his bed. He dropped his arm down the side, into the crate, next to the small puffball. The puppy would then fall fast asleep, as if receiving a gift.
There’s great hope in an open heart and an open hand. Even in my going, God is giving rest. Even in my rest, God is going before me. Yet when I rise, He’s still with me.
Maybe I don’t need to close my door and close my eyes tonight. Perhaps I just look beside me, and go to Him.