Soul Rest

It seems the Lord keeps bringing me back to the same concepts over and over until I have explored every crack and corner and crevice.

Sometimes, it feels like a canyon.

One thing I’ve never been good at is rest. This concept eludes me. Regardless of what I’m doing, I am constantly guilty that I should be doing something else. When I’m vacuuming, I wish I had started a load of laundry so it could be finished before I run errands so I could hang it out to dry. When I’m cleaning the bathroom, I should have started dinner so it would be ready when my husband walks through the door. When I’m reading my Bible, I should have filled up my water bottle so I could drink a glass while I read. When I’m eating lunch, I should have plugged in my phone so it could be fully charged by the time we headed to the store. As one of my friends puts it, I “should” all over myself.

I’m realizing that it might be more a quest of perfecting the multitasking game than anything. I love nothing more than being efficient, saving time and money, and killing two birds with one stone.

This can also be exhausting. As you might imagine, this lifestyle leaves little room for rest or relaxation (or heck, sitting down!) There’s always something screaming for my attention. Something that, if postponed, will wreak havoc on my life or someone else’s. It sounds dramatic, but in my mind, that is not too far from the truth.

It’s no wonder the Lord continues to emphasize thoughts of rest, the Sabbath, and being still into my mind. And now it pops up in the most unusual places.

I’ve read the book of Ruth a half dozen times or more, and never noticed that rest is what Naomi implores her daughters-in-law to do in the wake of their grief. Ruth 1:9 says: “The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband.” This struck me as crazy for several reasons.

#1 If my husband just died, rest would be the farthest thing from my mind. I’d be updating my resume and handing that baby out all over town. I’d be shopping the clearance sales and stockpiling my pantry staples before all my money ran out.

#2 I would be so overcome with grief that I couldn’t sleep. Unless I might cry myself to sleep.

#3 Perhaps most obvious is that she reminds them of the husbands they don’t have. After Naomi told me to go home to my husband-less house, I would want to call the realtor and look at new bungalows immediately. I would want to go somewhere that didn’t remind me of my grief day in and day out.

Naomi seems to assume that the only way to embrace rest was to remarry and start again. All of us know that starting over is not always possible. We can’t dump a few kids on the church steps or go live in a tent that won’t need the floors mopped or stop wearing clothes so we never have to do laundry again.

How do we then return to rest in the middle of grief and hopelessness? To cease the running and turn off the emergency mode and learn to slow our pace and focus on what matters?

It’s striking what things we think of when we hear the word “rest”. I immediately think of how many hours I’ve had on the pillow. I also think of coffee shops and quiet mornings. A long run. A giant bubble bath. Don’t get me wrong… these things do create environments for rest. They are tools we can use to position us to receive rest. But we can also find it in the middle of a crowded market, in our suffocating cubicle, in front of the washing machine.

Rest is the state of our souls, folks.

Naomi assumed that marriage equaled rest. “{M}arriage is called the port or haven of young people, whose affections while unmarried are continually floating and tossed to and fro like a ship upon the waters, till they come into this happy harbour” (The Biblical Illustrator, C. Ness).

Or maybe Naomi had accepted a few of the ideas from the pagan nation she had been dwelling in. In her grief, she had forgotten the character of God, and was wishing her daughters bodily comfort before soul comfort (Geneva Study Bible, Theodore Beza). Or, it’s possible that she spoke these words knowing her audience was two women whose beliefs were quite different than her own. Either way, she was wishing the evils away that typically accompanied widowhood. Some theologians say that she was actually wishing them husbands who would be better than her own sons who died so prematurely.

What would surprise Naomi is that Ruth not only knew more of her beliefs than she may have thought, but would also know more about rest than Noami gave her credit for. Ruth was willing to leave her house and her family and her people and any hope of another marriage to follow this woman and her God wherever He called…with the realization that she may never have another home, husband, or family.

Because rest is a state of the soul. Our circumstances can be tumultuous. Things happen that we can’t prevent, control, or change. But one thing that we can play a part in is the attitude of our souls and our willingness to trust our Father with the things that happen to us.

“We need not waste time shaking our fists at heaven when we can run full-force into His arms, trusting that He can redeem even us, even this, even now” (She Reads Truth, Amanda Bible Williams). I have witnessed people I love go through horrific tragedies, injustices, and calamities. And in the face of the evil, have still spoken kind words. Still reached out to help others. Still called to check up on me despite what they were going through. The only way they were able to get through this all? The still state of their souls. “He will keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee” (Isaiah 26:3). And, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Naomi’s solution for rest was to escape the mess, seek restoration with a new husband, and start over.

Ruth’s solution was this: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and YOUR GOD MY GOD” (Ruth 1:16, emphasis mine). She somehow knew that the key to rest was in Jesus.

“Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, emphasis mine).

No matter the stockpile of paperwork, the screaming children, the dishes in the sink, or the people around us searching for iPhone charging stations, we can silently connect to Home Base and find rest for our souls from the One Who breathed life into us in the first place. He is offering. Now it’s up to us to receive it.

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