The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
Rest. To some this is a four-letter word–something to be avoided at all costs. To others it is a dream they hope to one day achieve. To me, I once equated rest with lethargy, laziness, and lack of motivation. I couldn’t comprehend how someone could stop and rest with so much to do. How could someone leave work at 5 and be done with it? How could someone put a project down incomplete to take a break? How could someone go to bed and not think about what still needed to get done?
Rest. Wait. Stop.
These words were not part of my vocabulary. And I couldn’t understand how others seemed to embrace them.
That is, until God made me rest. And yes, I fully believe God made me rest. He had been trying to get me to rest for a while. He was telling me, like He told the disciples, to go away and rest for a bit. But I kept going my own way, kept ignoring the warning signs.
So God took action. He took action by making me rest.
Now before you think to yourself, “How could God make someone rest?” or “Why would God make someone rest?” read with me Psalm 23:1-2:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his names’ sake.
Did you see it? We often associate Psalm 23 with this tender, loving Shepherd who lovingly and gently leads us while we His sheep placidly follow him, trusting His loving hand. Yet verse 2 uses the word “make.” If we pause to think about that word—make—it doesn’t sound like the sheep in this psalm is acquiescing to his shepherd’s every desire.
If I make someone do something, I either compel that person, giving him no choice, or I do something to cause that person to do what I want. Whether I command it or cause it, making someone do something removes the ability to choose. When we are made to do something, we are forced to do it.
And so we read in Psalm 23, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
And we read in Mark 6, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
God wants us to rest. God calls us to rest.
Yet a little over a year ago, as God called me to rest, I kept moving forward in my own plan. I went about my busy way, filling my plate with activity after activity, and when I came upon a green pasture, I didn’t stop. I kept going, oblivious to the lush green grass beckoning me—oblivious to the rest God wanted me to take to refresh my weary soul. I knew something needed to happen, but I couldn’t fathom letting go of anything.
So my loving Shepherd made me rest. How did He do this? He used life to clear my plate. The school I was heavily involved in? The church ministry I held dear to my heart? I let go of all of it when my husband accepted a job in Ohio. Actually, if I am honest with you, it was not a simple letting go–it was more like a child holding tightly to a toy her parent is trying to get from her. You know the scene: the petulant child with a tight-fisted death grip, kicking, screaming, and crying out that the toy is HERS. Of course, I did end up clearing my plate–I had no choice. After all, we were moving.
But then we didn’t move.
Yes, you read that right. We did not move. I gave up everything, and then we did not move.
I wish I could say I handled this sudden turn of events like a champ, but that would be a lie. In all honesty, I hated it. I was devastated. I was angry. I was hurt. I was lost. I wanted my job back. I wanted my kids back at their old school. I wanted to get busy again. I just couldn’t comprehend how being still–having nothing to do–could be part of God’s plan.
Nevertheless, I soon learned that in the stillness, God was there. I repeat: in the stillness, God was there.
He used the months of no major commitments to rebuild me. To restore my soul. To heal hurts from the past I had never dealt with. To make me whole. He led me beside those still waters, and in doing so, He refreshed my soul.
He lead me away to that desolate place. And I found rest. In the stillness I saw God.
So I ask you today. Are you resting? Have you taken some time to sit at the feet of Jesus and rest awhile? Or are you too busy to stop? Is your plate overflowing? Are you juggling so many balls in the air you are about to drop all of them?
Let me encourage you in this: if you feel you have too much on your plate to take a break to refresh, then you have too much on your plate. Take time to rest. Take time in the presence of your Savior to reevaluate what you are doing.
Is there room for pasture in your life? Is there room for rest? If not, ask God to show you what needs to go in order to make room for those green pastures. It may not be easy to let go, but take it from me, the temporary pain of letting go is well worth the joy of God’s green pastures.
God longs for you to rest, my friend. For He knows you need it. He knows everything you need. This is why we, as the Psalmist declares, “shall not want.” We shall not want because the Shepherd is leading us. Look again at the above passage in Psalm 23.
Who makes us lie down?
Who leads us beside still waters?
Who restores our soul?
Who leads us in paths of righteousness?
Our Shepherd. It is because He makes us rest, because He gives us water, because He refreshes us, because He leads us along the right path–it is because He does all this–because He is our Shepherd–that we do not have to fear evil.
So rest today, my friend. Rest in the arms of the Father. Create that space in your life necessary for God to show you those green pastures. And when you do–when you allow God to make you lie down in green pastures or take you away to that desolate place–you’ll soon find yourself proclaiming as David did, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (vs. 6).
For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”