I don't know about you, but I struggle with rest.
I see need all around me. Mothers in need, families in need, and areas that are unreached. Since I have added writing to my "to-do" list it's been even harder to shut down. Even if work is in a slower period, I can busy myself writing, researching, or strategizing.
On top of that my husband and I have been given four beautiful children to care for. There is never an end to cleaning, laundry, teaching, and snuggling (although I am certain snuggling doesn't count as work!).
Is this all God wants from us? Our productivity? I don't think so. Certainly, He wants us to work for Him. As He said, the fields are white and ready for the harvest. And, a harvest needs workers. Proverbs tells us more than once that work is part of who we are. In fact, the oldest profession isn't prostitution (that statement is a pet peeve of mine), it's farming. And, I don't know anyone who works harder than a farmer.
God doesn't want us to work ourselves into the ground, though. He gives us rest. I have been contemplating Psalm 23 lately and this is the section I have been rolling around in my head:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul
The Lord is my shepherd. What does that make me? A sheep. Maybe a goat, but I think based on some other passages I'm going to go with sheep.
Sheep are not smart. And while their shepherd provides everything they need, they don't always realize that. They're still anxious, nervous, or unsettled. They're afraid of something and it makes them not want to lie down and rest.
What are we afraid of? Why is rest something we don't always welcome? Are we afraid that something will be left undone, someone will suffer from our inattention, or we won't have the things we need?
This week I needed a day off, I knew it. The problem? I didn't want to.
Our biggest fundraiser is coming up, we're short staffed, we're starting a new program, and my to- do list is a mile long. It felt wrong somehow to rest, to take a break. Too much to do and not enough time to do it in.
So, I decided I would work anyway. When the day rolled around that would have been the right day to take off, I woke up with the beginnings of a migraine. If you get migraines you know not to mess with them. I had an event the next day, pushing through would have been the wrong choice.
Sheep thrive in arid cultures. I thrive on work. Shepherds know that their sheep regularly need rest and they cultivate green pastures with clean water for them; these spaces don't happen by accident. God set up a day for me to rest, but I tried to ignore it.
The migraine wasn't enough to really knock me out, but enough that I couldn't use my eyes to work on my laptop/phone or read. I had to rest. I wasn't miserable, but I certainly wasn't up for my usual level of activity. I might be off base on this, but I really think that was God's way of forcing me to take a break.
Not only is our Shepherd making us lie down in green pastures, He is leading us beside still waters. The water of this world is rough. There is always friction, stress, and unrest. God knows we can't be immersed in that all the time. His remedy is still water.
Stillness is also not a great strength of mine. But, I'm working on it.
So, what's the end result? He restores our souls.
Sometimes, we're so busy and run so ragged that we have nothing left to give. Even if a need is presented to us, we're so tapped out we can't answer it. I don't think that's what God wants for us. These green pastures and still waters are how He restores us. He fills us back up so we can get back out there and do His work. So that we can lean on Him and not on ourselves. We're not robots meant to complete a certain number of tasks. We're humans that are built to have a relationship with God.
Do you feel like you have no rest? That you are so exhausted and overwhelmed and you have nothing left to give? That's not what God wants for you. Work, yes. We need to work. Then, we rest. We fill ourselves up with Christ and with His love.
Ask God to show you where your green pastures and your still waters are. It may be a few minutes or an hour. It may be a day, a week, or even a few months. God knows what you need. Listen to Him.
Am I perfect at this? Nope. In fact, I will probably mess up again soon.
That's why I need a Shepherd. And, while I would like to just work like a maniac and never need a break I am starting to figure out that's really not possible. So, I will keep working to become more like Christ and more attentive to His leading.
He'll show me. I also believe He'll show you. Just ask.