How do you feel when you think about resting in God? Is this something you’re already experiencing? Or does the idea of truly entering God’s rest seem unattainable in this rushing, restless world?
When you have been laboring hard to shine a light for Christ, you can become emotionally parched and burned out.
In this space of spiritual fatigue, Jesus offers a different path: an oasis of rest in an overtired world. There is a Sabbath rest available to you—what’s more, God invites you to receive it! (Heb. 4:9).
If you want to experience a deeper rest in the arms of your Abba Father, the practical steps and rhythms in this article can help.
We will explore:
- The Sabbath rest that God offers you
- Common “rest-robbers”
- Three steps for rest inspired by Psalm 116
- Four rhythms of resting in God you can begin practicing today
As we begin, let’s first examine…
What Is God’s Rest?
Think of the times you have felt most at peace. We often associate rest with spaces where life feels whole. In our fallen world, times and spaces of wholeness are scarce.
Two places in Scripture where we see God’s perfect rest are the beginning of creation and the end of this world—his perfect garden and his Holy City (Gen. 2:8-15; Rev. 21).
In both the garden that was created and the city that will be, God’s people experience the tangible presence of God. Descriptions of light, safety, beauty, and provision are preserved for us in Scripture. The garden and the city are illustrations of the life God has always intended for us, one of unbroken intimacy and flourishing life.
God made you for rest (Heb. 4:9-11). It is a place of blessing where you are at peace in a life of adventure as Jesus’ apprentice. You’re not striving and straining in your work for God, but freed to live and work with Jesus in his easy yoke:
Jesus invites us…
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Notice that rest is not something we need to make happen, it’s what Jesus freely gives us. As we walk with him and learn from him, Jesus promises that our souls will find real rest!
And this rest Jesus offers you is not far off, but is available to you now. It is the Good News of the availability of life in the Kingdom of the Heavens (Matt. 3:2; Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15).
If God’s rest is real and Jesus freely offers it, why is it so difficult to experience the rest that brings peace, contentment, and wholeness of life?
Because there are robbers along the paths you travel each day! These thought and feeling patterns can rob you of the rest you were made to enjoy.
Do you struggle with any of these feelings?
- If I slow down to take care of my soul, others will be neglected. I can’t afford to let others down just to be refreshed.
- There was a time I felt God’s rest, but I’ve gotten stuck and can’t find an easy way back.
- I have a hard time figuring out God’s will for my life, so it is difficult to be at peace.
- I am helping people who are in crisis. I can’t justify rest when my life is comparatively easy.
- I am trying to hold everything together—my work, my relationships, myself—if I pause, everything will fall apart.
Many of these rest-robbers cause us to feel that our worth or God’s favor is secured in what we do. These mindsets rob you of the rest Jesus has already purchased for you on the cross!
Instead of getting caught in this cycle of works, you can enter God’s freedom and grace.
3 Steps for Experiencing God’s Rest
Psalm 116 offers us a roadmap to receive God’s rest and break free from a works-based mindset:
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living. (Ps. 116:7-9, NIV)
Rest is a Return
Rhythms of rest have always been God’s good intention for us. He modeled it for us by resting after the good work accomplished in creation (Gen 2:2-3).
Adam and Eve both rested and worked in the garden in God’s presence and provision. And in the New Jerusalem we will not have to strive for light or food or safety, for we will be with Jesus.
Rather than considering rest as a new thing, it is actually being restored back to what has always been intended.
The Psalmist opens with “Return to your rest.” The Hebrew language here conveys the theme of retreating; rest is available as you take refuge under God’s wings (Ps. 91:4).
Changing your mindset from trying to achieve a state of rest in your own strength to returning to the Sabbath rest in God’s loving presence that you were created for enables you to experience abiding peace and joy.
Rest is Remembering
The Psalmist recounts God’s mighty and personal acts as the foundation for returning to resting in God.
When our identity is securely attached to who God is and who we are in Christ, we are less likely to experience stress overload or burnout.
Meditating on these Scriptural truths can help:
- God is good all the time (Ps. 107:1)
- Jesus loves you completely (John 15:9)
- God is sovereign over everything (Col. 1:16-17)
- God has a wonderful plan for your life (Jer. 29:11)
- Jesus has prepared a heavenly home for you (John 14:3)
- God promises to teach, guide, and counsel you (Ps.32:8)
- Jesus is with you always (Matt. 28:20)
- God is faithful to finish the good work he started in you (Phil. 1:6)
Rest is a Road
The Psalmist suggests that God’s goodness, mercy, and salvation allow you to “walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 116:9).
As we experience life in the Kingdom of the Heavens with Jesus, abiding in him, yoked together in the work he’s accomplishing through us, we will live out our calling of resting in God.
Resting in God is not a selfish pursuit, but a vibrant witness to a restless world. When you walk in step with Jesus, you’ll look different and people will want what they see in your life!
Four Rhythms of Rest
Rest in a moment
When anxious thoughts or challenging circumstances keep you from experiencing resting in God, breath prayers offer immediate help to reorient your focus.
One of my favorite Breath Prayers is inspired by Psalm 62:1,5: “In Christ alone, my soul finds rest… Selah.”
- Breathe in to receive the rest that Jesus offers: “In Christ alone my soul finds rest…”
- Hold your breath and experience the fullness of this rest…
- Exhale and focus on letting go of stress and strain: “Selah…”
Rest in the Day
Daily Scripture meditation that includes times of silence and reflection can be a helpful rhythm of rest.
When most of your time in the Bible is spent in study and analysis, you are often in your head. Ancient practices of Scripture mediation such as Ignatian Meditation and Lectio Divina allow the Word of God to connect not just with your mind but your heart as well.
Best of all, spending quiet time in Scripture meditation invites you to slow down and enjoy God’s presence.
Rest in the Week
The Israelites were commanded to practice a Sabbath day as a reminder to rest and remember that God has loving purposes for his world.
Laying aside work for a day may feel like a sacrifice, but it creates space for us to receive the Lord’s goodness and provision. If you have never practiced a Sabbath day, this article will provide a good starting point and ideas for how to enjoy this day of rest.
Practicing Sabbath as the “first day of the week” (no matter what day you choose to observe it) allows your work to flow out of a place of rest.
Longer Periods of Rest
My practice is to set aside a full or half day each month for a time of extended solitude and silence with Jesus. As an addition to my normal Sabbath days, these longer times of enjoying Christ’s presence help me hear God’s voice, sense his leading, and remain in the easy yoke with him.
Retreats alone or with others can be a vital rhythm of rest. In fact, having times of both community and solitude are what Jesus modeled for us in his Sabbath days. Our Soul Shepherding Institute retreats are designed around these life-giving rhythms.
Sabbaticals allow you to experience a still deeper level of rest in God. A Sabbatical is really a bunch of Sabbath days put together! If you are given the opportunity for Sabbatical, it is important to incorporate times of rest and rejuvenation so that you finish it renewed.
We offer a comprehensive Sabbatical Guide with live coaching support to help you explore new rhythms of grace on Sabbatical.
Each level of rest described above is helpful to entering into God’s rest. If you don’t have extended periods of time to commit to solitude and silence, please don’t be discouraged. Begin with a breath prayer or by recounting God’s goodness. In time, you may be able to build in longer stretches of time for rest.
The Overflow of a Rested Life
As you allow Jesus to help carry your burdens and relax in God, your rested life will overflow into all your areas of influence. When you experience deep rest, you have more creative energy for your work and emotional space to love others well!
For help learning to rest in God and experience deeper peace it’s helpful to talk with a spiritual director who offers empathy, prayer, and guidance. One of our Sr. Spiritual Directors at Soul Shepherding would be glad to listen and support you.
Praying that you will experience the life of venturing with Jesus in the Kingdom of the Heavens as you practice resting in God!