Feb 24, 2020 | Shams Siddiqi
We are obsessed with being busy. And rest seems impossible.
Rest is viewed as a luxury that is almost unattainable. Some can take a day to rest, but most can’t. Personally, I work throughout the week and also intern at my church, so rest is rare. I love what I do, but I often long for rest. So, how does one find rest when it is hard to find even a few moments of peace?
I want to encourage you here to ultimately find rest by seeking and dwelling in the presence of God. We will discover that only God can offer the true soul rest that we long for.
The presence of God
Rest is intimately tied to God’s presence. This is a theme we can see throughout the entire narrative of Scripture. During the creation account, God makes all things and then rests together with his creation on the seventh day. The previous six days were marked by the saying, “And there was evening, and there was morning…” (Genesis 1). However, the seventh day did not include this, so all of creation seemed to be in a perpetual state of “seventh day rest.” This changed shortly after in Genesis 3 with the introduction of sin, when humanity is cast out of God’s manifest presence.
However, throughout the Bible there is promise of a return to continual rest when all things are restored through Jesus. Bible Project explains this well in their video (below) on the Sabbath and their podcast series titled, “7th Day Rest.”
Even Moses experienced rest through the presence of God in the desert as he led the Israelites after they escaped from Egypt. When Moses was worried about the fate of Israel and the effectiveness of his leadership, God comforted him, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). Amidst Moses’ concerns, God proclaims that rest will be provided through his presence. In the time of Moses, God’s presence was central to Israel’s daily life. God dwelt with his people—as a cloud and in the tabernacle. When the cloud moved, the people packed up and moved along with the cloud until it settled again.
God’s manifest presence (his physical presence in our midst, such as the cloud for the Israelites) is only promised when Jesus returns for a second time (an unknown point in the future). Yet, as we wait, we still believe that God is ever present (Psalm 139:7-10; 1 Kings 8:27).
It’s amazing that God is not only present with us, but through our faith in Jesus, God dwells within us (through the Holy Spirit). He provides rest for us just like he did for Moses and for Israel.
Jesus offers rest
Jesus also promises rest in the Gospel accounts. He promises that the Kingdom of God is a source of rest when he describes it as a mustard tree where birds will nest (Luke 13:18-19).
Jesus also promises rest amidst work when he says,
“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)
These verses are profound and promise so much! Jesus addresses those who are restless and working, calling them into a rest amidst the busyness. Not only that, but the yoke image points to the wooden yoke between two oxen who shared the burden of the work. Jesus invites us to take the yoke that is also on his back, promising that he will be doing most of the work alongside us. His presence alleviates our burden and offers rest that is impossible to attain on our own. All that is required is a relationship with Jesus. A relationship with Jesus doesn’t remove our work or stress—but it can change how we feel about that work as we do it. It’s possible to work from a place of heart and soul rest. So, God’s presence is a source of rest!
How do we recognize God’s presence amidst the busyness of life? Here are some ideas I’ve found helpful:
I try to take a moment to recognize that I am in God’s presence, wherever I am. As I write this in a coffee shop, I look around and see other people who are made in the image of God. I recognize that God is here through his creation, and that we are a loved people. It helps me feel more rested and grounded as a result.
We often bear the burden of the work that we do. However, one of the most amazing things about the gospel is that we are merely participants in the work God is already doing. He is the one reconciling all things to himself. We are a part of Jesus’ yoke, not the opposite. God is the protagonist, but he brings us along for the journey. This is not only for those who are doing ministry, because all work is sacred. So, as I work, I take time to recognize that I am doing God’s work and that he is with me as I do it. This has been particularly important for me when I try to share about Jesus with my friends. I recognize that he is the only one who has the power to transform lives, which takes the burden off of my “skills” in evangelism. I still share about him, but it is out of a love for him rather than trying to convert others.
Be in creation
Psalm 19:1-4 expresses how creation reveals God’s glory:
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
Nature reveals who God is, yet we can miss out because we get so fixated on the work that we often do inside. So, bring your work and rest outside! Do work on a bench, go for a prayer walk, or go for a hike! I often have to walk on my way to work and this has helped me to be more aware of God. Nature’s beauty reminds me of God’s beauty, and I love meditating on that while I commute.
Be in the Word
Amidst a busy schedule, it can be easy to cast aside reading Scripture. However, God meets us as we read the Bible. His Spirit teaches us and challenges us. As we learn more about him and his story, we become more aware of where God is in our day to day. I often notice that when I neglect to read the Bible, I become less aware of God and less aware of the relevance of Scripture in my day-to-day life. I need the Bible to know how God reveals himself in the mundaneness of life.
Be in community
Jesus promises that he is present when his followers gather. In community, we experience the love and support of Jesus through others. Worship is also experienced primarily within community and helps us be more aware of God’s presence. I love to be in musical worship because when I sing, no matter how bad of a singer I am to others, God delights in it and I recognize him in the midst of it. Someone once told me that our worship rises to the throne room of God, and I think that is a beautiful image. The church is also meant to be a place where Christians are to find rest before they are sent back to work. This is why being invested in a local church is so critical. I remember that I’m loved by God when I go to small group, participate in worship, and invest in others. So, invest in a church where you feel loved, where you can learn, where you can worship. There is no better place to be, trust me!
The connection between God’s presence and rest is central to working people. I hope you are able to experience his rest wherever he may call you.