Lately, I’ve been learning a lot about rest.
What does it mean to rest? It means to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength. But rest also means to be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position.
I’ve been praying for rest, but I neglected to appreciate the rest he’s given because I was focused on only one definition of rest. And it wasn’t the definition He had in mind. When I thought of rest, I thought of sleep. Of relaxation. I fervently prayed for rest during late nights of homework, hard classes at school, and from annoying conversations. It didn’t seem to happen. I’ve been sick for nearly a month. Everyday I would wake up and I was still just as sick. Still just as tired. I wanted to stop all work. To take a break from everything connected with life. To be honest, at times I wanted a break from faith, from reaching the campus. I had no strength left. I would wake up early in the morning just as tired and I believed that maybe he hadn’t heard. But he did. Because rest is more than sleep and relaxation.
To rest is to be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position. God knew what I needed when I didn’t know how to ask for it. I needed more than just sleep, I needed endurance to stay in the position that I’ve been placed in as a light on the campus. He supported me. From the moment I woke up to the time I fell asleep again, he supported me. I accomplished each and every task that was required of me. I was exhausted, but I was at rest.
I wonder if Proverbs 31:17-18 is misunderstood by some.
¨She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.¨
Many women look at the Proverbs 31 woman and see an impossible standard. I mean, it’s almost like this chick never takes a break…ever. Not even to sleep. And then she gets up and keeps going, full of energy, full of power. She seems so…perfect. She has unending reservoirs of strength. Physically, mentally, emotionally. How is this possible? And why do people tend to see her as woman without exhaustion? In reality, a woman like this is tired, so how is she so strong? Whatever she does she has the strength for, because her rest doesn’t come from sleep. It comes from God. Because of God. She’s tired, but she never takes a break from the fight because God enables her to stay in her specified position.
The parallels about rest in the Bible don’t end with the Proverbs 31 woman. Think about Matthew 11:28 ¨Come to me all you who are weary and burdened (heavy-laden), and I will give you rest.” Suddenly, it means something a little different than it used to. It’s not just about physical rest. It’s God’s promise to be our rock, our support when things are too much for us to take. It’s strength to keep battling the enemy.
Yet again in John 4:6, we see that Jesus was tired, ¨Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.¨ This is the beginning of the story of The Woman at the Well. This will soon be a major turning point in the life of a tired woman and a frustrated town. But it could have just as easily never happened. Jesus could have asked for water because he was tried and never engaged the woman in conversation. He could have decided to just rest. To take a break from it all. The important truth in this verse revolves around the fact that Jesus never walked away from what God had called him to do because he was tired. At first, that seems nearly impossible as well. But it’s not. He didn’t find his strength and restoration from physical rest. He found it by resting in God. He maintained his position because God was supporting Him and he leaned on God’s strength for everything. He did not rely on his own physical strength and abilities because he recognized how frail they were in comparison to God’s. We are reminded yet again in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Our physical exhaustion may be a weakness, but when we ask God for rest, he turns it into a power.