You eagerly lay your head on the pillow but find yourself staring at a shadowed ceiling, sleepless. Mind racing, you suffer from a troubled soul that offers no concessions to your wearied body. When battered by the chaos of life, we need to learn the art of resting. Not merely physical rest but a deeper soul rest. True rest is actually something we learn from God and gain access to through Christ.
In Genesis 1 after God created order from the chaos, He rested. That doesn’t mean that God disconnected from creation for a moment of respite in His heavenly hammock. By saying God rested, the author of Genesis means to convey that God had demonstrated His sovereignty over the forces of chaos in the creative week.
In the Old Testament, after the Temple was built, God was said to rest there (I Chronicles 28:2, Isaiah 66:1, 2 Chronicles 6:41, etc.). Though the Holy of Holies could not completely contain the omnipresent God, this sacred place within the Temple was said to be God’s footstool. The Temple was built after after Israel had defeated its enemies and entered the promised land. In fact, David and Solomon both note that God has given them rest by defeating their enemies and, thus, they are able to build Him a temple which may serve as His place of rest (I Kings 5:4-5). In a sense, God’s enemies and their foreign “gods” had been put under His feet.
God promises rest to His people.
God promises rest to Adam if he took care of the Garden (Genesis 2:15 the Hebrew word for put is not the normal word but one that carries and overtone of rest). He promises rest to Israel if they lived faithfully in the promised land (Exodus 33:14, Deuteronomy 3:20, 2 Samuel 7:1-6).
How we get in on God’s rest.
Soul rest is a realization that God has defeated His enemies and dwells with us. Biblical rest is not merely being inactive physically, or chillaxing as my 11 year-old daughter says, though sometimes that plays a part. Rather, it is understanding that God’s presence is with us and that we, in Christ, can overcome the apparent chaos that surrounds us and causes us anxiety and turmoil.
True rest stems from the following understanding:
- We are now God’s temple where Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit takes up residence. Our hearts are, in that sense, like the Holy of Holies in the Temple, God’s resting place.
- That in Christ, we have entered His rest (Hebrews 4:2-4), meaning that we trust that our sovereign God has defeated, is defeating, and will fully defeat our enemies (sickness & death, evil, Satan) and bring order to the chaos that seems to be the root of our anxiety and lack of rest.
How do we get in on that rest?
Though we do not see the full victory over our enemies and chaos presently, we live in faith that God will do what He has promised (Revelation 20:10, 14 & Revelation 21:4). Satan, sin, death, mourning, and sorrow will be ultimately overcome. The chaos that appears to run rampant on earth will be put away and God’s order will be established as peace rules the earth.
We gain rest for our souls as we access these biblical promises in our daily lives. Paul instructs us how to live by faith in this way. This is what we are to do when the swirling waters of chaos overtake us and our natural response is to panic and have rest absent from our souls.
Philippians 4:5b The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
1. Declare the nearness of God. “The Lord is at hand.” He is in you and you are in Him. He calls you a son and daughter. He has not abandoned you to the chaos or lost you to your enemies, but has placed them under His feet (Luke 10:18-19; Acts 2:34-36) . You might even have to say this aloud to yourself and to others to walk in this truth.
2. Declare that He is coming soon to put all the enemies and chaos that trouble your soul under His feet. The Lord’s Day is at hand. In that moment, all our present sufferings will be placed in perspective (Romans 8:18) and we will be given our ultimate rest. This is promised to you and will be given to you no matter how much chaotic unrest you feel now. Live in the promise and let it anchor you in the present.
3. Pray. Prayer is faith in action. Prayer says, “I believe God has a vested interest in me and in preserving His glory.” Thus, He will act in a way that supports both of these, even if I do not see its actualization in my earthly lifetime. He cares for my concerns and even if my circumstances don’t immediately change, I am capable of having a peace-filled, restful soul as I focus on Him. God can center me in what appears to be a storm.
4. Practice. Even if you are not feeling rested, practice the spiritual disciplines. Practice setting your mind on Jesus and the things above by setting apart intentional times of Biblical meditation. Then seek to bring that centering on Christ found in those set apart times into your daily living as you drive, work, run errands, etc. Pray by talking internally to God and listening to Him in the daily ebb and flow of life.