When poolside with a good book isn’t realistic right now, you can still find rest for your weary heart.
I hear this word and get flashes of mental images:
I’m lying on a puffy, neon-colored float on a hot summer day, dipping my toes over the edge into cool, clear water.
I’m curled up on a cozy couch, rain puttering against the window, engrossed in a page-turning novel.
I’m sitting across the table from a dear friend, sipping a steaming latte, sharing endless conversation and truths that I’ll think about for days.
I’m looking at the clock on my bedside table without raising my head. It doesn’t matter that the rest of the world was awake hours ago, I roll over and drift back to sleep.
I think of these scenarios with longing because rest doesn’t look like this right now. A baby cries and wakes me up before I’m ready. Conversations with friends are broken and distracted. Rainy days bring anxiety because my little ones need to run, and we can’t play outside. Pool days are a blast, but restful? No way.
Rest feels like a luxury I can’t afford. I wonder if you feel that way, too. Do you feel deprived of rest? Do you long for it but believe it’s just out of reach?
Maybe motherhood is too hectic, and rest feels like something the past you could enjoy (and the future you will enjoy), but it’s just not feasible right now. Maybe your job is demanding and your drive to succeed pushes you forward. One day—when you reach your goals—you’ll let yourself rest, but there’s too much to do today.
Even in a world that celebrates “self-care,” it’s hard to pull ourselves away from our to-do lists and our need to achieve. Whether you’re completing a project at work or fulfilling your responsibilities at home, rest doesn’t fit into your agenda. But it is both a gift and a command from our Father, who knows what we need and wants us to thrive.
When God gives the Israelites the 10 Commandments, He includes a day dedicated to rest— The Sabbath. A day when no work needs to be completed. A day to reflect on God and worship Him. A day to just be. To be with friends and family—without the distraction of accomplishment. God clarifies this command in Exodus 34:21 when He says, “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”
I’m no farmer. But both the plowing season and the harvest season are the busiest, most critical times. During these “busy seasons,” most of us are not plowing fields and harvesting gardens, but we are working long, hard hours to set our business up for success, provide for our family, and do the jobs God called us to do. God doesn’t tell His chosen people—or us—“Just wait until the busyness is over. When you have time to take a break, do so, but I know sometimes there’s just too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it.” Instead, He says that even when it doesn’t make sense, take a whole day & rest. This is ultimately for our good & for God’s glory.
I’m no expert in this. In fact, I’m pretty bad at it. I’ll admit that my times of rest are often coupled with guilt. Most of the time, if I sit down in the middle of the day, I think of everything on my to-do list. All the things I should do that I’ve deemed are more important than resting. Because it sounds backward to rest, especially on our busiest day or during our most stressful season. But Scripture tells us that Sabbath, the time when we stop working, is necessary. In fact, our ability to do the tasks God has set before us hinges on our willingness to put them aside. Not out of selfishness and not out of depletion—out of a desire to thrive. When you take time to meet with your Creator, set down the load you’re carrying, and give your mind and body a break, “you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
What might this look like on a day-to-day basis when you can’t sleep until noon, lay out by the pool, or read an entire book in one day? It might look like this:
● Meet with God
How is it easiest for you to focus on the Lord? If you’re an auditory learner try listening to Scripture rather than reading it. Maybe you’ll find it easier to focus on God’s Word. Or, if you feel God’s presence in nature, take a few minutes to get outside and read Scripture and pray. Spend a minute basking in the beauty of God’s creation. Or, write out your prayers and thoughts to the Lord. Sometimes we can more easily detect His responses when we can physically see our questions and concerns in front of us.
● Move Your Body
God created our bodies to move. Scientifically, there are many benefits to physical movement. You don’t have to work out for an hour every day, but maybe your body needs to move. Rest may come in the form of a walk, stretching next to your desk, or jumping on the trampoline with your kids. Rather than associating rest with binging Netflix, try doing something active.
● Make a “Today” List
You don’t have to do it all right now. Our to-do lists are endless. There’s always something else we could do. Our energy is zapped before noon when we focus on everything we have to do and wonder when we’ll have time to do it. Instead of making a long “to-do” list, make a list of the things you need to do today only. What do you have the capacity for? What has a deadline? What will set you up for success tomorrow? Then, set aside everything else for another day. This may help you make time to rest and dispel the lie that you don’t have time for a break.
● Change Your Language
Avoid the word “should.” Be fully present in what you are choosing to do right now. If you’re choosing to work on a project or spend time with your kids, do it wholeheartedly. If you’re choosing to take a walk, take a nap, or get lunch with a friend, do it wholeheartedly. Try not to pile on guilt by telling yourself that you “should” be doing something else. Remember that rest is important, too.
● Do Something Fun
God created you with a unique design. Including the things that you’re good at and the things you enjoy. He did not give you a desire to run, or paint, or read, or dance, or hike, or build, or bake and then hope that you squelch those desires under the banner of “work.” You might encounter God in a fresh way by engaging in an activity that is uniquely fun to you! You can return to the good work God called you to with new energy and creativity after you use the gifts and do the things God wove into the depths of who you are. Maybe the thing that sounds fun to you is the part of you that resembles your Creator. You were made in His image! And He is fun, creative, and adventurous, too.
It’s time to rest. It probably looks different than it used to, but it’s still necessary. And it will still be good! In fact, it may be just what you need.
Callie Clayton writes to encourage others (and remind herself) that it’s possible to experience God right where you are. She enjoys teaching the Bible to teenagers, having good conversation over meals she didn’t cook, and baking all the chocolate desserts. Embracing her role as a boy-mom to three little ones, she and her husband are worn out, but loving the adventure of parenthood.