Spiritual rest is something that I’m really bad at. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with to do lists and getting things done and being productive. I’m sort of a freak when it comes to my school work. I’ve been known to write essays a week ahead of time (a habit that annoys my roommates to no end). In many ways, this is a great gift that I have. I rarely struggle with procrastination or laziness. I rarely fall behind in my school work. I work hard at where the Lord has placed me.
But often, this helpful pattern I’ve developed becomes unhealthy and almost obsessive. The night before I have a test, I am usually prepared about two or three hours before I plan on going to bed. But rather than stopping and spending time with the Lord, or spending time with my friends, or relaxing, I instead keep compulsively studying, unable to let myself stop when I’m really probably done. Because what if I show up at the test the next day and I forgot something or what if I missed something? These worries force me to keep working, to go over the same material over and over again.
Clearly, I have some anxiety issues. I struggled with my anxiety a lot in high school and God has been faithful to convict me of this idol time and time again. I have experienced a lot of healing from these concerns and I’m much better with dealing with it than I was in high school (I promise, even if you don’t believe me from my crazy opening anecdote).
When I feel myself slipping back into an unhealthy pattern (as I have been the past few weeks), Jesus reminds me to rest. To be still. To trust that He’s going to take care of me. Spiritual rest is often difficult for me because it’s hard to make myself slow down and take time to rest, to be still, to sit with Jesus without thinking of all the millions of little things I “should” be doing.
Spiritual rest is very hard to find while in college because college students are stupid people who stay up until 2 AM and sleep until noon. We are busy with classes, internships, organizations, friends, roommates, boyfriends or girlfriends, having fun, and, always worrying about everything falling into place. At least, that’s me.
In addition to these concerns, I often find myself busy with doing “the right things” for the Lord. I believe, of course, that we should seek to praise, glorify, worship, and reflect the Lord with our actions. Our works should reflect and spring out of our faith. However, it’s easy to make an idol out of our works, to believe that God will love us more if we do the right things. When we fall into this mindset, spiritual rest becomes an almost impossible thing to achieve. Because in this mindset, we are not seeking to intimately know the Lord in the depths of our soul.
Rather, we are seeking to glorify ourselves and, through our own feeble human efforts, to raise ourselves up to equal footing with the Lord. I don’t think I have to explain to you how silly and fruitless and incorrect this mindset is. And, as spiritual rest is a way through which we seek intimacy and peace with the Lord, the two things, this mindset and rest, are rather irreconcilable.
That is why, sometimes, we need to stop moving. We need to set down our books. We need to stop checking our email. We need to give ourselves a break. Because it is when we stop moving, that we see clearly the face of the Lord.
For me, I try to take at least one extended moment a day to seek rest. I make myself slow down. I try to clear my mind of all the millions of worries or reminders or questions trying to barge their way into my brain. Because when we worry, our mindsets are temporary and earthly. But when we seek peace and intimacy with Jesus, He lets us glimpse into eternity.
In heaven, there will be no worry, no fear, no doubt that we’re not trying hard enough, that we’re not doing the rights things. Instead, there will be peace, rest, and constant connection with the Lord. There is an eternal cohesion in things. Let’s not miss connecting with that eternity because our brains are so temporally-focused.
If you know me, you know that I love Virginia Woolf. In her novel To the Lighthouse, she beautifully expresses this longing of the soul for eternity and how we can experience connection with eternity in our daily lives:
“There is a coherence in things, a stability; something, she meant, is immune from change, and shines out (she glanced at the window with its ripple of reflected lights) in the face of the flowing, the fleeting, the spectral, like a ruby; so that again tonight she had the feeling she had had one today already, of peace, of rest. Of such moments, she thought, the thing is made that endures.”
The thing that endures, whether Woolf wants to admit to it or not, is Jesus. And with Jesus comes heaven and peace and joy and knowing Him. The Lord freely gives us these moments of connection every day. He gives us opportunity for spiritual rest. He gives us intimacy with Him. So let’s take Him up on this unbelievable offer and seek eternity. Let’s rest.