Let me ask you this: how well-rested are you?
(I’m willing to bet you didn’t click on the link to this blog post and think you’d be getting attacked right away, did you?)
If you’re like me, and what I can only assume is like most people, you may be thinking to yourself— “actually, I’m not rested at all.”
Maybe you can’t remember the last time you had a good nights sleep, or took time just to replenish yourself and practice genuine self-care.
But I’m not just talking about physical rest. How long has it been since your heart, your mind, and your soul were rested— like, really rested?
I know for me, its been quite some time since I felt the deep rest of the soul that Jesus talks about in Matthew 11:28. My pastor brought this scripture up during his message several weeks ago and it stuck with me; the idea that Jesus offers a rest I don’t know how to receive. I honestly couldn’t even tell you what it looked like, to have a deep rest of the soul. It all seemed so mystical to me. But I went on with my life and buried my unrest just deep enough so I wouldn’t think of it.
Fast forward to October 11, 2018.
It was the perfect fall day: crisp, sunny, 60 degrees with a soft breeze, and not a cloud in the sky. As one who wakes up to the perfect day does, I threw on my best hoodie and took my Bible study time to the back porch of my home to enjoy the weather and the Word (c’mon somebody!)
At the end of my Bible study, I decided I wanted to lay in the grass in my backyard, to feel the warmth of the sun on my face. As I did, I prayed a simple prayer—
“Lord, I just want to be with you. I just want to delight in you.”
The next thing I knew, I was picturing Jesus laying next to me in the grass.
I know how this sounds. Quite frankly, it sounds weird. Jesus laid next to you in the grass? What?
Strange, I know. But, it’s true. I really saw it in my minds eye. There was no fanfare about it; it was just sweet, and I was comforted.
A few moments passed. And then, slowly, seemingly out of nowhere, scriptures started to pop up in my head. One by one, the words of passages of scripture I knew started coming to my mind.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you” Matthew 6:33.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11.
More followed. Psalm 51:15, John 3:16, Philippians 4:19.
Then, scripture started to inundate my mind. Psalm 23, Psalm 91, James 1:2, Romans 10:10, Mark 11:23, on and on they went.
After several moments of this, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to what was happening:
The Lord was speaking his Word over me.
Now, if you’re the type who cringes at even the slightest mention of cheesy statements like these, bear with me. Even if you think I’m full of it and that maybe I’m over-spiritualizing this experience, I ask that you grant me the honor of the benefit of your doubt.
As the scriptures were reciting in my mind, my spirit was conscious that Jesus was speaking life into me. He was loving on me by filling up my soul with his Word. I saw this interchange in my minds eye, where God on his throne in heaven, and Jesus next to me in the grass, were taking turns filling the river of my soul with life.
And then I had a thought. Could this be what Jesus meant by giving deep rest of the soul? Could it be that being filled with his Word is what sets my heart to rest upon him?
I had since forgotten about my quest for his deep rest, but to my surprise, Jesus did not forget my need for it. Here I had come to him, just to delight in him, just to be with him. And in return, he was filling my life, my heart, and my soul back up with himself and his Word. He was giving me the deep rest of the soul that I had so longed for. He was singing over me.
In an instant, I was overcome with emotion. This sweet Jesus of mine, never forgetting how desperately I needed his rest, laid next to me in the grass, and sang songs of love over me.
But here’s the thing:
My soul was filled with life and love and peace and rest, but only to the degree that I knew the scriptures. I was keenly aware during the experience that the scriptures popping up in my head were not random ones I had never read or meditated on before. They were all scriptures I knew; scriptures I had spent time delving into and memorizing, scriptures I had meditated on. Those were the words that poured over me— they were words I knew in my spirit.
I suddenly realized that the Lord was able to stir those scriptures in me, and Jesus was able to sing them over me, because I had previously taken the time to learn them. I had them stored inside of me, therefore the Holy Spirit was able to spring them up to pour over me and to fill me up again when I needed them most. In times of meditation past, I gave him in that moment, something to work with.
That day, God was able to answer a prayer I didn’t even know I had. And now I am rested, not because I slept 8 hours and not because I did any of the things we’re supposed to do to “rest.” I am rested, because I laid myself out at the feet of Jesus, just to delight in him and be with him, and in return he filled me back up again with his Word.
The point in sharing this story is not to say you have to have the same or even a similar experience in order to have deep rest of the soul, not at all! The Holy Spirit works so uniquely with each of us according to our personalities and learning styles. I just love that about him! The way he approaches us to both comfort and correct is going to be so different from person to person, and I would never expect or state that it’s a one-size-fits-all scenario.
My hope is that this story simply encourages you to spend time delighting in Jesus. And I hope this story helps you see what it taught me— that time spent in scripture is so vital to a life of true rest. Meditating on God’s Word is life to the lifeless and hope to the hopeless. Give God something to work with when you come to him to be filled! Study and spend time in scripture. Even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, you are storing up life in your soul, and God can and will use that to give you rest unlike you’ve ever known before.