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  • Writer's pictureJen Stone-Sexton

The Gift of Rest - An Invitation to Receive

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Do you feel like you have too much to do to rest? Do you feel stressed, reactive, pressured and rushed? Learn how God desires to give rest to your soul in today's blog, The Gift of Rest, Part 1.

This is what the sovereign Lord,

the Holy One of Israel, says:

In repentance and rest is your salvation.

In quietness and trust is your strength.

But you would have none of it.

Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)

The sage green live oaks, branches covered in draping moss like flowing skirts, danced in the gentle March breeze. Colorful flowers bloomed everywhere and I could see an Osprey nest from the balcony of my room overlooking a river. I had come to Epworth by the Sea for a Rest Quest retreat and I was fascinated by the enchanting beauty of the Golden Isles of South Georgia.

Rest has not come easy for me. As a driven, ambitious, “Type A” personality, I am more familiar with an over packed schedule, impending deadlines, striving, hustling, and achieving. Most of my life, I have been more comfortable with doing than with being. Doing kept me distracted from the quiet inner voice and deeper emotions I’d rather not feel too intensely. Rest? Who had time for rest? I had things to do. Important things to do. (Never mind that I can’t recall most of them now.)

I was often emotionally reactive, stressed out, in a hurry, and focused on the next thing rather than being calm, intentional and present. More often than not, I pushed myself beyond my limits. As a result, sickness or some chronic health issue, was my body’s way (and perhaps God’s grace) of getting my attention. Forcing me to slow down long enough to recover. Over the years, as I began paying more attention to what my body was trying to communicate, I began to listen. I began to notice my limits and respect them. I learned “No.” was a complete sentence and I began to say it more often. I changed my schedule to better reflect my priorities.

This was a process that took time. It did not happen overnight because underneath all of that doing, striving, achieving and performing was a fear that if I didn’t, I would not be loved. I would not be enough. I equated work with worth. Yet Jesus shows us a very different way. Have you ever wondered what God wants you to do? Here’s an answer.

“Here is what I want you to do. Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role play before God. Just be there. As simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God and you will begin to sense His grace.” Matthew 6:6 (MSG)

Flip the calendar back several years, my own Christian Life Coach reminded me multiple times that God wanted me to have a Sabbath. It was a command, not an option. In other words, rest is a command which requires commitment, not a request to be reasoned away. Weary of feeling stressed, exhausted, and depleted, along with giving those I loved what was left of me instead of the best of me, I began to reorder my priorities and schedule. I carved out one day a week to rest, to be restored, refreshed and renewed.

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

Fast forward to January 2022, I received an email invitation from a best-selling author I follow to a virtual Living Sabbath retreat. While “Virtual and Retreat” are not two words I would typically pair, (the 2020 pandemic had changed typical and just about anything could be virtual). Since the invitation came from one of the speakers, and I recognized a few other authors/speakers I admired, I registered. The retreat began the next day – a Friday (not my designated “rest day”) and a day it “happened” to snow. I had no excuse not to slow down and enjoy the Living Sabbath Retreat and watch the speakers live to really get the most out of the schedule they had intentionally created for us. Instead, I pressed on in my determination to finish a project I was working on, irritation and frustration building as I did so. I opted to watch the recordings later in the day. As I did, I realized I’d missed a beautiful gift God was giving me, an invitation to rest and a message of love He was tenderly wanting me to hear.

Regretful that I had not set my own agenda aside to savor a perfectly beautiful snow day to truly rest and receive this gift from Him, I repented. Repent means to turn and go in the opposite direction. Instead of continuing on my own direction, I turned toward God to go His. I chose to participate in the retreat and be present for the live sessions. As I did so, my soul was refreshed, my mind was calmed, and my heart was receptive to God’s prompting.

At the end of this virtual retreat, there was an announcement for a Rest Quest Retreat in March. In that moment I knew. I. Had. To. Be. There. I didn’t know where in Georgia the place was or the cost to attend. I didn’t stop to research and gather information. I didn’t create a list of pros and cons to going. I registered immediately. As soon as I did, the decision to be obedient to God’s prompting resulted in a clear vision for the ministry work He was calling me to do. I was astounded, humbled and excited!

When we are obedient and leave the outcome to God, we open the door of opportunity to see God’s power, purpose, promises and love displayed in our lives. During my time in Georgia at the Rest Quest retreat, and throughout the entire trip, there were blessings He poured out in loving ways, delightful in the details and achingly sweet in His presence. While the retreat itself was life-changing, the ripple effect of obedience has continued to play out in my life in ways only God could have orchestrated. It has been a significant lesson for me.

Pat Layton and Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith, both authors, speakers, podcast hosts, were the speakers at the retreat. The first night of the retreat, Saundra said something that got my attention: “Most of you are really good at giving but not at receiving. We invite you to allow yourself to receive from God this weekend.”

This meant that I was not striving or doing or creating or being productive. This was an invitation to rest and to allow myself to actually feel and receive God’s love. To rest and receive. Just receive. We know that God’s love is a gift – because Scripture tells us over and over it is - but most of us don’t live that way. If we did, our lives would be radically transformed.

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NLT)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life

through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NLT) (Emphasis mine.)

The next morning, we were all singing during our time of worship. As a singer and one who has been part of worship teams for over thirty years, singing and worship for me comes from a heart overflowing with love and gratitude. But this particular morning as we sang Reckless Love by Cory Asbury, about how God leaves the ninety-nine to go find the one [lost sheep], I placed my hands over my heart. As I did so, tears filled my eyes and ran down my cheeks. I could no longer sing for the restriction in my throat. I felt totally enveloped in the love of God, receiving His love through the message of this song. Receiving His love in a way that brought healing to my heart and nourishment to my soul. When was the last time you allowed yourself to just bask in the love of God and receive His unconditional love into the very depths of your heart? When we are in the presence of God and when we can be still enough to receive His love, we come away changed.

Just as God’s love is a gift to be received, so “Rest is a gift to be received, not a reward to be earned.” [1] But most of us don’t live that way. Most of us live as if everything depends on us, and when it doesn’t, we hope and pray God comes through.

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith also said something else that weekend that stuck with me:

We rest to the level of our trust.

Throughout Scripture trust and obedience are linked together.

So there remains a Shabbat-keeping for God’s people. For the one who has entered God’s rest has also rested from his own works, as God did from his. Therefore, let us do our best to enter that rest, so that no one will fall short because of the same kind of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:9-11 (CJB)

I invite you to read Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 for context and deeper understanding.

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

Choosing to rest one day a week from our work and labor is an attitude of our heart. In Psalm 95 (also referenced in Hebrews 3 and 4), we are warned not to harden our hearts as Israel did when they rebelled and tested God in the wilderness. The writer of Hebrews further encourages, “Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.” (3:13)

Resting in God requires trusting God. Resting in God means that we humbly admit that we do not run the world and that everything does not depend on us. Resting is not about sitting in stoic silence doing nothing all day nor is it about a list of rules that we think have to be followed. Legalism never frees us and God’s rest is meant to free us. In The Power of Quiet, Discovering the Strength of a Peaceful Soul, Aimee Walker writes,

“Resting in God is a conscious choice to redirect our thoughts. To allow His love and truth to overpower our fears, disappointments, impossibilities and brokenness. When we choose rest, we are allowing Him to be bigger than what we face. And far from weak, lazy, or passive, rest is a better strategy. A powerful weapon that releases God to be God and enables us to experience first-hand the acts of salvation.”

“We often associate great faith with the ability to do great things – with taking risks and ‘stepping out’ – but great faith also exists in places of quiet, in the ability to be still and wait. Sometimes the true extent of our faith and trust in God is evidenced by our capacity to cease our activity and be silent long enough to hear what God is saying; to be still long enough to let Him show us His goodness and His power.” [2]

Be still and know that I am God. - Psalm 46:10

"Still hearts see God. Where here is no agitation of soul there can be a revelation of God. The only way to know what you are about is to so intimately know God, that you see yourself as God sees you. Stillness involves being known. If it's true, that our deepest desire is to be seen and known - then we are only seen and known as much as we are still. And we are only able to be still when we are not driven by our own expectations."

"In stillness...sanity is found. Sense is made of things. The roar of the enemy is stilled and the soul can listen to the whisper of its Maker."

You have to make time to be still - in order to make a life.

- Ann Voskamp [3]

How can we hear God's voice if we are not quiet enough to listen? And how can we get quiet enough if we don’t create intentional time to rest?

What if, being still and knowing God involves ceasing our endless striving? What if being still is about allowing ourselves to be seen instead of hiding? What if being still requires us to slow down long enough to examine how barren our busyness has left us? And how dizzy all of our distractions have made us, like the whirring of a merry-go-round.

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

In order to better understand the meaning of the words "Be Still", let's look at the Hebrew word for stillness, which is דְּמָמָה pronounced, demama. The meaning of demema is silence, hush, quietness, calmness, serenity, or placid. Going a bit deeper, John J. Parsons explains in Hebrew for Christians that "the command to "be still" comes from the Hiphil stem of the verb rapha, meaning "to be weak, to let go, to release." It can also be translated as, "cause yourselves to let go" or "let yourselves become weak." [4] The Hebrew noun for rapha מְרַפֵּא means healing. And a name of God, Jehovah Rapha, God, my Healer.

What if being still before God allows us to not only be seen and known,

but to feel deeply loved by God? And in that place of secure, measureless,

unconditional love, to also to be healed?

Where, in your life, do you need rest? Where, in your life, do you need healing? What if, being still and releasing all of it to God, to let yourself be weak by falling into His Arms of Love instead of trying to be strong and hold it all together, is the way to serenity? What if this way of being still and knowing God is the way to know that you are fully seen, fully known, and deeply loved by God? What kind of impact would that have in your life and in your relationships?

Read The Gift of Rest - Part 2 next. I explore the deeper meaning of rest and share Five Practical Tips to Create Intentional Rest in your life, as well as provide a downloadable template for you to create your own weekly plan!

Click HERE for Your Free Flourish Guide!

If you would like support with overcoming fear, determining your values, and creating intentional rest in your life, I would love to come alongside you to offer that support. To learn more, you can schedule HERE for a no-obligation Create a Life You Love Discovery Session.

Editor's Note:

This blog is by Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching Founder and Christian Life Coach, Jen Stone-Sexton. She is currently accepting new clients. You can learn more about Jen here.

Jennifer C. Stone-Sexton © 2023 Freedom to Flourish, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

All graphics created by Morgan Howard © 2023 Freedom to Flourish, LLC.

Our Graphics are downloadable gifts for You to enjoy!


Credits: [1] Holley Gerth [2] Aimee Walker, The Power of Quiet, Discovering the Strength of a Peaceful Soul, © Joyful Life Study [3] Ann Voskamp, Waymaker - Finding Your Way to the Life You've Always Dreamed Of (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, An Imprint of Thomas Nelson, 2022) [4J John J. Parsons, Hebrew for Christians,

Photo Credits: Cover and Photo 1 by Saksham Gangwar on Unsplash

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