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Deuteronomy 33:12b. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”
(Isn’t that just a beautiful verse? One of my very favorites!)
As a chronic illness patient, I’ve learned a lot about the need for rest. Things I’ve learned about rest include:
- the need to schedule rest times into my day (to avoid collapse and multiple not-good days to follow)
- the recognition that rest is a pain management tool (not just giving up or in to the pain)
- the value of accepting rest as a gift (not as a sign of weakness, but of saving strength for what’s truly important)
- rest doesn’t always look the same to and for me
- the gift of rest requires me to receive and appreciate it as a gift.
These lessons have been both surprising and familiar, demanding and helpful, and hard and energizing. In other words, learning how to rest hasn’t been restful for me. But learning to rest has brought rest for me and others.
When my body shuts down on me and pain only allows for lying flat on the bed, not necessarily sleeping but in an exhaustion where I can’t hear, see, or answer you, rest is the only option. As much as I may want to keep or start doing, even the best of good intentions, encouragement, and self-determination cannot overcome the physical me. I am now in the red zone of depletion where the rest of me succumbs to the empty of physical me. And when I’m shut down, I’m not helping anyone…or so I used to think…
Yet when I’m shut down, I’m more me than at any other time. For there in the empty, I meet the Christ of Philippians 2:6-8 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! I don’t say this as something that sounds admirable, lofty, or Christianly. I say this because there in the empty, all that remains is Jesus and pain.
Only Jesus understands the pain and the empty as in Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Only Jesus guarantees that one day there will be neither pain nor empty as in Revelation 21:14 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
And only Jesus is stronger and bigger than the pain and the empty as in Luke 1:37 For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible.
So until the day rest and doctor or hospital visits, diets, medicines, and treatments are no longer needed, Jesus gives me the gift of rest as a means of help to fight the empty, both for physical me and the rest of me. Because my soul needs rest just as much as my body does. And sometimes even more…
Some practical tips for planning for rest for patients and those who love them:
Patient Advocacy Tool 3 – Planning for rest
- Rest doesn’t always mean sleep.
As vital as sleep is (and in large quantities consistently), many times rest requires more. The more of the kind of rest that calms the heart and mind, thus reducing the clamor and stress allowing the body to relax. This type of rest often looks as different to people as their physical bodies do. Be it a long hot bath, a good book, music, or movie, motorcycle or car ride in the country or…most importantly, anything done without the stress of a cell phone, email, or social media.
- Rest is proactive.
When I plan for rest (and you plan that I will be resting), I am being proactive in my care and in my care for you. For when I plan and choose to rest, then I can do more later. And when I can do more later, then I am of more help to you in current and future responsibilities and expectation.
- Rest is restorative.
When I rest, the missing parts are restored. Be they physical energy units or spiritual giving out units. I can’t just dig up, dream of, or even pray for, what is missing to be replaced if I am not willing to surrender to the means in which God restores, i.e. rest. The physical me in the physical rest. The spiritual me in the soul rest returning to Christ in obedience and faith. Neither can be exchanged; neither can be duplicated. As my doctor tells me, “no matter what medicine I give you, if you don’t stop and rest, the medicine won’t work”. Christ tells me the same in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Those verses from Matthew 11 encapsulate the necessary cycle of rest. God gives and I receive. Thanks be to God for His good gifts!
In the comments section below, please share with all of us how you find true rest. And other ideas for putting rest into your schedule or helping others to find rest. Thank you.
Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021.