Finding Rest in the Deep End
Life is like a swimming in a big lake. Some seasons are spent in the shallow end, enjoying water games and soaking in the sunshine with loved ones. Others are in the deep end, treading cold water while wondering how long you will be there, and how long you can keep up the pace. Often times, the struggles of life aren’t worthy of their own drama documentary. But they’re just low enough to make us feel isolated, tired, and numb. In mental health circles, it’s called languishing, and it describes many of us at this stage of the pandemic.
A Low Season
I remember a time when my husband and I were both in a low season, pre-pandemic. Our job situation was stressful, our kids were little and needed constant care, and we lived far away from family and felt isolated from genuine relationships.
If you had seen us at the store and asked how we were, we no doubt would have answered, “I’m good! How are you?”
What else could we have said? Our jobs weren’t *that* bad. Our kids were needy and not sleeping through the night, but thankfully they were healthy. We had friends and people we did bible study with or had dinner with—just no one we felt truly connected with.
Coping Or Resting
Many nights, my husband and I would grab late-night fast food and ice cream, and then binge watch HGTV until bedtime. Then we’d sleep, wake up, and do it all over again.
Looking back, I remember calling that rhythm “rest.” But it wasn’t.
We were coping.
Just. Making. Things. Work.
I share all of this because through that season, I learned more about what rest truly is. And when I choose genuine rest, it improves every other area of life. I know this in my head—but when stressed or tired or overwhelmed, I will always gravitate towards the easier, faster, more numbing coping activities instead of the ones that will feed my soul. Genuine rest is a discipline.
A doctor can tell you more about what the human body needs for physical rest. My focus is more on the needs of the whole person. Here are three tips to help you find the kind of true, holistic rest our souls desire:
1) You have a soul.
You are more than body and mind and feelings. Humans are created in the image of an almighty and wonderful God, and therefore we are deeply spiritual beings. We need so much more than just food and shelter to thrive. Our souls need to be actively fed if we want to rest the way we were created to. If we want to rest as holistic humans, food alone won’t cut it. Holistic rest is deeper than naps or parking yourself in front of a screen.
2) Your soul is kind of like your stomach.
If you want your body to be healthy, you need to feed it well. A few Flintstone vitamins a day won’t do you much good if you’re only eating junk. Maybe it’s just me; when life gets overwhelming and I could most benefit from a healthy diet, that’s exactly when I start to reach for (you guessed it) fried food and soda. When we are tired and overwhelmed or feel sad and isolated, TV, social media, and our pet bad habits are “junk food” for our souls. They don’t replenish, they don’t give back or fill us up. They simply use up our time and distract us from discomfort. There is nothing inherently evil or bad about any of those things, just like there is nothing evil about pizza. My point is simply that a steady diet of “soul junk food” will leave us dry and steal time away from truly resting.
3) Rest is active.
Counter-intuitive, right? This is why I consider rest a discipline. True, soulful rest requires connection. Connection with God, connection with others and even connection with yourself. The activity itself is less important (and even irrelevant) if there isn’t connection happening.
Think back to my husband and I with our late-night junk food and TV habit. It would have taken more effort to turn to him and ask if we could just talk, to ask more questions about his day and how he felt about it; and to share about my day and what made it good and bad and everything in between. But it would have created connection with each other that would have fed our souls.
Or how about after a stressful day when I want to mindlessly scroll through social media? For some reason, opening my Bible app to Psalms feels like more effort than my tired mind wants to give. But reading the words of the psalmist—knowing his rock, refuge, and safe place is the God who is also mine—IS deeply comforting and restful. It feeds my soul.
Find Your Rest
Maybe your rest is a walk in nature where you can sort out your thoughts, or even offer them to Jesus like a ball of tangled yarn for Him to sort them out.
Maybe it’s giving your kids your undivided attention with no other agenda than to connect with them and let the joy of connection feed your soul.
Maybe it’s simply turning off the radio in your car on your way to work or school and sitting in silence in the presence of your Savior. Carving out quiet space in your day to rest and replenish.
Maybe it’s a creative craft or hobby, space to do something you enjoy with no expectations of yourself.
My friends, the world needs you. Your family, friends, and the people around you need you. They need the well-rested you that is present and open and gives of themselves out of a surplus of life instead of an empty dry cup. Today, more than ever, people are in the deep end of life. They are treading water with souls parched for a fullness of life, which is found only when we truly find soul rest in Jesus.
I hope you rest, and rest well.
Click here for more resources to help you cultivate rest, including our online devotional and a guide to spending a day alone with God.