Loss has piled up on me and the heartbreak has been great. Over the past several years I have been hammered by the reality of this fallen world and the messiness life can bring. Pummeled with trials, we have had little rest in between; few seasons of calm. Desperate to find joy in the sorrow and beauty in the ashes, my husband and kids have been the best life-givers and smile-bringers this world could provide. With them, I have also had my youth group.
For seven years I have served in the best youth program this side of heaven (at least in my humble opinion). The students I first mentored have now graduated high school, bright futures awaiting them on the other side of teenage life. My first year serving, I was scared and timid, doubts running rampant through my head. Would the kids like me? Would I mesh with the team? Would I even enjoy the activities and the retreats away? Would I know what to say and how to lead?
And most of all, would I have impact?
Reflecting back, I am a different person than that younger woman who first raised her hand in service. Pouring into student’s lives has taught me to love deeper, to advocate harder, and to pray more fervently. It has taught me to risk for other people, while opening my eyes to the many ways God uses teenagers to shape culture and further His kingdom. Youth group can have deep, lasting impact, changing lives in the process. My life is no exception to that truth.
Last spring I began to hear God whispering to me. Always desiring to hear God’s voice, I now rejected the message hitting my ears. Frankly, I didn’t like what He had to say. Rest was needed in my life, the kind that isn’t cured by a Saturday morning sleeping in or by a good nap on the couch. I needed deeper, more lasting quiet, space to realign my heart with His and to begin the process of healing from my wounds. As the summer got underway I began hearing the whispers of God more audibly.
“You aren’t fully surrendering.”
“You have more to lie at my feet.”
“I am waiting to carry your burdens.”
“Why are you being so stubborn?”
“Don’t you trust My plans for you?”
Making excuses, I began to argue away His promptings. God’s whispers slowly morphed into shouts, persistent against my resistance. Most mornings I awoke with heaviness on my heart. I was disobeying His calling on my life. Scared of the unknown and sad to step down from a ministry that I love, I argued with His promptings and ignored His voice. Finally, the reality of my next step became so clear I couldn’t run from Him anymore. The only way forward was through surrender.
In our walk with the Lord there are seasons to sow seeds, water plants, see fruit bloom, and collect the harvest. There are times when we need to raise our hand, take the risk, join the team, and serve God and His people with wild abandon. In these moments we feel alive and useful. Our impact makes our calling feel secure and our life filled with purpose. The community fills a need we all possess – to be needed and accepted, part of something bigger than ourselves.
But in the excitement of doing good work, we can’t ignore the call to rest.
God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2). Jesus reclined at the table and stole away to the hills alone to pray (Matthew 26 & 14). Jesus invited the disciples to come eat and experience rest from the crowds (Mark 6). God commands us to not forsake the Sabbath throughout the Old Testament and New (Exodus 23 & Hebrews 4). The Psalms are filled with David’s cry for peace, rest, and healing (Psalm 4, 23, 55, & 127). Knowing these truths, why do we feel the pressure to stay busy for Him? Why do we feel like we only matter when we are seeing results? Why is our worth so tightly teetered to our producing and striving, when our calendars are full and the accolades abound?
Why do we think He cares more about our service than resting under His care?
This season of rest is going to be hard for me. The loss feels great and the void is palpable. My new-found free time is foreign, and in my weakness, I will question His calling for this year. Yet, I cling to the pillars of faith laid before me in Scripture; those who pulled away from the busyness of this world and found value in resting under the shadow of God’s wing.
After all, being close to His heart is the best place to find healing for my heart and rest for my weary soul. He is my refuge and my strength, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Anyone else feeling weary out there? What does God-ordained rest look like for you?