My Year of Rest – Finding Healing in a Hard Surrender

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.

He said…

“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?

19 thoughts on “My Year of Rest – Finding Healing in a Hard Surrender

  1. Sarah, thank you for sharing your struggle with the call to rest. You are such an inspiration to me as I struggle with the very same resistance. After surgery and radiation last year for a benign brain tumor, I spent three blissful months resting, praying, studying and growing my faith. I have never felt so close in my spiritual walk and have never felt Him so close as I did during that time. I went back to work part time but still carry a full time load. I am learning to accept that I will never be the same. I have felt God urge me to trust Him and, as you said, to rest in Him. My fear of financial insecurity, letting go of my professional identity and feeling less useful are keeping me fatigued and miserable. I have specifically prayed that God would tell me when it was time to resign from my current job, yet I am now resisting His answer to that prayer. You are so brave and faithful to follow His call. Thank you, again, for sharing your experience. Wishing you a year of rest.

    1. Oh Angela,

      You are not alone in this struggle, and I am thankful we can connect in this way. Unexpected trials like you’ve experienced are oftentimes the way we best run back to Him, seeking the only peace we can find in that season. What gets extra hard is when life starts to pick back up, and everything suddenly looks different than we remember. We then enter into a new surrender which is new and difficult in its own way. Know that I will be praying for God to reel you back in, tucking you close to His wing as you trust Him in all the uncertainty. You are seen and loved by our good, good Father. Thanks for sharing your heart with me.

  2. Answering God’s requests can be so difficult at times but we know He has a far better plan for us that we do! Rest is certainly an area that I’m not very good in. I schedule my alone time with God every morning for bible reading and prayer. I try to lean into Him throughout the day even in the midst of busyness and chaos. Thank you for the post!

  3. I’ve had the same thing happen to me various times. When I am in a ministry, and God calls me to rest for a while even though the ministry is highly effective, it’s because there is a weariness and exhaustion that happens when you put your all into ministry. Elijah felt the same way when he collapsed after the fire on the altar experience with the prophets of Baal.

    1. I love your connection to the story of Elijah. I hadn’t thought of it in that way. You are so right…it is hard to fight the fatigue and exhaustion and especially difficult to walk away from productive ministry, but it is what needs to be done sometimes to reclaim our joy in the Lord alone.

  4. I love what you said Sarah, “The only way forward was through surrender.” Sometimes surrender is very difficult when our plans are so very different from the Lord’s. Thanks for being a good example and sharing!

  5. I am in an extended season of solitude and rest. I am so very grateful. Sometimes I do miss the instant self esteem of being a professor but I also love my times with the Lord.

  6. I definitely believe God has called me to focus my activity and to rest in Him. I have had to give up some things to walk actively in his will.

  7. The issue of rest is something that I’m still theologically working through. The Sabbath is definitely a command of the OT to commemorate God’s resting on the 7th day. But then enter Jesus and he does his Father’s work on the Sabbath and that’s super radical. Then the NT talks about the “Lord’s Day” rather than the day of rest. It’s a day marked with worship and fellowship, eating and studying. This post stirred up within me that I still haven’t personally come to terms with the idea of a rest day vs. the Lord’s Day – but it’s definitely something to revisit and chew over. I can’t stay in that limbo forever. Thanks for the challenge.

    1. I love that you are wrestling over this topic, as it is one I have ignored until now. There are so many references to the idea of pulling away and resting in both the Old and New Testaments, and so many angles we can contemplate. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on it.

  8. Thank you Sarah for sharing from your heart. So often we think that when we are in ministry we just have to push through, after all we’re doing this for God. But I believe that God put rhythms in our life that need to be obeyed. He desires us to rest and recharge, renew so we can be more effective for Him. We talk a lot about rest with our missionaries, how it is important to take time each week to rest- that sabbath. May God give you a year of not only rest but healing, renewal and an even deeper passion to serve Him!

    1. I think you are right, Corinne. There are rhythms to our walk with Jesus. It is wonderful that you encourage your missionaries to recharge and realign, as their hearts will develop that deeper passion to serve as they carve out their Sabbath rest. Thank you for your encouragement.

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