I love summer. I love the sun, the freedom, the fun. It’s glorious and makes me feel like a kid, and I love feeling like a kid. But the beginning of this one has been different than expected. I’ve faced restlessness and the deeper reality in its wake. So this has been my aim thus far: to relearn about true rest. I know what rest physically looks like in the pressured, busy season, but what does it look like in the freer, less-scheduled season?
As I finished my semester with a range of emotions, I yearned for the time when I would be “free,” when I could do all the things I’d wanted to do, when I could finally rest.
I sought to find rest and enjoyment in the fun things – in time with friends and my nanny girls, in exercising, shopping, creating, taking fun pictures – in the regular activities that typically serve as avenues of rest for me, but I remained restless. And the subtle anxiety of that restlessness began to show up everywhere. No deep sense of rest could be found, not even in my time with the Lord. After a semester of ingesting over 1,000 pages of theology, about 12-15 books of the Bible, and several counseling books, it was as if I felt bloated, unable to take in anything more. I needed to digest, to process all the Lord had taught me before endeavoring to study more in my time with Him. I called out to Him, "Revive me, my Father; restore my love for and devotion to you! Stir my heart’s affection for you and remove anything that is keeping me from intimacy with you."
After days of feeling spiritually bloated and yearning for true rest and nearness to the Lord, He answered my cry for mercy and plea for clarity, revival, and restoration. My husband, dog, and I went on vacation this past weekend to see some friends. As we drove to VA, the Lord used the scenes on our route to begin to stir my heart. Wide open spaces, rolling hills, old towns and visions of past thriving life, I couldn’t take them in quickly enough. I felt my soul engaging the Lord. A longing in my heart at these sights began to arise, a longing that only He can know or understand, a longing that only He can satisfy.
The uncomplicated beauty mesmerized me.
The glory of God’s creation cultivated a deeper desire for heaven, and I felt my soul begin again to enjoy the freedom I’ve known for years.
I declare the praises of the Lord, for He is faithful. So many answered prayers came as He stripped away the familiar. On our vacation the only haven I knew in those quiet, empty moments was communion with Him. While I was getting ready or waiting on others. While things were quiet. While on the beach watching my dog really be a dog (haha – fetching in the water). While taking in new things. While putting my phone down. I shared it all with the Spirit and enjoyed it to the full because of the intimacy of His presence. No lettering, no calling a friend, no typical/normal/familiar activities. Just the sweetness of communion with the God who loves me and wants all of my heart.
Here’s what He made clear.
In the busy, I yearned for God. He has graciously made me quick to recognize that I can’t do life without Him. I firmly believe He must be my source if I am to do anything of lasting value or glorify Him in any of my many responsibilities.
But in the slow, I fell to the temptation of yearning less for God and more for the “freedom” that the lack of busyness “promises.” No homework, no papers, no responsibilities (or at least a lot fewer). Life was about to be great or doable or relaxing again. But that’s the problem with hoping in, trusting in, and worshiping lesser things – aka gods (the façade of freedom and fun for me). These gods offer promises that they can’t ever fulfill. The lesser things – time with friends, creating, vacation – though good and precious gifts from God, cannot provide for me the life, joy, and freedom that I desire, that I was created to desire.
“He has put eternity into man’s heart…” Ecclesiastes 3:11
All these lesser things can offer is a fleeting taste and a temporary, cheap counterfeit of what our hearts truly long for. They will never be enough, and if we are not careful, we will run back to them again and again and find ourselves enslaved, burdened, and hopeless.
"He satisfies the longing soul…" Psalm 107:9
"For I will satisfy the weary soul…" Jeremiah 31:25
The reality is that my heart yearns for the day I’m with Jesus forever. For Sabbath rest, for transcendent peace, for abundant life, for deep and abiding joy. These yearnings aren’t always clear on the surface, and we can fall temptation to looking to those lesser things to satisfy and fill what only God is capable of satisfying and filling. He faithfully showed me once again that when I look anywhere other than the Author and Giver of these precious gifts, I will never be satisfied. I will be restless.
Praise God for that restlessness.
If you are experiencing anything similar, consider these questions for further processing - then share them with the Lord and with a friend.
- Where are you sensing restlessness?
- What if you saw it as grace from God to point to the deeper reality in your heart?
- Can you articulate the deeper longings and the places where you fall temptation to seeking temporary fillings?
- Where are you searching to find joy and life?
- Are you content to simply be in the presence of God? To enjoy Him and commune with Him?
I think we struggle with this kind of restlessness more than we realize. In a culture so engulfed with temporary fixes and fear of boredom, we find ourselves restless in spending time with God. I urge you to truly consider this, and ask the Lord to reveal more of Himself to you, more of your heart to you, and more of the precious joy of communing with Him. Because He alone satisfies. Nothing less will ever come close.