*Top 5 Post of 2022. Rest and solitude are vital to creating time and space for Jesus to restore our souls. When we experience extended stress, grieve deep losses, or face significant trials, we need to recognize the signs and impact of weariness and exhaustion. Discover the importance of making time to attend to mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. The benefits of intentional rest and solitude bring healing and refreshment, enabling us to move forward with fresh energy, deeper faith, and greater wisdom.
A special welcome to all who are weary. I offer you a very personal post with a few things I’m learning about recovering from a long season of stress, grief, and loss. I pray this post will help you find needed rest for your soul. This post resonated with thousands of readers, ranking in the front page of Google for rest and solitude.
I watched my younger sister take her last breath early on a cold November morning last year.
In August 2021, my younger sister was officially diagnosed with ALS, after experiencing muscle weakness since January. The progression of her disease was extremely quick, making each day a new challenge. It was like living in a puzzle with new problems to solve just as you figure out how to work around the last loss of strength.
A few months later, she could barely move and struggled to breathe. Death came as a merciful blessing as the Lord welcomed her into eternity, free from the pain of this life. Even in my grief, I knew this truth in the core of my being.
Somehow, Christ can give us the miraculous capacity to know devastating grief and deep joy in the same moment.
Caring for a loved one with ALS is beyond heart breaking. It demands a physical, emotional, and spiritual stamina like nothing I have ever encountered. In the challenge, I leaned in hard to Jesus and did whatever I could to help and support. God gave me strength I could not muster on my own.
Walking through the valley of the shadow of death with my sister was a brutal but sacred journey of love and grace.
And it was exhausting on every level, but the gift of being there as much as possible provides great comfort as I get used to life without her presence this side of heaven.
When We Need a Deeper Rest
In the complexity of our lives, we all have moments when we need to step out of the fray to catch our breath. For instance, after a hard day we look forward to relaxing in the evening. Bring on the Netflix! Sunday afternoons are perfect for napping, and vacation days are welcome respites on our yearly calendar.
When difficult days multiply into a longer journey, weariness seeps into our bones. Fatigue becomes part of us rather than something temporary we feel in the moment. Our feet keep moving, but our soul struggles to keep pace when circumstances stretch the limits of our capacity.
Oh yes friend, when our reserves are depleted over a long period of time it takes so much more than a good night’s sleep to feel rested. The cumulative effect of carrying a heavy burden impacts us more than we may realize. Unlike physical rest, soul rest is a gift from God.
After my sister died came funeral arrangements and the work of executing her estate. God enabled me to press through to do what needed to be done–thank goodness! I’m deeply grateful for the help of my husband, children, and dear friends who pitched in to lighten the load. Once her beautiful home was emptied and sold, God made it clear: Now is a recovery time to process and grieve in rest and solitude.
Have you ever experienced the weariness of long-term stress or great loss? How did God meet you in that difficult season?
Recognizing Signs that You Need Rest
This list is not exhaustive, but here are a few of the signs that I needed to make time for rest and solitude.
- The mess is overwhelming. Traveling 1-2 weeks each month made it difficult to keep up with life. As I came to the end of 10 trips in 12 months, my house was a cluttered wreck. After bringing home too many boxes from my sister’s, I avoided walking in my office as if the room might implode if I put one more thing in there.
- Decision fatigue. I had decision fatigue after nearly a year of going through mountains of paperwork and family memorabilia. When you just stand looking at an item, frozen with indecision again…it might be time for a rest.
- Mental fog. When I tried to catch up with writing work, my mental fog was so thick I couldn’t see through it to string words together in any coherent way. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to read anything I might have written in that state.
- Grieving loss of a loved one. Our experience with grief differs from person to person, but the emotions grief brings will not be squelched. Tears come with no notice and the ache in your soul presses in heavy.
- Shutting down. Part of my work involves regular engagement with social media. Even the thought of opening my phone to post something made me shut down. I didn’t want to even open instagram or facebook for months. Some people share all their hard things in the public forum of social media, but I realize I am a very private person when I am in the midst of difficult days.
- Disrupted sleep. There can be lots of reasons for insomnia, but my sleep patterns were restless. I often awoke a few hours after going to sleep. Sometimes, reading would help. Other times I would toss and turn most of the night.
- Distraction. When our challenges are consuming (and sometimes they are), it is hard to be fully present with God, others, and even ourselves. Focus can be hard to find when weariness saps our mental energy.
- Impact of physical health. Regular and healthy meals are often some of the first things to go when we are too busy to eat properly. We can experience the same loss of routine with exercise and physical strength. During this season, I had to cancel multiple doctor visits due to unexpected challenges that required my assistance. Now that life is settling down, I am catching up on check ups and routine evaluations.
- God seems distant. In the worst of my sister’s illness, God felt very present. I am grateful God gave me sustaining words of encouragement on a regular basis. As the task of caring for my sis became more physically demanding, I had little time or energy to have my “normal quiet times.” After her passing, grief clouded my felt-sense of God’s presence. For a time, I felt God was distant. I realize now that He was with me in my grief, giving space to feel what needs to be felt. I interpreted silence as absence, but that is not the case.
These are a few signs of weariness I experienced. Your experience may be different. The point is to recognize the impact exhaustion has on your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. As we see our need, we are more ready to make time for rest and solitude.
Jesus Invites Us to Rest and Solitude
In Mark 6, Jesus sends the twelve disciples out in pairs for ministry. Here’s a peek at what they experienced in an intense time of ministering:
“They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.”—Mark 6:12-13 MSG
Can you imagine the excitement, energy, and challenges they faced? In the next section of Mark 6 we read about the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist. Consider the level stress and grief Jesus and the disciples must have felt.
After a busy time of ministry Jesus said to his disciples “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while.”—Mark 6:31 NASB
Some kinds of rest cannot happen in the busyness and chaos of life.
Jesus understood the importance of stepping away from crowds and all the doing. This crew had been so busy, they hadn’t even had time to eat.
Reading the remainder of Mark 6, we learn that coming-away involved traveling by boat to another place. As it turned out, the boat ride was the only rest they got. The crowds followed them to the other side. Maybe the disciples would have preferred to have more time before the needs of others crowded into a time for rest. I’ve certainly felt that way when my rest is interrupted, haven’t you?
It was enough.
Having compassion on the people, Jesus ministered to them. At the end of the day, all were hungry and tired. Consider the timing as Jesus feed 5000 people with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread.
Not enough food. Not by a long shot.
The need was tremendous. The lack was far greater than the available supply.
Don’t you just love the heart of Jesus? In a miracle of multiplication, what they had was more than enough.
Maybe there is an application for rest hidden in this part of the story. Maybe not. But one thing is true–Jesus can redeem our not-enough, providing more than we have and more than we need. #rest #soulcare Click To Tweet
Be encouraged with another beautiful truth in this part of the story: Compassionate Jesus is never too weary to meet us in our need. For the remainder of this post, I’m going to focus on Jesus’ invitation to “come away to a secluded place to rest.”
The Benefit of Solitude to Help Us Rest
Solitude is defined as “the state or situation of being alone.” Merely being alone is not a cure-all for restoring our souls, though it is helpful.
In this passage, I think Jesus has something deeper and more restorative than simply being alone physically. Coming away is a purposeful action, whether physically or mentally. Solitude can happen on a back porch, on a walk, or in a local park.
Coming away may involve going a different place, but it can also include changing schedules or lightening responsibilities.
The invitation to come way for respite involves rest that meets the needs of the moment–the needs Jesus understands far better than we do (Matthew 11:28-30).
In the Bible, the word for secluded is also translated as desolate, desert, wilderness or solitary. Interestingly, Jesus can redeem our desert places–the wastelands of the worst of our experiences. In this case, coming away to a secluded place opens the door to rest…and restoration.
True Spiritual Rest Happens When We Get Alone with Jesus
In order to make this easy to remember, let’s boil it down to three simple ingredients for rest after a season of intense ministry. I believe these same elements are also key in recovering from seasons of stress, major projects, loss, or trials.
- Come away.
- By yourself.
- With Jesus.
We often hit one or two of these steps, but our best rest happens when we incorporate all three elements.
Rest and Solitude Create Space to Attend to Our Souls
No matter the cause of busyness or stress, the call of urgent matters demand immediate attention and our soul needs take a back seat. Again. And again.
In our fast-paced culture we make daily sacrifices at the shrine of productivity, one of the idols of this digital age. In the thrum of activity, overloaded schedules, and countless commitments, rest often feels uncomfortable.
Solitude seems strangely unfamiliar. Solitude and rest feel like luxuries we can’t afford in the currency of efficiency.
Solitude and rest are for the soul what nutrition and oxygen are for the body. Click To Tweet
They are necessary practices to sustain the life of a healthy soul. Would we stop eating because we feel like it is a wasteful indulgence? Would we stop breathing because we think we don’t have enough time to spare? You get my point, right?
Solitude helps us to commune with Christ in a soul-restoring way.
With Jesus–this is the most important secret to restoring our souls.
When Christ is in our solitude and rest, there is mental, spiritual, and emotional space for God to work. In the quiet, God often shows us truths we easily miss in the pressure of the trials we face. We can lay down our burdens (1 Peter 5:7). His Word ministers to our needy soul.
“My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.”–Psalm 119: 25
Through His Spirit, God does what we cannot accomplish on our own to create inner harmony in the deep places we cannot reach.
God gave me these words on rest in Holy in the Moment:
“Healing for sin’s disease, respite for weariness, mercy for every need—rest is experiencing the restoration of God’s work in our lives, making us holy and whole. Rest is knowing our deepest needs are met in Christ: we are loved, forgiven, and accepted. It is finding our adequacy and confidence in Him.”
Commit to Make time for Rest and Solitude
If you find yourself frayed and ragged with weariness, would you commit to make time to rest with Jesus? Offer your willingness to come away, to seek solitude, and trust Him to provide.
Even if you do not have large blocks of time, try to incorporate time to be with God as often as you can for period of time. Could you let go of a few activities or delegate a responsibility or two? Ask your family to help you to create time to rest.
How long will it take?
I cannot say.
There is no set rule or formula.
But this I know: when you enter the resting place with Jesus, you can trust Him to restore your soul.
Do you sense the invitation of Jesus to come away to rest? What would it take to make time for rest and solitude in your life? I’d love for you to share how you make time for rest in your life in the comments below.
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