The art of rest

The view from Castelluccio di Norcia in Umbria, Italy.(Photo: Unsplash/Matteo Kutufa)

We have recently come back from an incredible holiday in Italy. I do not take for granted the fact that we could get away at all – we took the decision that, due to the particularly difficult 18 months we've had as a family we needed to have a good break away, but we were on tenterhooks right up until the day we left as we knew friends' flights had been cancelled.

We were even sat on the runway for an hour, concerned that we were going to be told to disembark as the flight could no longer go. But, fortunately, we made it to the eccentric and spacious villa that my husband had found, surrounded by breathtaking Umbrian scenery, taking my dad abroad for the first time in many years (he'd been mum's carer up until she died, just before the pandemic hit).

I am normally one who delights in sitting on the first day, surrounded by guidebooks looking up where we can visit, creating an itinerary for the rest of the holiday. This time, I found that I had absolutely no energy to do more than sit and read, leaving the planning to my husband – who did a fantastic job.

While I usually gain great pleasure in being involved, I struggled to help him shortlist the places he'd flagged up – such was the tiredness that had reached deep down into my bones. I certainly understood that my body and soul needed total rest, and I gave myself the time and space to do that.

It is a message that has been coming through loud and clear from many different sources – my daughter and I have been reading The Lord is My Courage by K J Ramsey (Zondervan) together, which takes a short phrase from each line of Psalm 23 as the title and focus of each chapter while wrestling with the big issues of suffering and spiritual abuse.

And my husband ended our 'summer in the Psalms' series last weekend by preaching on rest. I have found that recent conversations with friends have often ended up being about trying to find the right balance in life, and making space for rest too. I have turned to God regularly this summer and said: Yes, I am listening!!

I know that as we enter a new term, there will be new challenges and things that will take my energy and time, and I am certain the same will be true for you. It is so important that we don't lose those precious moments in every day in which we can stop, take stock, be before God and simply breathe him in – however that works best for us.

If we don't rest, we risk our health – spiritually but physically and mentally too. Please don't hear what I am not saying with this, but I have had experience myself, and watched others experience the same, of God allowing particular ailments in order to 'make us lie down in green pastures' because we weren't resting ourselves (one friend kept being given Psalm 23 before she had an operation and even found that her hospital room was painted green!).

Our God is a gentle, loving father, and he knows that we need to rest – so here's a gentle encouragement as we move into September to ensure you give yourself time to rest regularly this term.

I was challenged by a reminder my husband gave in his preaching: that the traditional Jewish week starts with Sabbath; a meal at sundown on the Friday evening. He commented that 'our weeks usually kick off with the Monday morning alarm clock going off – we then work like mad through the week to collapse at the weekend ... With their calendar you work from a place of rest rather than resting from a place of exhaustion.'

He went on to say that Sabbath is a huge statement of trust in God, basically saying: I'm starting my week with a meal then sleep – safe in the knowledge that God's got this coming week! Is that something we can say? Let's remember as we start this new term that we can rest in his care.

Claire Musters is a writer, speaker and editor who blogs at Her most recent books are Every Day Insights: Disappointment and Loss and Grace-Filled Marriage. The latter was written with her husband, and they have provided a series of free videos to accompany the book, which can be accessed on the Big Church Read website. Claire also writes and edits for Premier Woman Alive and Christianity magazines and is the host of the Woman Alive Book Club.