Finding Rest in a Busy Life: Is It Possible?

Finding rest in a busy life seems a contradiction of terms. Rest evokes images of stillness, while a busy life requires endless to-do lists to keep oneself organized. I’m a master of creating a to-do list. I throw everything on it —sometimes even things like Shower or Eat Lunch—simply for the joy of crossing them off the list. List-making anchors me but can also imprison me. Inevitably, more items get added to the list each day than get crossed off. I think what I need is more time to get more done; what God tells me over and again is that I need more rest.

It is useless for you to work so hard
    from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
    for God gives rest to his loved ones.

Psalm 127:2 NLT

I utter a hearty, “yes, please” to the idea of more rest, but my vision of rest is that it can only happen once I’ve finished doing everything on my to-do list. Then I can rest. But this isn’t God’s vision of rest. The wise psalmist, Solomon, tells us it’s “useless” to try to accomplish everything on my list, working feverishly throughout the day just to get it done. God’s invitation is to rest in the midst of the to-do list. How in the world are we to do that?

We humans have a tendency to try to white-knuckle our way through a packed schedule, as if sheer force of will is powerful enough to multiply time for us. But we are not time travelers and we cannot add a single minute to the 1,440 minutes allotted to us each day.

There’s got to be another way to find rest in a busy life

Solomon’s father, David, paints another image of rest in the midst of busyness for us in his famous 23rd Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…He restores me soul.

Psalm 23:1-3

In this passage, we are the sheep and the Lord is our shepherd. Sheep have an innate, insatiable urge to eat. Put them in a green pasture and they will eat. Eating is the work they do, even if they’re not hungry. A sheep would never lie down in a green pasture unless it had a stronger pull to listen to the voice of its shepherd saying, “Come, rest with me awhile.”

The image in both of these passages is the same. Because God is our good shepherd, we have no need to worry about our to-do lists. This isn’t an invitation to laziness but an invitation to pause and remember who is more powerful than the unfinished work we see in front of us. We work frenetically because we lack faith in the only One who will see us through.

A practice to try

I have recently set an alarm on my watch mid-afternoon to remind me to pause. When I stop for five-ten minutes of stillness and quiet with my Lord, I find he settles the churning in my heart and spirit and gives me greater clarity to know how to prioritize and finish my day’s work. As with most aspects of a life of faith, there is mystery even in time management. Pausing in my busy life to find rest in my Father’s gaze mysteriously seems to multiply time rather than subtract it.

Taking time daily to put my work on hold reminds me who my good Father is and that I am his beloved daughter. Stilling myself in the presence of my Lord—even for just five minutes at a time—has helped me in finding rest in a busy life.

He restores my soul, five minutes at a time.

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