“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest.” (Hebrews 4:9)

“The LORD gave them rest on every side.” (Joshua 21:44)

On the first Monday in January, I lost my job unexpectedly due to a re-org and came down with Omicron a week later.  This was on the heels of a car accident, chronic sinus infections, and a broken toe that significantly slowed me down. In February, my boyfriend and I took a step back from romance to friendship.  I bowed out of my half marathon. And, on the last day of the month, I was runner-up to a job I wanted. All the while, I was trying to birth my new book, A Wilder Eden, into the world. 

In short, the Lord gave me rest on (literally) every side. Physically, professionally, relationally. My world – as I knew it – stopped spinning. I woke up to nothing on my schedule – there was no Zoom meeting to attend, no training workout to do, no date night on the books.. I was flat. It didn’t feel like rest. It felt like death.  The death of my dreams.  The death of my identity.  The death of my rhythm of life as I knew it. The death of deferred hopes. And as Lent started, all I could do was surrender. I was about to be living on pennies and a dream. In many ways, I felt like the Israelites: 

“What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? For it would have been better to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 13:11-14).

You see, sometimes when God takes us out of whatever Egypt we’re in and into the wilderness, we’re terrified. We’re entering new territory. A place where we can’t rely on ourselves because we simply don’t know where we are. Deep down, we do want “rest on every side” (just like the Israelites wanted rest from the Egyptians), but the rest we long for is often that everything in our lives – physically, emotionally, relationally, financially, and professionally – is all buttoned up in a perfect bow at the same time – not in shambles. 

The last thing we want to do in the wilderness is rest and take care of our souls. We go into self-protection mode. Who has time to rest in the wilderness?  We’re striving after resources, shade, allies, directions, and protection. Why would we strive to enter His rest?  If we stand still, we will surely die. But God asks us to do the opposite – He invites us into the currency of grace.  He invites us into dependence, not independence. He invites us into relationship with Himself as sons and daughters – not forsaken, self-sufficient orphans.  

So, how do we take care of our souls in the wilderness? 

Believe in God’s Daily Provision

While we rarely know rest on every side in this life, we can experience spiritual rest on every side by believing in God’s daily provision. Of manna (daily bread from heaven), Exodus 16:16 says, “Gather as much as you need.” Nothing more, nothing less. He asks the Israelites to trust Him to be their daily bread. When the Israelites tried to store up manna for the next day, it became spoiled with worms. In the same way, our daily trust is ruined by the worms of fear, striving, and self-sufficiency. We cannot stockpile grace. We cannot stockpile provision because He wants us to come to Him daily! He will prove himself faithful. 

Surrender Your own Righteousness 

The symbolism of the Sabbath runs deeper than God taking a break from the work of creation in the Garden of Eden. It serves as a principle of rest in the perfect work of Jesus Christ. When we rest from our striving, we are declaring that hiding in the cleft of His rock is better than any amazing things we can muster up ourselves.  To embrace rest is to receive His love.

And unless we lay down our own efforts, we will never be able to receive from the Giver of Life. Remember, we don’t have to do anything to win His approval or blessings – we just need to be, resting in His own ability to cover us with His own righteousness.

Rest so That He can Rescue You 

You’re relying on daily manna. You’re leaning on Christ’s perfect work.  Now what?  His promises for our lives surely will come to pass, so let’s stop wrestling and let the Lord fight for us. The battle is His to win, so lay down your weapons, and let the Lord lead you to the other side. Be still. He is working and advocating for you even while you’re doing nothing:

“No eye has seen a God besides you who acts for those who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4)

He stands ready to act on your behalf. We are told the Holy Spirit is an “Advocate”: you have someone standing in the courtroom speaking on your behalf to defend, protect, and rescue you. To uphold your reputation. To do everything when you feel like you can do nothing. Even Jesus took a nap in the boat in the middle of a storm — not because He didn’t care, but because He was in control. And so is God. He is in control of every detail of your life, and He will act for you as you wait on Him. 

It’s true; resting in the desert with God is a bit crazy. But we are to make every effort to enter His rest (Hebrews 4:10). Rest is different from being sedentary, and in the desert, our rest is very much active.

 

God’s primary goal is not to force you into survival mode or survival of the fittest. His purpose is to make you dependent so your ability to thrive lies in staying by streams of water. 

Resting on every side isn’t easy. It isn’t natural for us to let God advocate and fight for us and for our dreams. Culture tells us to take ownership of what we want and to ‘go for it.’ But, when we reach the end of ourselves, we reach the beginning of Him. And, it is the very essence of being – not doing – that strengthens our faith and ability to watch Him perform the miracles, large or small, that we so desperately long for. To watch for the glory in the gap, the cleft of the Rock of His grace. And that’s a good place to abide.

Emily Jansen
Emily Jansen

Emily Jansen is an author, marketing, branding communications professional, and a global citizen at heart. With roots in Maryland, Emily resides in Austin, TX today. She spent much of her early career in Washington, D.C. and formerly lived in Kenya and Korea on volunteer and professional assignments. She is passionate about empowering women to embrace their stories with charisma, courage, and confidence. She is a life-long learner, earning her B.A. in Communications from the University of Maryland and an M.S. in Marketing from Johns Hopkins University, and a student of classical piano for more than 20 years. Emily loves to write poetry, sing in her church band, teach piano, compete in triathlons, travel, cook, and be Auntie Emmy to many children. Emily sits on the board of She Saves a Nation, a non-profit that supports marginalized young women in East Africa. One day, she hopes to start her own series B corporation in fitness philanthropy.

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