He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams…
Anyone tired? Anyone feeling burdened down by the demands of life? Not sure how to pack it all in to 24 hours? Exhausted by worry, fear, illness? Do I hear a loud resounding YES?
For me today, I’m weary of this world that we live in. I’ve spent my workday thinking and talking about how young people are so stressed and how mental health problems are on the rise, all the while wondering how my little 1 year old daughter will cope when she’s at that stage. I’ve listened to the news and read on social media about abortion bills, racism, murder trials involving teenagers, and as if that all isn’t bad enough, the comments and opinions that people express so freely just show the disconnect (at best) and evil (at worst) that surround us. And I’m so very weary of it all.
I need a break from social media and reminder that there is rest to be found. Anyone with me?
This psalm speaks of the Good Shepherd leading his flock to meadows, pastures, quiet and peace. Those words are all so evocative, aren’t they? If someone is asked to go to their “happy place”, it’ll quite often be a variation of a meadow with a stream running through it. Sun-dappled, rippling grass, no sound except the breeze in the trees and the gentle tinkle of the water. Sounds blissful… Restful. Just what we all need!
Last night, for the first night in over a year, I took a walk along our country road. It was beautiful. There is no stream, but the setting sun over the fields, the sounds of the cows and sheep, and the smell of the hawthorn hedges took me back to my childhood and helped me relax.
Tonight I could’ve – and should’ve – done it again, but didn’t because I had too much to do. Of course.
Why is it that we so often forget or neglect to rest, both physically and mentally? Why are we so reluctant to switch off –in fact, why have tiredness and stress become almost something to brag about? It’s almost a competition as to who is busiest and who is the most stressed, and yet we all know that stress is baaadddd for us, and that tiredness can lead to illness. So why don’t we just stop?
Smart phones, Netflix, working-from-home, deadlines – we can blame all of these and more, but the reality is, human beings need stillness and rest.
And the Bible repeatedly tells us of the best rest we can have.
The psalmist in Psalm 23 describes it as when a shepherd leads his flock to lush pastures and plentiful water. Life-giving, nourishing, restorative, and restful.
In fact, many of the psalms talk about rest. Have a look at these, for example:
Elsewhere, we read of being able to sleep soundly, untouched by evil (Prov. 19:23). We hear of mercies which are new every morning ( Lam. 3:23) – this is one of my personal favourites: even before we open our eyes in the morning, we can bask in his mercy for the day ahead. In the New Testament, Jesus encourages us to leave our burdens with him (Matt. 11:28-30). And in Mark 6:31, we see him encouraging his disciples to come away and rest, even though there was lots of work to be done. Interesting…
We need to rest. Whatever our weariness is, we need to lay it down at Jesus’ feet and bathe in his healing, his mercy, his love. You may feel like you’re in a desert rather than in a lush green meadow, but even in the desert, God is there and he wants to give you peace and rest, and therefore the strength to carry on.
There is manna from heaven
And mercies new…
God is still here in this desert too
God is still here by JJ Heller
Think of how tenderly God treated an exhausted, drained, and fearful Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Elijah was on the verge of giving up on God’s calling on his life. He even wanted to die. So God firstly rejuvenated him with food and sleep. Then he spoke to him, guided him on his way, and provided him with a faithful and helpful companion, Elisha.
Our Good Shepherd leads us to rest. And if you’ll allow me to change the metaphor, our Father is big enough and strong enough to take all our worries and anxieties and weariness, and replace them with a peace, security and reassurance that we cannot comprehend.
As I write, the aforementioned 1 year old is snoring away happily. She doesn’t have a to-do list running through her mind at night. She’s not lying awake worrying that she messed the house up too much today, or that she’s not going to fit in enough playtime tomorrow… She’s fed and loved and warm, she is secure, and she will (hopefully) sleep for a sound 12 hours, without one concern or fear in her little head.
HOW MUCH MORE can God do this for us?! He can lead us to the meadows and the streams where we can rest and be renewed. His truth can nourish us. His love can encompass us. His hand can guide us. His sovereign promises can give us the confidence and security we need to lie down for a while.
And like a child, we can rest.
Be still and know that he is God,
Be still and know he is our Father.
Come rest your head upon his breast,
Listen to the rhythm of his unfailing heart of love
Beating for his little ones, calling each of us to come…
Be Still by Steven Curtis Chapman – try closing your eyes and really listening to this one.