Last Word: Rest

The lights are back in the loft. The tree has been recycled. The Christmas holidays are long gone. The New Year is but a blur. 2020 has begun in earnest. Do you need another rest? Did you get a good enough rest?

For me it was the constantly reoccurring (and somewhat trying) question of this January – ‘Did you have a good rest?’

How did you answer? What constitutes rest for you? Did you achieve seasonal rest because you managed to read a whole novel, or because your mobile was on silent for a few days? Or was rest realised in the watching of It’s a Wonderful Life at 3pm in your pyjamas? Or is true rest more than all that?

In the opening of Psalm 62, we read, ‘Truly my soul finds rest in God’ or, as the English Standard Version more poetically renders it, ‘For God alone my soul waits in silence’.

Here is a rest that is not just seasonal. Rather, here is a rest that rides above the amount of sleep we had last night and the number of films we watched at Christmas. For in that first verse – penned by King David – we read of a soul at rest.

A modern restlessness

And the lure of this Davidic soul is undoubtedly great. For we live in deeply rest-less times. Indeed, 2020 has already been marked by a restlessness. Whether it be within the Middle East or within the Royal family, it has not been the most peaceful start to the year.

Are we surprised? At the end of 2019 medical researchers spoke of cases of anxiety in the West continuing to rise. According to the education psychologists, in 2019 more British teenagers spoke of fretfulness than ever before. Even the modern interior designers tell us that our souls are craving peace. The American colour experts, Pantone, decided that the colour of the year for 2020 would be a calming shade of azure. The home magazines, hence, tell us to paint our bedrooms ‘anti-anxiety blue’.

In 2020 we may enjoy more days of more seasonal vacation than King David ever dreamed of, but our souls’ search for rest is just as pronounced as his. So where does David’s soul find rest?

Of all the places where men and women seek rest, David finds his rest in the God who made him and saved him. In fact, David not only finds rest in God, but David finds rest in God alone. Truly – he writes – my soul finds rest in Him alone.

An unattainable rest?

As a result, it is rather tempting for many of us to just leave the Psalm there in disappointment. For we recognise that these words are not ours. And, in one sense, of course they are not. They are David’s words. The words of an exceptional king anointed by God. The words of an exceptional man after God’s own heart. The words of an exceptional boy, who famously went to war for God with a peashooter and a few pebbles.

Consequently, it is tempting to think that true rest in God may only be discovered by the super-keen Christian – the bright and bookish Bible study leader, the theological student, the godly pastor, or the remarkable missionary. It is, therefore, tempting to think that this Psalm (and this rest) is not for us.

Yet if we look at the context, we discover that this Psalm may be ours. For although the exceptional David writes it, the often-neglected verse before it tells us that it is for the choir master, Juduthun, who is evidently to play it before the assembly (v. 8).

Hence this song may be the echo of every heart that knows God.

The soul made by and for God

This should come as no surprise. After all, every human heart has been wired by God – has been made for relationship with God. The soul’s rest is found in the maker of the soul.

As the great hymn-writer, John Newton, put it: ‘God formed us originally for Himself, and has [therefore] given the human mind such a vastness of desire, such a thirst for happiness as He alone can answer. And therefore, till we seek our rest in Him, in vain we seek it elsewhere.’

God is not only the resting place for the exceptional Christian’s soul. In fact, God is not even the resting place of just the everyday Christian’s soul. But God – and God alone – is the resting place for every soul.

For, as Newton says, without God we seek rest in vain. Without God we trudge through every year bleary-eyed, desperate for a bed for our souls. Metaphorically we go through our days with this infuriating whirring noise in the background. Only the soul made by Him may find silence.

And so, what a delight to be able to truly rest in God, because of Christ. Wasn’t He the seasonal rest you unwrapped again this year?

‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Matt. 11:28-29).

Jonathan Worsley, Editor

Jonathan Worsley is also pastor of Kew Baptist Church, London