God keeps teaching me about rest, especially as it relates to navigating through life altering grief. Rest is such an important part of the human experience and affects us in profound ways. I’ve discovered rest has many facets. It is essential to our physical health to get enough sleep. There is also a very spiritual aspect of rest with its own impact on our wellbeing. If we don’t take our spiritual rest seriously, there are consequences for our mind, will and emotions.
When I was caring for my husband during his long illness, I didn’t know how to find balanced rest. Especially the last couple years, when my husband needed me to continually take on more of helping him with his physical needs, I was simultaneously inheriting more and more of every household, financial, and practical day to day living responsibilities. When I got all his immediate needs taken care of, there were always mountains of tasks vying for my immediate attention.
I finally had to ask for help and hospice stepped in to begin providing some much needed support. By this point I was so sleep deprived and overwhelmed, my ability to find real rest continued to allude me. I rationalized in my mind there would be plenty of time to rest later. This was not a valid conclusion, but I could not see it at that time.
When my husband moved to heaven, I thought I would now finally be able to sleep and rest. Again, I was wrong. I spent the first three months planning and implementing his memorial services. Then I learned I had to move so I poured all my energy into packing and trying to determine what my future was going to be.
When moving week arrived, so did the covid plandemic. Everyone who promised to help me move backed out due to all the restrictions and I was left alone to make it happen. Fortunately, I found movers willing to do the heavy lifting and get my stuff moved. I followed on my own a few days later.
When I arrived at this new home, in a new state where I knew very few people, I was greeted with being told I needed to self-quarantine for two weeks. Definitely not the welcome I anticipated. When I was finally free to move about, everyone was masked up and afraid to get nearer than six feet, and every church and support organization was closed.
This was not a good place for me. I crashed and crashed hard. Exhaustion combined with heart-breaking grief, and I had no where to go and no one to turn to. The people I thought I could count on were too busy trying to figure out what was happening with the plandemic and its impact on their families, jobs, and lives. I was alone. Alone like I never experienced before.
It was the grace of God that kept me alive during those next months. I finally learned to sleep again. It was erratic and completely out of sync with the world around me. I could sleep for twelve to fifteen hours and then be up for a few hours and go back to sleep. Sometimes I would stay up for twenty four hours or more and then finally sleep again. If I got out to go get groceries or something, I felt like I was in the twilight zone because people didn’t want to talk or get anywhere close.
I prayed and asked God what I was supposed to do now. He kept telling me to rest. Just rest. He would pour thoughts in my head and I journaled a lot, flooding the pages trying to find words to express all the pain and emotions in constant motion inside me. I read my Bible and searched for answers… God always gave me things to consider and kept that flickering hope from being snuffed out completely.
It took me more than a year to get where I could begin to feel physically rested. I didn’t comprehend the toll caregiving took, especially in this most basic aspect. I was still struggling with finding a rhythm, or at least a consistent schedule. Actually falling asleep quickly still alluded me most of the time if I needed or wanted to sleep because I had something I needed to do. What was different was my physical body began to feel stronger and I felt like I was more alert. Instead of feeling like I was an invisible spectator in this world, I was beginning to feel present again.
I moved again as soon as my one year lease was up. I couldn’t wait to get away from a place that was supposed to be a haven to give me time to heal, that turned into a nightmare. The advice to widows to not make a move in the first year if you can help it is great advice. I didn’t feel like I had a choice, and I know the advent of the plandemic came out of nowhere and just blew up everyone’s sense of normal, but it was the worse choice I ever made.
I had an unrealistic hope my life would gain traction and get back to some sense of reasonable and familiar again by returning to a place I loved, a place my husband and I loved together. I still didn’t comprehend the life I had with my husband couldn’t exist now that he is gone. That first year or so was shrouded in a fog that can be likened to a type of state of shock. The fog was lifting and the permanence of his absence from my life was slowly penetrating and becoming real.
I continued to seek God and spend time reading His word. I was reconnecting with a couple friends and in time began to make some new ones. Life’s challenges kept hammering at me in unexpected ways, but I was learning to lean on God and trust Him more. He was still telling me to rest. God showed me His promise about sleep in Proverbs.
I will sleep like a baby, safe and sound— my rest will be sweet and secure. Proverb 3: 24
He taught me to recite this out loud when I wanted to sleep. As I did and trusted Him to help me, I began to learn to fall right asleep after I did this. This was a gamechanger for me. From here I started to get into a more regular routine for sleeping and being awake. I was growing stronger and feeling better. It was easier to think, and I could get more done during my day.
This is when I began to see rest as more than sleep. I was learning to trust God to be here for me, but I was still feeling anxious about a lot of things. I knew the Bible said we are not supposed to be afraid. The Bible has 365 different verses telling us not to be afraid. This is one for every day of the year. Being anxious is just another way of expressing fear. When we have our husband beside us to talk things over with and brainstorm ideas it is a lot easier. When I got worried about things, I always prayed before, but I would cherish the fact I could ask my husband about it and even if he didn’t have an immediate answer, we were able to face it together and eventually work it out. I miss that more than about anything else. It’s really hard to be so vulnerable on my own.
This is where God is drawing me in even closer. He is teaching me to rest in Him. He is teaching me resting is trusting Him. He wants me to trust Him with every concern I have, no matter how big it is or how small it is. Worry seeks to dominate my mind and steal my peace. I can choose with my will to submit that concern to God and let Him handle it. When I do, my emotions can settle down into a relaxed state of rest.
I won’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. I’m saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering my faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. I tell Him every detail of my life, then God's wonderful peace that transcends human understanding guards my heart and mind through Jesus Christ. Philippians 4: 6-7
True resting is believing God will take care of anything and everything I’m concerned about. Like this passage in Philippians explains, I need to decide I won’t let myself get worried. Then I pray. This teaches us prayer is talking to God to tell Him what is on my mind, and then thank Him for handling it for me. God knows exactly what we need and how to get it, so He is the best person to go to. He tells us to share with Him everything going on with us. This gives us a chance to thank Him for all the wonderful things He already did. As we give Him thanks and praise, He promises to fill our hearts with His perfect peace. Resting in our spirit brings peace to our heart and joy to our day.
It is my prayer you will find beautiful rest for both your body and your soul. I pray you can let this change your life for the better starting right now. Even though I’ve been walking with the Lord most of my life, it seems like I go through seasons when I am better at hearing and following what God tells me, and other seasons where I feel like I am learning my basic lessons all over again. I’m very thankful God is so patient with me, and that His faithfulness never falters. This journey is tough. With God all things are possible.
Not one promise from God is empty of power. Nothing is impossible with God! Luke 1: 37