I wrote this article a handful of months ago, in the thick of CPAP. I never published it. And then today, our pastor gave a whole message on rest. I thought back to this article as I sat in the congregation this morning. It was burning a hole inside of me and I knew I just had to read through it the minute I got home. I was encouraged as I read through it again this afternoon. I think in the busyness of life, I have been caught up in the frantic pace of it all lately. It was such a great reminder to me in every season, I need to make soul rest my priority…
I looked over, the red numbers blaring into my sleep-deprived eyes saying it was 2:30am., my ears aching at the sound of my youngest screaming. I had just fallen asleep after laying her down not even an hour earlier. I didn’t know how to get out of bed to tend her needs yet again when I was about to fall over from pure exhaustion.
Starting to cry, the silent tears escaped my eyes as everything in me wanted to let out a scream of my own.
As my mouth began to open, I felt the Holy Spirit calm my heart. His comfort pouring over me as I began to remind myself this was not her fault. She was not screaming because she wanted me to lose sleep. She was upset because of the circumstances. The circumstances that were far beyond any control of hers or my own.
I looked down at the pack ‘n play by my bedside. With only God’s strength within me, I rolled out of bed and scooped her up. Readjusting her CPAP mask that she recently started wearing due to severe sleep apnea, I walked her over to the glider chair. I put my feet up and began humming to soothe her.
I had been pleading with God over the past few weeks to change the circumstances. My body was physically tired, my emotions were spent and I didn’t know how I would survive one more night of no sleep. Nineteen months in and our road with Bernadette had been anything but easy. Heart surgeries started her off with a bang and adjusting to life with a child with Down syndrome was unlike how I imagined it. Incredibly beautiful in the most unsuspecting ways yet not without its own set of curveballs.
Here I sat, my daughter in my arms, once again acknowledging my humanity, my limitations, and my desire for physical rest.
“Show me, Lord.” I sat silently rocking, searching my heart. The battle was raging inside of me; the battle of the flesh verses the spirit each trying to win the other over. My flesh wanting sleep, my soul needing care. The physical exhaustion constantly winning the war, as I would give into the sleep or use it to excuse my shortness with my kids.
My thoughts wandered to the beginning part of Genesis. The moment sin entered into the world with the Fall. A single decision changed everything, creating a separation between God and man leaving a world aching with the effects of sin. Working hard to create a living to the point of physical exhaustion, tilling the very ground that was now cursed. I imagined that peaceful garden in all of its beauty and calmness before the work and struggle entered.
As I sat there in the glider, I cried out to God for physical sleep. Day after day, I arose to the duties of being a mom to three kids ages five and under. And each night I continued in the role of caretaker, attempting to help my daughter sleep through the night with a mask all while knowing I still had her two other sisters to answer to the next morning. All I wanted was to rest my weary head.
Who do I cry to when I feel overwhelmed? Where do I turn when I need help?
I recalled various Psalms where David cried out to God to be his safe refuge in the midst of the turmoil around him, although under completely different circumstances than I was facing but still speaking to the very same God I was calling on that night in the glider.
God would give David the rest he needed. He would be his refuge in time of trouble, his rest for David’s weary soul.
It hit me that night, the night I almost lost my mind. My body may never be fully rested to my human standards ever again. The feelings of being tired and experiencing pure exhaustion are what comes with raising small children. It’s the kind of tired I have never experienced before in my life but is more real than it has ever been before. What if I never feel physically rested again?
My soul cried out. I wanted that feeling, the “I-can-take-on-the-world” because my body is well-rested. As I sat there rocking Bernadette, I looked down and started to realize it was more than just physical exhaustion I was feeling. I was also soul tired.
In the everyday focussing in on my kids and my husband and all the things that entails, I was forgetting to care for the very core of my being. I was still praying here and there, I was certainly attempting to have that time with the Lord daily, but I will be honest. My eyes would skim the page and my heart would offer up words, but it wasn’t getting to the core of me.
“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.” Matthew 11:29
God, in His infinite love for us, provides us with a place we can rest our weary souls. Even if that means our circumstances that surround us never change.
There is a way to feel rested in the midst of the chaos of life but it is not the rest I was seeking. Rest for my soul. The kind where even when the world around me feels like it is crumbling before my eyes, looking into the innermost core of my being and saying that it is ok because God is with me, He is in me, and He is in this. He’s got this.
“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2
The tears continued to drip down as I started to feel as if I were coming to a major epiphany, one of those moments I will remember the rest of my life as I looked out into the darkness and realized my circumstances would not change anytime in the foreseeable future, but God, He is my rest. He is all things to me. He is my strength when I feel like I cannot possibly take one more step. He is my comfort when I feel overwhelmed with heartache over the trauma we have experienced. He is my refuge. He is where I turn to in times of struggle. He is my everything.
The physical exhaustion will not change in this season, but the inner soul-weariness is something I am daily bringing up to the Lord as I seek His Word to find the rest my soul needs and that He talks about giving me in His Word. Spending time with Him will be the rest I need. My physical body may not be fully rested but soul rest can coexist alongside the physical exhaustion. God, by His grace, through His Spirit and His Word, is leading me into places of rest, in Him.