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The Deep Rest of the Soul: How Worship Centers and Then Sends Us Amid Life’s Turmoil

"But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore." Ps. 131:2-3

There is a kind of rest that is needed deep in our souls. More than ever, we tend to seek solitude from the storms of life that present themselves, both near and far. But it's not found where I thought it might be.

Many things have been spinning through my mind and my heart these past days: newborn grand-twins still in ICU; two upcoming conferences and much travel this week; and resolving relational discord between parties within our faith family, to name a few. So, today was a day off and a chance step away from all of that to do some physical yard work that's been hanging over me and push back the other stresses from my psyche for a time.

Expecting a great day, I woke up to a torrential downpour! "Still," I told myself, "I'll go get the rental trailer and..." an epic fail ensued as the vendor's wiring was not working - after spending an hour in the rain hitching up, unhitching, etc.! It's the kind of upset to a schedule that causes the aggravation that takes my eyes off God's grace and mercy. My escape into my private tasks did not present the kind of peace I truly need!

So, in a huff I came home, made a cup of tea, and decided maybe, now that I had no pressing tasks, I should take the quiet time with God I pushed off in my hurry to get my mission accomplished! As it would happen, today's reading was brief - Psalm 131, with its encouragement to 'calm and quiet my soul'. But even in its brevity I found immense wisdom for the journey.

I was struck by one commentary's wisdom in clarifying these verses: "Inner quietness is not a retreat into self-centeredness, but it is an inner-centeredness from which we reach out to others."[1]

This psalm teaches us a huge lesson about worship - both private and public. The fruit of our spending time with God is not that we retreat further into ourselves to run from the world and its annoyances. It's that our time with God, infused with the rock-solid promises of God's sovereignty and omnipresence, ensure that we don't face any of it alone. Nor is there anything that has caught him off-guard. Rather, we can exhale and remember the famous words of another psalm: "Be still and know that I am God" (46:10).

The believer can be assured that it is in immersing ourselves in the worship of God that we find the deep rest of the soul. And we, in the manner of the Psalmist, can in turn exhort our brothers and sisters in the faith and strengthen their journey by encouraging them to trust the God who can be trusted!

As we see from the perfect relationship within the Holy Trinity, we are made for relationship that both gives and receives. It is in worshipping in the presence of God that the Holy Spirit can revive us and send us out again in the joy of Christ's work in and for us. It is worship that leads to us mission so that we, the Imago Dei, may participate in the Missio Dei! What a privilege!

So next time the waves of self-pity or the anger of frustrated plans threaten to overwhelm, remember how the Psalmist made it through... by finding the quietness of soul that is much more than the absence of problems, but the quietness of soul that knows the peace of God that passes all understanding!

[1] Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 7: The Book of Psalms, The Book of Proverbs (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), 396.

Photo by Brett Jordan, courtesy Unsplash

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