The first sentence of J. Oswald Sanders’ little book, A Spiritual Clinic, begins: “Strain and tension characterize our age.” That was 1958, and yet the observation is timeless. That chapter is headed by an epigram, a simple truth, Jesus’ assurance that “I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The subtitle of the book is one of those overly longish ones preferred in those days and limited to unread dissertations now: "A Suggestive Diagnosis and Prescription for Problems in Christian Life and Service." Somehow I can’t imagine that title flying off the bookshelves at Lifeway.
"I will give you rest." It's difficult to rest. A friend of mine used to say that his favorite thing to do was to go out into his backyard and lie down in the grass. Sometimes he would fall asleep there. I couldn't do that. I imagine spiders and ants crawling over me while I sleep, or worse, a bug flying into my open mouth, an army of Lilliputians tying me up, and so on. But for him rest was a state of mind. He wasn’t worried.
I don’t think you can will yourself to rest. It comes indirectly, a byproduct of God-centeredness. He stays our twittering heart, our chicken-little mind, and says, simply, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10), and yet it's difficult to be still. It takes work to rest; it takes a deliberate turning Jesus-ward. I have been so agitated at times, so restless, that I cannot even read scripture, can barely pray, and so then I repeat any Bible verse I can remember (any will do) and pray something like "help help help." Like a lullaby, I am eventually stilled. And one day, having laid down in the rest of His words, I will lie down in the grass like my friend, care-less. That may take some work though. That may take some time.