Fall always seems like the busiest time of year. School is back in session. Work emails quadruple. Outside it’s the season of harvest – that narrow window where all the accumulation from the summer sun must be bundled in before the winter. And just the other day I heard a flock of geese sounding their way south. Already!
Despite the bustle of the changing season, I’ve found myself staring out the window and thinking not about all I have to do (though there is plenty). I find myself thinking instead about the exact opposite.
I’m thinking about rest.
Perhaps because I’ve had more changes at work and home than I generally care to tackle all at once, but summer seems to have slipped by without me noticing. I’m staring into the tumult of fall and yearning for rebirth, for regeneration, for the hope of spring.
It seems a long time away.
I find myself gravitating to scripture passages like “He gives to his beloved sleep.” And “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Not my typical “no time to be idle” fall verses. But I pause when I study Psalm 37:7, which in the King James Version says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”
At first reading, this verse has the same soothing balm as the others. Then I look up the original Greek.
The word translated as “wait patiently” is not the wait-in-this-sunny-meadow kind of waiting that I first assumed. It isn’t even the cast-your-cares-upon-the-Lord-and-stop-worrying kind of waiting. The word actually means to writhe in pain as in child birth.
I do not like this.
I want to think about waiting patiently as something pleasant. Something I can meditate on while drifting off to sleep. I don’t want nightmares of writhing in pain.
But the more I’ve thought about this, the more I see the hope embedded in the words. The connotation is one of enduring, with the promise of a joy so complete as to make the pain worthwhile. “A woman giving birth has pain,” Jesus said, “but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy.” (John 16:21)
Waiting patiently for God is sometimes hard work. Resting in the Lord may not always mean peaceful slumber. God’s transforming power in our lives may in fact feel like our insides are writhing. But this transformation also comes with the promise of a peace and joy so complete as to make our current trials seem light and momentary, even if they don’t feel that way right now.
The springtime regeneration I am looking forward to actually begins now. Now – as I snuggle into the fall season, holding onto God’s promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me. I can trust that He will bring to completion the good works begun in me. He will give me the strength, courage, and wisdom to walk out the path He has laid before me. He will restore my soul and make my joy complete. He will do all this, as I rest in and wait patiently for Him.
Resting in the Lord and waiting patiently for Him may not be the lazy summer day kind of resting that I first envisioned. It might be more of a fall activity after all.
And it might be exactly the type of rest I am actually yearning for.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.