What Does It Mean for a Soul to Rest?

We all need a break sometimes. We talk about needing to recharge our battery, unwind, get some R&R, or have some downtime. We have many ways of describing this, but the core reality is universal: we can’t drive full-speed all the time without burning ourselves out. If we want to stay at peak performance, we need to take care of ourselves, including getting appropriate rest.

And physical rest does not necessarily coincide with spiritual rest. It is possible to stop working on something but to remain anxious and agitated because we know the job isn’t done, and perhaps because we fear that we won’t be able to complete it successfully. Likewise, it is possible to work very hard physically while feeling calm and peaceful about our progress and about our probability of success.

The prophet Jeremiah tried to teach his people that there is wisdom and safety in following paths which have been tested and proven. “Stand at the crossroads and look,” he said, “ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). You can save yourself a lot of inner turmoil, a lot of uncertainty and apprehension, by learning from people who speak with the voice of experience. You don’t have to learn everything firsthand. You can benefit from others’ mistakes and battle scars.

We sometimes try to eliminate emotional or spiritual fatigue by resting physically. But as Alma taught his son Shiblon, it may be only through hard work that we find the relief we seek:

Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls (Alma 37:34).

And Mormon taught the same principle to his son Moroni, under circumstances which seemed pretty hopeless:

My beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God (Moroni 9:6).

Both of these passages might appear to refer to a future state of rest for those who work hard today. But as Enos pointed out, when we trust the promises of God and have hope for the future, we can achieve an internal calm even while experiencing adverse circumstances:

I had faith, and I did cry unto God that he would preserve the records; and he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth unto the Lamanites in his own due time.
And I, Enos, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore my soul did rest (Enos 1:16-17).

Jesus Christ told us to take His yoke upon us if we are overburdened and overworked. He meant that we should commit to helping Him achieve His goals and our Heavenly Father’s goals. You put on a yoke in order to do work, not to rest. But He promised that, if we choose to do so, we will “find rest unto [our] souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Today, I will be careful not to confuse spiritual fatigue with physical fatigue. I will take those actions which will help me to find spiritual rest, including following advice from reliable sources, trusting God, and working hard to help the Savior accomplish His goals.

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