Want Rest? Start with a Humble Heart

September 7, 2023  - By Sarah J. Hauser

Want Rest? Start with a Humble Heart - an article from Well-Watered Women

Sometimes praying for rest is like praying for patience. If you’ve ever prayed for patience, maybe you’ll know what I mean. When I need to be more patient (pretty much all the time), what I really want is for God to shower me with loads of supernatural patience. I want to suddenly be calm and serene instead of frantic and harried.

But my experience has been that instead of being infused with patience like I'm on an IV drip, what God often does is provide opportunities where I can practice patience. I want the quick fix, but God wants deep heart transformation.

The same can be true of rest. I would prefer the equivalent of a caffeine boost or a dose of some divine energy drink. I want to feel rested without needing to stop or pause or refill or admit my own limitations. But that’s not the way we were created to function. Sure, there are times when God empowers us to make it through a season or a situation with strength we could never have mustered on our own. Yet often, instead of giving us the energy to do more, God calls us to acknowledge our weaknesses and lay aside our own agendas. He gives us opportunities to practice rest in our everyday lives, even when the circumstances around us don’t feel restful. 

That practice requires humility.

Rest Requires Humility

The connection between humility and rest is clear in Scripture. In Psalm 131, for example, David writes that he has “calmed and quieted” his soul (v. 2). Most days, I can describe my soul as anxious and frantic, so calm and quiet sure sounds like a nice alternative. But how can we get to the place where our souls are calm and quiet, even while the winds and waves of life rage around us? 

Verse 1 gives us an essential starting point: “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.”

The phrase “eyes not raised too high” is the Hebrew equivalent for the idea of “not looking down your nose at others.”1 The psalmist isn’t shoving forward with blind ambition. He’s not trying to do more than God has called him to do or viewing himself above others.

Without humility, without thinking of ourselves rightly before God and others, we will always be clamoring for attention or accolades or acceptance. But when we recognize our need and admit we are finite and dependent, unable to have limitless energy and needing help, we can slow down and stop our striving. We can become like David in Psalm 131:2: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

Humbly Accept Jesus’ Invitation to Rest

We also see that humility is required for rest in Matthew 11. Jesus rebukes the arrogant and pronounces woes on those who reject him. But he thanks God for those who are like “little children”—in other words, those with humility. Then he invites those weary, tired, and downtrodden to receive his easy yoke and light burden of grace.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus says (Matt. 11:28). But many of the Pharisees and teachers of the law refuse to humble themselves and come to him. They are like the Israelites from Jeremiah’s day when God said, “‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jer. 6:16). 

Do we do the same? Jesus invites us to rest in his grace, set down our burdens, approach him in prayer, and embrace God-given gifts like sleep, Sabbath, and silence that God built into the created order. Yet, do we often refuse because we want to do life our way instead?

Admitting Our Arrogance

Most of us aren’t trying to look down on others in an obvious way. We hope others don’t view us as arrogant, narcissistic, or conceited—we even deflect compliments or offer up self-deprecating comments just to make sure we aren’t viewed like that. But our arrogance can come out in other ways that can be dangerously subtle and even rewarded.

Our arrogance can come out in our refusal to ask for help. We don’t want to bruise our fragile egos by admitting we need something. Some of us also struggle with habitual overcommitting. There are deadlines and projects and events and all kinds of things we think we have to do, and we run ourselves ragged trying to do more than what God is even asking. Our arrogance can come out when we refuse to admit that our bodies, our minds, and our emotions have limits.

Our culture rewards that kind of ambition. We praise those who seem like they can do it all, even if it comes at their own expense. But if we want to stop the cycle of debilitating weariness that runs deep in our hearts and souls, we need to humbly acknowledge our limits and our needs so we can learn to live out the rest God offers. 

Nowhere to Turn But to God

Earlier this year, I interviewed my dad about a few significant life experiences. We talked about when my mom was diagnosed with cancer that would eventually take her life and how, six months after her diagnosis, he was also diagnosed with cancer (thankfully, a more treatable kind).

When I asked my dad what was going through his heart and mind during that season, he said, “Well, the one thing that goes through my mind is the fact that people have been saying the Lord helps those who help themselves. And I determined that that was theologically incorrect. The Lord helps those who are flat on their back and have no place to turn but to him."

I don’t know what you’re facing today. Maybe you’re bogged down by the ordinary responsibilities of work, life, parenting, and ministry. Maybe you’re facing profound grief or heartache. But as long as we idolize autonomy and self-sufficiency, insisting on figuring life out on our own and refusing to come to Jesus or accept the help he gives through other people and resources, we’ll never find the rest we need.

Instead, when we turn to the One who holds all things together, we can receive the rest Christ offers here and now, right in the midst of our ordinary, hard, and even heartbreaking days.

Want Rest? Start with a Humble Heart - an article from Well-Watered Women - quote

Meet the Author

Sarah J. Hauser is a writer and speaker living in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and four kids. She shares biblical truth to nourish the soul—and the occasional recipe to nourish the body. She loves cooking but rarely follows a recipe exactly, and you can almost always find her with a cup of coffee in hand. Sarah completed her B.A. and M.A. at Wheaton College. She's a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and has written for Coffee + Crumbs, Risen Motherhood, The Rabbit Room, The Gospel Coalition, (in)courage, and more. Find her at sarahjhauser.com.

  1. Tremper Longman III, Psalms (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014), 433.

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