When My Soul is Truly at Rest

While looking through an old journal yesterday, I came across this statement I had written at the top of one page, dated February 8. The year was 2005.

if my soul were truly at rest

Below that statement, I listed out what I thought would be true of me if my soul were at rest (here are the answers I gave in 2005):

  • I would enjoy my daughters more completely (they were 13 months old at the time)
  • I would not hold John to unrealistic expectations (we had been married 3 and a half years by then)
  • I would not dwell on all my life is lacking
  • I would like myself

Yesterday, I asked this question on Twitter. Here are some of the responses:

If my soul were truly at rest, I would . . . 

  • worry less.
  • dream bigger and expect more.
  • make peace with disappointment.
  • be peaceful without anxiety.
  • love more people.
  • smile more.
  • create and risk more.
  • stand taller and hold my head up more.
  • think of others before myself.
  • breathe deeper.
  • notice more.

Then, I asked on Facebook, too. Here are about a third of the responses:

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 8.46.45 AM

I’ve thought about this question over the past 24 hours a lot, and I’m pleased to say I would answer it differently now. I don’t feel pressure to enjoy my girls like I did then. I don’t hold John to impossible standards – at least, not to the extent I did before. Sometimes I think about what I’m lacking, but not in the same way.

And now? I like myself. Sure, I get on my own nerves sometimes. But in general I pretty much like myself.

In those areas for the most part, my soul is at rest. Today, I would answer that question like this:

  • If my soul were truly at rest, I would laugh more, I would stop making so many lists, I would be able to sit still for longer periods of time, I wouldn’t make decisions out of fear.

I have experienced soul rest more completely now at 36 than I did at 28. I hope that continues to be true of me as I get older.

As I read your answers on Twitter and Facebook and as I thought about my own, the phrasing started to grate on me – to ask if your soul were truly at rest implies it never is. It keeps soul rest somewhere out there, beyond my ability to grasp. It could even bring shame and discouragement to consider all the ways your soul isn’t at rest and all the peace you lack as a result.

So I decided to re-phrase the statement.

I would rather take out the “if” altogether and replace it with “when” –

When my soul is truly at rest, I laugh more, I stop making so many lists, I am able to sit still for longer periods of time, I don’t make decisions out of fear.

Do you feel the difference there?

It feels kinder now – possible, livable, hopeful. It feels true.

Rest - Chatting at the SkyAsking myself questions that matter are important for my own spiritual growth. But equally important is the tone I use when I ask the questions. I want to cast a hopeful vision, not weigh myself down with despair.

When Jesus invited the weary to come to Him in Matthew 11, it was an invitation to wear the light burden of love, not the heavy burden of shame.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30, Message

Instead of finishing this statement: If my soul were truly at rest . . .

I would stop searching.

I would take the risks I’m afraid of.

I would stop worrying.

Now, let’s finish this one: When my soul is truly at rest . . .

I stop searching.

I take risks.

I trust.

See the difference? I think it matters.

What about you? What is true of you when your soul is at rest? Let’s practice remembering in the comments:

When my soul is truly at rest, I . . .


  1. says

    …I breathe deeper.
    …I don’t raise my voice.
    …I trust.
    …I create instead of do.
    …I laugh.
    …I forgive.
    …I am still instead of anxious.

    Thank you, Emily, for the powerful perspective shift. When, not if. When makes it possible.

  2. says

    I saw your post on fb and honestly didn’t answer because of the very reason you mentioned – “It keeps soul rest somewhere out there, beyond my ability to grasp. It could even bring shame and discouragement to consider all the ways your soul isn’t at rest and all the peace you lack as a result.”

    But the re-phrasing truly makes a difference for me.

    WHEN my soul is truly at rest . . .
    I trust HIM.
    I’m not fearful.
    I am able to just “be” rather than feel like I have to “do.”

    Thank you, Emily.

  3. says

    I find a place of rest when I make peace with my circumstances

    I find rest when I am more giving of myself

    I definitely find more rest when I choose to draw near to the Lord whether that is in quiet moments or in a crowd, but always inviting Him close in my life

    I find great rest when I delight in the beauty that is around me, especially when taking a walk a breathing in this autumn season!

    The list goes on…

    I am thankful God extends to us rest for our souls ~ a balm in a busy hurried world.

  4. Mindy says

    When my soul is at rest, nothing, not even the worst plot twists my life takes or I think it might take, keeps me from seeing my circumstances as things that good Can and Will come from them. Places where grace and beauty will be brought out by the One who works all things together for my good.

    Thanks Emily:)

  5. maria says

    When my soul is truly at rest …
    I feel happy, lighter than air, that anything is possible; and I know that God is good and He will make it all right some day! I can finally just be, and enjoy what is right in front of me, respond to needs that I see there too!

  6. chelsea dudley says

    When my soul is truly at rest I …
    – don’t compare
    – am silly with my husband and son
    – listen to the spirit and not society.

  7. Laura says

    When my soul is at rest….

    I am happy

    I am at peace with my world, my life, and my God

    I am quiet

    When I first starting answering this, I found I was answering with what I was not… I am not scared, I am not anxious, etc. My own perspective shift was not so much with the change from “if” to “when” but rather from what I wasn’t, to what I was (if that makes sense). A change in perspective really does shift the lens through which I view my life and my world. Thanks for the new perspective!

  8. Tara says

    When my soul is at rest, I truly FEEL like the daughter of the Living God that I am. I enjoy people more. I see the mundane as opportunity, not as obligation. I breathe deeper, I accomplish more.
    Thank you for this delightful post.
    And I am really enjoying AMLG with the book club!

  9. Barb S. says

    When my soul is truly at rest I am…
    not filled with anxiety
    finding the glass half full instead of half empty

  10. says

    When my soul is truly at rest I am free. Free from anxious thoughts because I trust the One who holds it all. Free from longing because I have peace. Free to be me as I am today without expectations of more (or less).

    I love the rest your rephrased question brings. *sigh* or rather inhale Yah…exhale Weh…

  11. says

    When my soul is truly at rest I:

    don’t try to fix life or people.
    hand over the broken stuff to Jesus.
    am not striving.
    am surprised by the beauty or humor in the everyday.
    have received my own life with gratitude.
    am aware of the kindness and presence of Christ.

    {Emily, thank you so, so much for this thoughtful post.}

  12. says

    When my soul is truly at rest….
    -I feel delight in and feel delighted by God
    -I am actively abiding in Christ
    -I am walking intentionally in the Spirit
    True rest, needs all three.
    Great post to start the weekend!

  13. Kim says

    When my Soul is at rest…
    I can embrace disappointment and it not harm me.
    I don’t take responsibility for what I am not intended for.
    I can see and consider HIS perspective.
    I can dance in HIS Grace.

  14. Beth says

    Interesting that the passage quoted from The Message sounds nothing like what the Bible records Jesus as saying (see below). Just wondering why the quote from The Message. That is a “paraphrase” of the Bible…. it definitely is not scripture that has been carefully recorded for centuries.

    “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

  15. says

    I breathe deeply – without having to remind myself.

    I enjoy my life without the pressure of What If’s or If Only’s.

    I pour out nearly accidentally – not out of pressure or guilt.

    I create – with words and laughter and food and paint… and I allow myself to see that it is good.

    (I love you… that is all!)

  16. says

    Wow. Yesterday I said make peace with disappointment.

    This morning dawned just as dark and I wrote out of the some of the deepest pain I’ve felt. And the greatest thing happened, my soul was at rest. Even the people in Wal-Mart smiled. For real!

    Then, I opened my mail and there was your post. The beauty of it all!!

  17. says

    I love how your rephrased that question and the answers sounded so much more positive. I love the answers everyone else gave, too. Awesome!

  18. says

    Love this…. and it was fun to read your previous answers. I can certainly relate to a few of them on your list. I still struggle with placing unrealistic expectations on my husband after many, many years of marriage. Any advice that helped you improve on this?

  19. Bethany Flokstra says

    Thank you for this post. I saw your question on Twitter yesterday and I didn’t stop to answer it. I think partly because it grated on me a tiny bit. But this question I like. It is so much more restful. :-) When I am at rest I like the woman in the mirror and I am free to offer myself to others. When I am at rest the air is clear and I am free.

  20. Ashley M. says

    When my soul is truly at rest:
    I am abiding in Jesus’ strength and not my own
    I am not grasping for control of life’s issues
    the anxiety lessens and heaviness lifts from my soul

    Thank you for gracing us with this beautiful post!

  21. Susan says

    When my soul is truly at rest…
    – My hands are open to receive what God gives me
    – My ears tune in to the words He is always speaking
    – My cup overflows

  22. says

    this distinction is EVERYTHING.
    thank you for noticing it, & for pointing it out. yes, life-giving.

    when my soul is truly at rest. . .

    i am at peace with my messy, 4-childrened house.

    i don’t overachieve dinner.

    i don’t return phone calls out of fear of letting someone down.

    i connect deeply to my kiddos, & they (in turn) respond better, try harder, behave more easily.

    when, not if. that makes all the difference.

  23. says

    When my soul is truly at rest, I:
    live simply
    trust completely
    follow obediently
    serve joyfully
    glorify creatively

    I feel blessed that I discovered your blog, Emily. Just ordered A Million Little Ways and can’t wait to read it. Thanks! Linda

  24. Teresa R says

    When my soul is at rest, I can hear His voice clearly, I can be in the now, I am not distracted by the world’s noise

  25. kristie says

    When my soul is at rest…

    I trust God with all things; present, future, mystery.

    I’m not so black n white in how I view certain things; people and experiences with people. In other words, I don’t feel things have to happen in only a certain way to be ok. I don’t need to fix myself or others. Grace. Grace to be able to live in the messiness of life and still experience and celebrate joy wher I find it.

  26. Susie says

    I’ve always said my goal in life is not to be ‘happy’ but to be peaceful. When my soul is at rest, it accepts everything within in around me- both the joyful and sorrowful- with peaceful resolve.

    Thank you for your beautiful message.

  27. Rebecca says

    When my soul is at rest…

    I see beauty in my home.
    I laugh and smile.
    I don’t compare.
    I find the words to pray.
    I like myself.
    I give the benefit of the doubt and am not harsh toward others.

    Such an amazing message. Thank you.

  28. says

    When I am at rest…

    I am not rushing.

    I am able to see that life is not an emergency.

    My task list is not ruling.

    I am able to listen & laugh & let boxes on my list wait for their checkmarks.

    I am able to be still before God & attentive to people.

    I am calm & experience peace.

    Thanks, Emily, for sharing your life here & in print. I am a new reader & can’t even begin to tell you how God has used your writing to encourage & challenge me. Thank you!!

  29. says

    Thanks Emily. Rest keeps showing up everywhere for me. I love how you said “when Jesus invited the weary to come to Him in Mathew 11, it was an invitation to wear the light burden of love, not the heavy burden of shame.” Yes. Hopeful words.

  30. says

    You’re helping me connect the dots today Emily! I’ve been thinking a lot about simplicity, purpose, worth in the light of rest and a slow pace. Glad you brought up rest for the soul.

    When my soul is truly at rest…I wake hopeful.

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