Some of you are aware that I’ve chosen a word for the year ever since I read Debbie Macomber’s One Perfect Word in 2011. For those who are new to the idea, it’s basically a meditative practice. By asking God to reveal the perfect word, we then spend 365 days pondering its meaning in our life, a form of Lectio Divina that we can employ as we study, listen, ponder and pray while also delving into God’s Word. I take this process seriously, as I have seen the difference in my life since I began the practice. For instance, when I chose the word Possibilities at the beginning of 2021, I had no idea two seemingly “impossible” things would become a reality for me that year. I was finally able to write the children’s book on grief that I’d be unable to pen in the previous nine years and I met and married the man God had asked me to pray for in 2018.
For whatever reason, I failed to choose a word last year. I’m not sure what one might have been fitting. The first half of the year could have been AWE as we took several trips. Not only was I in awe of the beauty of God’s creation as we traveled, but I also basked in the companionship and love of the man at my side. The second half could hardly have qualified for that same word as our summer plans for golfing and hiking trails were sidelined by weeks of debilitating arthritis pain for Nick when he went off a medication that may have been affecting his kidneys. In August, we were hit hard by Covid, spending our first anniversary next to each other on the couch in mutual misery. Mid-September brought my cancer diagnosis, followed by an October surgery that eradicated the disease. I barely had time to heal before holiday preparations. At 3:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, I woke up coughing so hard I couldn’t sleep. The cough is still with me, along with an overwhelming fatigue.
Imagine my distress and consternation then, when I repeatedly felt led to the word REST during prayer last week. REST? This is a word both Nick and I resisted. Hasn’t there been enough “rest” for both of us? Weren’t we eager to plan more trips for 2023? To add an exercise regimen that would increase our stamina and improve our health? Yet the word rest implies couch time instead. I didn’t want the word REST to be my word for 2023, and Nick wasn’t interested in hearing it either. Neither one of us had previously led a “restful” life. Was that part of the problem? Was God trying to tell me something?
Instead of concentrating on healing from surgery in October, I’d been determined to be prolific in my writing, working on my next book. I was certain God was on the same page, having helped me write the most difficult chapter the week before surgery.
I was wrong. Post-surgery, I found myself tired, unable to string coherent sentences together. I looked to my second go-to; reading. Except instead of enjoying mindless fiction, I found myself reading books about God’s design for marriage. In between cancer diagnosis and surgery, I’d filled a book of prayers for my husband, discovering how praying for him helped me. I picked up another book about blessing your husband. And then another. Soon, I realized I was studying God’s design for marriage. You’d think having previously been married for 34 years I would already know everything there was to know about marriage. Yet it pains me to admit I had not been the most Biblical wife in my first marriage. It was only after developing a personal relationship with God in 2012, I discovered just how much I didn’t know about being a Godly wife. I’d vowed that if God ever brought someone else into my life, I would pray with him, cherish him, and we’d grow in faith together. I would strive to be the Proverbs 31 wife. Both Nick and I have been in AWE of the difference a God-centered relationship makes.
It does make sense that God would guide me to study marriage, since he is leading Nick and I to co-write a book about having a praying partnership with your spouse. This is what I do before I write non-fiction books; study the topic. I read more than sixty books on creativity before writing mine, three dozen on grief before my grief book.
What then to make of that arthritis pain and shared illness? What might God be trying to tell us through all of it? How could he use illness and pain for his good? It was during the time of forced rest that Nick and I added a daily Bible study to our morning prayer time. We’ve gone through several Max Lucado studies, currently Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear, based on Psalm 23.
Why REST as my word? Had we not already learned enough about being still? Does that mean another year marked by illness? I wondered these things in the middle of the night, sitting on the couch, coughing too much to sleep.
REST IN ME.
I went to the Bible then, searching for verses with the word “rest” in them.
God will give you rest. Exodus 33:14 “And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'” Mathew 11:28-30 “Come to me all 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.”
We are to be still before the Lord. Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.”
We are to rest through faith and obedience. Proverbs 19:23 “The fear of the Lord leads to life and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.” Jeremiah 6:16 “Thus says the Lord ‘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.
It seems then, rest seems to have less to do about a physical call to the couch and more about an action to deepen our relationship with God, to find rest in Him. Resting in Him restores our souls. Wasn’t that exactly what Nick and I had done during the forced rest of Covid, when we began studying the Bible? With this word, God calls me to trust him, to follow Him. To rest in Him.
REST. The perfect word for 2023.