Thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength … (Isaiah 30:15)
I have found myself returning often to these words from the prophet Isaiah over the last few years as a reminder in busy, sometimes anxious, sometimes challenging times that it is in God we are to place our trust and from God our hope and our confidence for all that will be.
These words were first spoken to the people of Israel as a challenge to them for looking not to God but to the power of Egypt, the world power of its day. The people of Israel were feeling threatened and looking for security, but God is clear that will not be found here. Rather they are to return to the Lord and to rest, to recover equilibrium and regain a true sense of perspective on the world and their place within it.
This sense of rest and return is of course part of the very foundations of our faith, present at the beginning of the book of Genesis, where after the six days of creation there is the Sabbath where God rests and takes in all that has been made and that it is good. It is present in the resurrection on the Sabbath which then becomes for us, as Christians, the first day of the week. We begin with rest from where we go out to the activity of the week and to which we return to be remade. It is there, too, in our observance of this season of Lent where, as both Bishop Rachel and I have said before, we learn in the words of the liturgy to be God’s people once again, walking with Jesus through the events of Holy Week to the Cross with the promise of resurrection life beyond.
There is a challenge here to the very way in which we live our lives and perhaps an immediate challenge to how we live these coming days. My lesson from last year was particularly focused on Holy Week and I have made a deliberate effort to keep it free this year of the day-to-day, in order to give space to attend to the rich themes of those days, to let God speak afresh to me. I wonder if even now you might look to pace yourself in these coming days that there might be space for you and for God also.
You might also like to give some thought beyond Holy Week and Easter to where you find such space in your life. For some that might be in retreat and there are details of some of what’s available here. These range from a quiet day to longer periods of time away, some in silence. We are also running a two-day retreat at Holland House this summer, which is open to anyone in ministry or leadership in our Diocese.
My advice is to start gently and build up. If you can’t do that, don’t feel guilty (there is enough of that about already!) but find what is right for you that you can live alongside family, work and other commitments.
Then remember these words, just three verses after the call to return in Isaiah 30 at verse 18. ‘Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.’ This is the promise of the one who calls us to return and rest.