Receiving Rest Through Spiritual Retreat
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Receiving Rest Through Spiritual Retreat
This post was originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of The Joyful Life magazine. I’m honored to be included in the print publication, and grateful for the opportunity to share the words with you here as well.

A crisp leaf landed on my Bible as a light breeze stirred the trees above. Settled on a quilt deep in the woods, my eyes swollen from crying, I reflected on the past few weeks. My husband’s work travels left the of caring for our son solely on me.

Depleted of strength, I was suffering the burn of soul fatigue. I’d been emotionally “on” for so long that I didn’t know how to turn it off.

It was at this breaking point that a friend offered to watch my son for the day, suggesting a ‘spiritual retreat’ to refresh my soul. “I don’t have time for that sort of thing,” I reasoned. But as the words slipped out, I knew this chance offered rest not just for my body but, more importantly, my soul.

I’d come to the woods with no expectations, electronics, or objectives. I sought simply to sit in stillness and solitude, trusting the Holy Spirit to meet me there and speak life into my weary soul.

The words of Isaiah were etched on my heart: For 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 ESV).

The words of Isaiah were etched on my heart: For 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 ESV).

It took nearly a half-hour to clear my mind, to push away thoughts of “what should I make for dinner?” and “did I remember to order his soccer cleats?”

Yet as I absorbed the golden sun rays peeking through the trees and the insistent honking of geese overhead, those demanding thoughts dissipated. The longer I sat in solitude the more I sensed the Holy Spirit’s gentle presence.

“God, I’m weary,” I whimpered. “Show me in your Word where you promise to give me rest.”

I rolled over on the quilt, flipping to the book of Jeremiah. Thumbing through the pages I felt the Holy Spirit guide me to a verse that soothed my exhausted soul

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jeremiah 31:25 ESV).

It was as if Jesus waited for me to sit still long enough so he could whisper “It’s ok, I’m right here. Rest with me.”

Jesus extends an invitation to do just that when he says, “come to me, all who labor and are heavy leaden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV).

Don’t we all long for rest from our comings and goings and our responsibilities, to have an encounter with the Holy Spirit that replenishes our soul?

But soul rest is entirely different from physical rest.

Receive Rest Through Retreat

To give our bodies an hour or two of rest is easy to define. Cozy jammies in front of a fire with a good book and a cup of hot tea? Now that’s physical rest for me!

But to allow our souls to rest seems rather vague. How can we rest something intangible like our souls?

It’s become harder and harder to hear the still small voice of God in the midst of our world’s deafening pitch, and we’re slowly losing the ability to tune into the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

We need extended time in stillness and solitude to rest, replenish and renew our souls, and to hold space for God to reveal himself to us. We do this when we engage in spiritual retreat.

- Leslie Jones

Another word for retreat is to withdraw. How much do you love that idea? When we withdraw from striving, stretching and trying to hustle our way through life, we accept the invitation to journey with the Good Shepherd and surrender to His leading.

We receive “soul rest” through retreat by tuning out the world and tuning into what the Holy Spirit is saying to us.

Make the Most of a Spiritual Retreat

There’s no wrong way to lavishly linger in God’s presence. Let’s look at some ways to make the most of a spiritual retreat:

  • • Schedule a retreat with God just as you would any other appointment.
  • • Find a secluded place in nature to meet with God alone. If you have young children, ask a family member or friend to help out for the day.
  • • Give yourself plenty of time. Don’t rush it. For your first retreat, start with 2 hours and then work up to 4 or more hours.
  • • Wear something comfortable or consider dressing up to commune with your King.

Suggested items to bring:

Engage in Spiritual Practices

  • • Read the Bible, but don’t just read it. Absorb it. Allow a verse to soak into your soul, and then find other supporting verses to explain it in greater detail. Target one of the Gospels or the Psalms on a specific topic or choose an unfamiliar book in either the Old Testament or New Testament.
  • • Practice Christian meditation, deliberately focusing on a specific thought or Bible passage. Reflect on its meaning in the context of God’s love.
  • • Spend time in prayer. Consider applying a new pattern of prayer like the acrostics SOAP (Scripture, Observations, Applications, Prayer) or ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication).
  • • Go for a walk with God. Enoch did.
  • • Read a devotional book on prayer or the deeper life.

Wrestle for a Revelation

At some point in your retreat, you may feel something hidden deep in your heart that you need to wrestle out with God, something that’s made you turn away from Him or causes you to question his goodness.

Don’t panic or think you’re doing something wrong. Like he did with Jacob, God invites us to wrestle with Him. Allow yourself to receive the invitation to grab hold of Him. Ask Him to show up and reveal Himself to you and be willing to grapple until He does. Revelations often come from wrestling.

Rest on the Regular

It’s one thing to commune with God for four hours; it’s another to incorporate that type of lavish lingering into your daily life. So how can we take what we’ve learned from a spiritual retreat and make it fit within our regularly scheduled programming? Here are a few ideas:

  • • Find time each day to sit in silence and solitude; even 20 minutes spent with your King will help you find rest from the rat race.
  • • Practice a regular Sabbath to find enjoyment in God. Step away from work to explore the Bible, or head outside into His creation with family or friends.
  • • Review notes from your retreat to glean steps forward He wants you to take. Commit to working through His messages even if it’s in bite-sized chunks.

Return Refreshed

But after making space for the Holy Spirit to reveal revelations, meditating on life-giving verses, and receiving refreshment through his peace, I felt lighter somehow, like something inside had been set on fire and was crackling back to life.

Held in His arms while He stilled my heart, I spent almost 5 hours in the woods that day, inhaling the Spirit like I hadn’t breathed in days. I’d walked into my retreat with a heavy heart, a weary soul, and a black funk that weighed me down.

A spiritual retreat is meant to evoke emotion, to come before God with unmet needs, and unfulfilled longings, with a willingness to lay down your agenda and be led by His.

Time spent in His presence, surrounded by His beautiful creation, will give your soul the rest you long for. You enter your spiritual retreat as you are and walk out the other side refreshed and restored.

- Leslie Jones

By trading your responsibilities for rest, you open yourself up enough for God to love on you and speak into you, to move you from soul fatigue to restoration.

In faith, hope & love ~
Your friend Leslie

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