Restoring the Soul

August 22, 2023

Time seems to slip away from us so quickly in our fast-paced lives, consumed by the demands of work, technology and endless to-do lists. The busyness and associated stress have a way of bringing us right up to the point of exhaustion. 

But there are moments when we experience a different kind of time, where it slows down. We find ourselves fully present, at peace with the world around us. When was the last time you experienced such a moment?

For me, it was a few weeks ago while on vacation in Seal Beach, California. Standing barefoot with the warmth of the sand under my toes, the rhythmic sound of waves crashing against the shore, feeling the gentle breeze on my skin and tasting a hint of salt in the air. Standing there, I simply admired the vastness of the ocean, which stretched beyond the expanse of what could be seen. It hit me as I breathed in deeply; I was fully present in that moment. 

These calming sensory experiences have a restorative effect deep within our being. Reflecting on that moment, I realized that I was not concerned about the things that needed to be done. I was not thinking about the next destination on our road trip or how much gas costs in California. I wasn't worried about things back home. I was entirely in that moment sensing the beauty of God’s Creation. 

Jesus, in an interaction with His disciples, reminds us of the importance of rest and rejuvenation. In Mark 6:31, Jesus told the disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

The disciples had just returned from being sent out two by two. They had experienced great success in their ministry of healing and casting out demons. However, Ellen G. White reflecting on this encounter, shared, “He [Jesus] saw, too, that they had become weary in their labors, and that they needed to rest.” In The Desire of Ages, she says, “They had been putting their whole souls into labor for the people, and this was exhausting their physical and mental strength. It was their duty to rest.”

Our loving Creator knows that rest is a vital part of our nature. He knows that the work that we are engaged in can be exhausting and draining. He knows that in service to other people, we must be recharged. That is why He created two avenues for replenishment from the beginning: Sabbath and communion with Him. Preacher Vance Havner, reflecting on this passage of Scripture, notably said, “If you do not come apart [and rest], you will come apart.”

Jesus, in what appears to be an unplanned interruption to the flow of ministry, led the disciples away from the crowds and spent uninhibited time with them. The disciples “were vitalized by divine power and inspired with hope and courage,” continues White in The Desire of Ages. Through this personal restorative session, they were refreshed and empowered again to face the crowd of people and their upcoming responsibilities.

Do you need that same inspiration in your sense of hope and overall courage today? Do you need to be refreshed by spending quality time with your Savior? 

Jesus offers the same beautiful promise of renewal to all who would follow His leading today. Psalm 23:2-3 says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He refreshes my soul.”

To restore the soul is to revive, quicken or relieve it, according to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary. Spending time in God’s presence by the places He leads us to is how we are restored and made whole. Jon Dybdahl shares that “The Greek words for restore/heal (iatria) and soul (psyche) combine together to form the word ‘psychiatry.’ God, the divine Psychiatrist, brings restoration to the soul.”

Psalm 23 beautifully illustrates the concept of being led and restored by the divine Shepherd, which doesn’t happen simply by getting away or going on vacation, but rather in the understanding that in Jesus, we have everything we need. His presence enables us to be restored and face the valleys of darkness and death. Knowing that He cares for our spiritual, emotional and physical well-being gives us the confidence that He is the best one to lead us through this life. 

As we cultivate an unhurried life, we may not always have access to a beach or a natural landscape, but we can cultivate moments of stillness and simplicity by asking the Lord to lead us. With intentional thought to our surroundings, such as talking with God on a walk in nature, thanking Him for the beauty of a sunrise and a new day of life or to an undistracted devotional hour with Him, He actively revives our souls. 

Creating a habit of slowing down and being fully present requires a deliberate shift in mindset and lifestyle. It means setting aside time each day to disconnect from the noises around us to reconnect with our Creator. Just as the disciples found solace in the presence of Jesus, we, too, can find refuge and renewal by seeking moments of stillness and connection with Him.

As we embark on a journey towards intentional living and learn to appreciate the beauty of each passing moment, may the burdens of the world feel lighter with the knowledge that Jesus is eager to guide us and restore our weary souls.

By Adam Keating. Keating is the pastor of the Crowley Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Texas Conference.