By Leslie Jones
As a light breeze stirred the trees above, a verdant leaf landed on my Bible.
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 had left the burden of caring for our son solely on me.
Depleted of strength, I was suffering from soul fatigue.
I’d been emotionally “on” for so long that I didn’t know how to turn it off.
At this breaking point, 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 for my body and, more importantly, my soul.
I’d come to the woods without expectations, electronics, or objectives.
I sought to sit in stillness and solitude, trusting the Holy Spirit to meet me there and speak life into my weary heart.We can receive rest through a spiritual retreat. Jesus extends an invitation to do this in Matthew 11:28.
It took a half-hour to clear my mind and push away thoughts of, “What should I make for dinner?” or, “Did I remember to order soccer cleats?”
Yet, as I absorbed the golden sun’s rays peeking through the trees, 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 whispered. “Show me in your Word where you promise to give me rest.”
The Holy Spirit guided me to a verse that soothed my exhausted soul.
Jeremiah 31:25 ESV says, “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”
It was like Jesus waited for me to sit still long enough to whisper, “It’s ok. I’m right here. Rest with me.”
We all long for rest from our comings and goings—a reprieve from our responsibilities.
We want to encounter the Holy Spirit, who replenishes our souls.
Jesus extends an invitation to do this when He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy leaden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28 ESV).
But soul rest is different from physical rest.
Receive Rest Through a Spiritual Retreat
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. – Isaiah 55:11 ESV
To rest our bodies for an hour or two seems easy. But to allow our souls to rest feels vague.
How can we rest something intangible like our souls?
It’s becoming harder and harder to hear the voice of God in the midst of our world’s deafening pitch.
We’re slowly losing the ability to tune into the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
To combat this, 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 receive “soul rest” through a spiritual retreat by tuning out the world and listening to the Holy Spirit.
Make the Most of a Spiritual Retreat
There’s no wrong way to linger in God’s presence.
Here are some practical tips to make the most of a spiritual retreat.
Schedule a retreat with God like 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 watch your little ones for the day.
Give yourself plenty of time.
For your first retreat, start with 2 hours and gradually work up to 4 or more hours.
Wear something comfortable or consider dressing up to commune with your Lord.
Suggested items to bring to your spiritual retreat:
- A journal and pens or markers.
- Your Bible and/or a second Bible translation.
- Printed lyrics of favorite hymns or worship songs.
- A pillow and blanket for a nap. God rested on the seventh day—you can, too!
- A picnic basket filled with snacks or a hearty meal. Don’t forget a fancy plate, cup, and silverware. This is the time to break out the good china—you’re dining in the presence of your King. You may also consider fasting.
Engage in Spiritual Practices
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. – Psalm 23:3 ESV
Before you jump into spiritual practices, prepare your heart.
Be silent and still.
Be alone and empty before your God.
Say nothing and ask nothing.
After you’re settled, choose a few spiritual practices to enrich your time. Here are a few ideas.
Read the Bible, but don’t just read it. Absorb it.
Allow a verse to soak into your soul and find other supporting verses to explain it in greater detail.
Practice Christian meditation, focusing and reflecting on a specific thought or Bible passage.
Spend time in prayer. Consider applying a new pattern of prayer like the acrostics SOAP (Scripture, Observations, Applications, Prayer).
Go for a walk with God.
Read a devotional book on prayer or a book about deepening your spiritual life.He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. - Psalm 23:3 ESV
At some point during your retreat, you may discover something hidden deep in your heart to bring before 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 God did with Jacob, He invites us to wrestle with Him.
Ask God to show up and reveal Himself to you.
Be willing to grapple until He does.
Revelations often come from wrestling.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. – Psalm 62:5 ESV
Communing with God for four hours is one thing, but incorporating a habit of lingering in God’s presence each day is another habit to cultivate.
Here are a few ideas to fit rest into your daily walk with the Lord:
- Find time each day to sit in silence and solitude. Even 20 minutes spent with the Lord can help you find rest.
- 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 the next steps God wants you to take. Commit to working through His message in bite-sized chunks.
I spent almost five hours in the woods that day, inhaling the Spirit like I hadn’t breathed in days.
I’d arrived with a heavy heart and weary soul.
But after making space for the Holy Spirit to reveal revelations, meditating on life-giving verses, and receiving refreshment through God’s presence, I left lighter.
A spiritual retreat is a time to come before your King with unmet needs, unfulfilled longings, and a willingness to lay down your agenda and replace it with His.
By trading your responsibilities for rest, you allow God to love on you and speak to your heart.
A spiritual retreat helps move you from soul fatigue to restoration.
Time spent in God’s presence gives your soul rest.
– Leslie Jones
An author, speaker, and founder of Every Mile Matters ministry, Leslie Jones coaches women to run the race God has set before them with endurance and confidence. Her words have appeared in The Joyful Life, Our Story, Proverbs 31 Ministries, Just Between Us, Milk and Honey Women Devotional Journal, and Truly. You can find her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.