Sometimes, like this week’s solar eclipse, it feels like all the light has suddenly gone out. Activities you once enjoyed or places you once found solace, may feel dim and cold. The world has a way of peeling away your skin, so that reaching for some bright new beginning seems achingly, blisteringly impossible. Where to turn, when all the Earth seems embalmed by shadow?

To nature. To those still dear. To books, particularly when those books offer hope from one who has endured the devastating totality of darkness. In the introduction of her new devotional, “The Rested Soul: 30 Meditations to Quiet Your Heart” (Moody Publishers, 2024), Yale-educated author and Bible teacher Tessa Afshar shares her own battle, which began two decades ago with burnout and led to a life ruled by anxiety and fear. While seeking both medical and spiritual help, Afshar recounts how she discovered “a deeper attachment to Jesus.”

The cover of the book “The Rested Soul” by Tessa Afshar. Courtesy image

When the pandemic hit, “Anxiety managed to get its claws into me again,” Afshar writes. “But I noticed it was different this time. It didn’t go all the way to my core the way it had in the first round. … I felt anxiety’s sting, but I wasn’t overcome by it.”

In my experience, the worst way to respond to someone who is struggling is to offer advice, as if a few timely tricks will somehow resolve their difficulties. Instead, Afshar shares lessons learned from her own hard journey, while providing hope. Not a hope that all your problems will magically vanish. Or a hope that the sun will suddenly dispel the thick clouds of gloom. Rather, Afshar offers hope that even in the middle of life’s difficulties, God offers an oasis of rest.

What I appreciate most about Afshar’s writing, is her soft, gentle tone — not a “how-to” but rather a “here’s what helped me and maybe this will help you” style of writing. She begins her first meditation by sharing about her father’s experience living through a “bloody revolution in the Middle East.” A doctor, he watched as many of his friends were arrested and put to death.

“Without warning,” Afshar writes, “everything he knew had turned upside down. All this loss proved too much.” But after struggling with debilitating anxiety, Afshar shares how her father eventually found peace through faith in Jesus.


“Other women and men who loved God have walked this path and emerged on the other side to find rest for their souls,” Afshar writes, pointing to the Biblical examples of King David, who nearly lost his kingdom; Naomi, who lost her family; and “Most powerful of all, Jesus, who said, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death’ (Mark 14:34 NLT).”

“You are not alone,” Afshar promises. “And peace awaits on the other side of this journey.”

Each meditation is accompanied by a photo, taken by Afshar’s husband, along with a brief selection of questions, reflections and scriptures, which invite readers to linger, pray and rest. Rather than a quick fix, Afshar’s writings offer companionship and light.

Meadow Rue Merrill is the author of the Christopher Award-winning memoir, “Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores,” and recently contributed to “Rivers of Ink,” a Maine anthology celebrating the Penobscot River watershed. She writes and reads in a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. Connect with her at

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