Rest in What You Know: God

Stress can snowball. As soon as my mind starts whirling with “should’ves,” “would’ves” and “could’ves,” I intentionally stop my thoughts and worries in their tracks. As soon as I’m tempted to slip into a place of self-pity, anxiety or anything less than gratitude, I (try to) hit my mental pause button. Then, I purposefully redirect my thoughts back to where they need to be: off of me and back on Him. I remember a favorite Scripture about God’s sovereignty. I talk with Him through prayer or journaling. And sometimes I quite literally just sit and rest, choosing to actively accept the Lord’s exquisitely simple yet profound invitation.

His invitation is always there. We may RSVP with good intentions, but do we actually show up with our actions?

I’m not gonna lie. This isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be a bit like trying to stop a freight train. Many of us—myself included—have much more experience with worry and letting our own thoughts run away with us than not. But like anything else, it can be changed, and practice can help us make progress in the right direction. When we do so, we’re better able to intentionally choose God’s blissful rest instead of our own exhausting worry.

Here’s some simple steps that will help:

Choose to let God be your Rock. Refuse to let your feelings and emotions rock you.
No matter how we suffer, we can know that we’re held by the Beginning and the End Himself (Job 12:10, Revelation 22:13). Purpose to replace doubt, worry and fear with God’s truth: He works all things for good (Romans 8:28). He is always in control (Isaiah 45:7). He is our light when we sit in darkness (Micah 7:8).

Practice pausing to make room for change.
Be intentional about choosing to respond rather than react. Jesus Himself demonstrated this when He stooped down to write in the sand when confronted by the Pharisees for an answer on the spot (John 8:1-11). Follow His example and take yourself off the stopwatch. Rarely is an immediate response required. Instead, practice giving yourself the time you need to be thoughtful and purposeful, even in your own self-talk.

Remember that experiencing His rest requires effort on our part.
God’s graciously offered us rest and He’s provided all the guidance and instructions we need to experience it. But it’s up to us to act on it.  Jesus couldn’t have been more clear: “Take my yoke upon you…learn from me…and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Experiencing His peace and rest comes after we follow His instructions. In other words, taking action on His words is what enables us to be still when suffering threatens to rock us.

Like this post? It’s taken from Going for Broke: How to Suffer Well. (Click here to find it on Amazon.)

Striving to Enter His Rest

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…
Hebrews 4:11

I’m still trying to teach Mark exactly how to stop when he’s in the hurry and the pressure of the moment. But that’s okay because I know from personal experience that hitting the pause button takes practice. It takes work. And the author of Hebrews knew this, too.

Reread the Scripture verse above and take a close look at the word in bold. (The formatting is mine.) To strive means to work, to put forth effort and to make an attempt at something. If I’m honest, I often only long for God’s rest. I want it, but my choices and actions never truly show an attempt to enter into it. Simply put, God makes the gracious offer and provides the instruction on how to get there. But we must accept His invitation and take the steps necessary to actually experience it. God’s opened the door and invited us in, but we have to purposefully walk through to experience His peace-filled company.

This might sound silly, but sometimes I can’t help but think that God often feels about us the same way I used to feel about Mark during the first few weeks he was finally home.

He was two-and-a-half years old and a tiny little thing, so tiny that clothing made for three to sixth month old infants fell right off his bony, brown frame. Yet his tummy was tight and protruding from severe malnutrition. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise as we adopted Mark internationally from an extremely impoverished country, but the juxtaposition of these polar opposites was alarming.

While we knew nothing about Mark’s genetic conditions, medical issues or special needs yet, Mark did show some behaviors—or rather lack of—that were concerning. My greatest concern was the fact that Mark wouldn’t feed himself. I was desperate to get food into his hard, bulging belly. But no matter how hungry I knew he had to be, Mark simply would not lift the food to his own mouth.

“Mark,” I said. “Aren’t you hungry? Here. Eat!”

Then, I’d place a bowl or plate of food in front of him, watching and waiting to see if he’d take the bait. But sadly, Mark would predictably just sit there.

It became almost comical. I would say the same things, offer him food and Mark would do little more than flash a toothy grin at me. Nate, meanwhile, would chow down and wonder why Mark wasn’t doing the same.

It took time, but thankfully Mark finally got there. He learned that—while I would eventually spoon-feed him (I wasn’t going to let him starve!)—he would eat a whole lot more quickly if he just picked the food up and fed himself. The food was there. I gave the instructions and Nate, his big brother and dining companion, provided the example to follow. All Mark had to do was put it all to use.

Again, much to my relief, he eventually got there. Mark finally learned how to self-feed. But, oh, how my heart ached in the process, watching Mark just sit there literally starving with a plate full of food in front of him. It’s right there! Just do it! Pick it up and eat it!

Sometimes I wonder if this is how God feels while watching us suffer, too?

Come (Matthew 11:28)!
Just stop (Ecclesiastes 4:6).
Be still (Psalm 37:7).
Lean on me (1 Peter 5:7).
I’m with you (Isaiah 41:10).
Rest (Exodus 33:14).

How it must break God’s heart when we decline His invitation for rest with our actions, choosing worry, fear and doubt in lieu of His loving and easy yoke (Matthew 11:29-30).

But all is not lost, not even when we’re suffering. Just being aware of God’s invitation and instructions to rest and our own tendencies towards the opposite is the first step. The next is recognizing that we need to rest in God not just because of the obvious benefits, but because that’s what He desires for us to do (John 14:27). When we truly rest in God, it’s evidence of our faith and trust in His power, plan and timing. After all, who are we to question Him? Yet often that’s exactly what we allow our choices, thoughts and actions to do.

Like this post? It’s taken from Going for Broke: How to Suffer Well. (Click here to find it on Amazon.)

Sensing God for Perfect Rest

My husband, Jason, and I like to get creative when it comes to gift giving. It’s more creative, personal and—Bonus! —saves money. So, when his birthday came around, I was feeling pretty excited to give him my gift.

I laid a soft blanket across our bed, rolled up a fluffy bath towel into a neckroll and carefully arranged all the tiny bottles of essential oils on his nightstand. Then, I grabbed a chair for myself and asked him to lay down for a 30-minute peppermint scalp massage.

At first, he giggled and declined. But after a little reassurance, he complied. I closed the blinds and shut the door. Then, came the real surprise. I cued the music: a track of ocean waves played soothingly from the blue tooth speaker set just a few inches away. All my effort didn’t go unnoticed and settled in happily.

I placed a lavender eye pillow across Jason’s eyes, wet my finger tips with peppermint oil and got to work. Though, it didn’t feel much like work because I, too, was being lulled and relaxed by the gentle sound of ocean waves. Within about only ten minutes, Jason added his own soft snores to the soundtrack. Success!

But then, it happened…

The once quiet, relaxing sounds of ocean waves were loudly interrupted by the abrupt and loud caws of seagulls. I jerked. But Jason laid completely still, snores and sleep uninterrupted.

I wish I could say this only happened once. But I can’t. It happened several more times, each more unsettling than the last. Yet Jason continued to lay peacefully, still snoring and seemingly unaware of the jolting sounds of these sea birds.

As I quickly applied more oil to my fingertips, I wondered how in the world was he doing this?

How could this not wake him?

How could he be this relaxed?

And, man, how can I be this relaxed in God’s rest?!

Jason’s ears were open to the crazy loud seagulls just as much as mine were. Yet his rest was unbroken.

So, with about fifteen minutes left, I started to think about this question. Here’s what I came up with—and it’s helped me. I hope it helps you, too!

God gave us many different ways to experience the world around us.
We can choose to monopolize our senses with the world (including the various things that distract us) OR we can use our senses to help us focus on Him.

We can use our various senses to our advantage. They can help us remember to stay focused. They can even help us calm and manage our emotions when they threaten to run away with us.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light… Matthew 6:22

Surround yourself with God’s Word, so you’ll see it throughout the day. Sticky notes with encouraging Bible verses can be placed on your computer monitor or install an app on your phone that rotates a verse every day. Then, put place it prominently on your phone’s homepage.

For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:20

Get comfortable when you’re reading and studying God’s Word. There is an undeniable mind-body connection. God intentionally designed us this way. So, use we should use it to our fullest advantage. Make an effort to ensure you’re as physically comfortable as possible when you spend time with God. This serves two important purposes. One, the more comfortable you are, the less distracted you’ll be. And, two, it is an important way of accepting God’s peace.

Remember the story of when Jesus went to visit Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42)? Each time I prepare to spend my quiet time with God, I remember this story. Jesus wants us to be comfortable, so we can focus on His company, on His presence. Know this. Do this.

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Proverbs 15:31

Surround yourself with positive, uplifting, God-ward pointing sounds. Listen to positive music when you’re cleaning house or driving in the car. Put on reflective worship music to help quiet your spirit before your Bible time. Or, perhaps most importantly, surround yourself with people who also love and seek God.

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

When we eat, we’re meeting one of our most basic needs. Eating and tasting food can be a tangible reminder to practice gratitude and be thankful for all that God provides, including His greatest gift: a personal relationship with Him through Christ Jesus (Romans 5:1-2). Instead of mindless eating, we can chew and drink slowly, pausing to remember the ultimate Source of all our sustenance, both physical and spiritual.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing… 2 Corinthians 2:15

Lastly, we can even use our sense of smell to help remind us where to keep our focus. Consider lighting a fragrant candle when you sit down for your devotional time or dab a small amount of essential oils on your temples. As you breathe in deep, focus on the beautiful aroma and remember that God breathed His very own breath into humanity through the nostrils (Genesis 2:7).  And as air fills up your lungs and you feel your chest inflate, remember that you are much, much more than the physical body that your soul inhabits. You a multi-faceted being designed and intended to experience and honor God with your whole being (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Be More Than Sorry

I was mad. I’d gotten after Nate to clean his room multiple times. So, I was relieved when I walked past his room to discover that his clean clothes had been put away, his floor was picked up and his bed was straightened out. But when I went to place something in the bathroom trash, I soon discovered exactly where all of Nate’s trash had gone.

“Are you kidding me?!” I called out loud enough for Nate not to miss.

“What?” he said as he came running from around the corner in his room.

“Is THIS where we put our recycling?”

“Oh,” Nate replied. “Sorry…”

Before I knew it, he reached in front of me, pulled out the empty water bottles and was running down the hall to rectify the situation.

“Be more than sorry,” I called out after him. “Be better!”

I’m constantly trying to adequately communicate to both my boys that saying “I’m sorry”—while it’s important—it’s not enough. You have to be sorry. You have to mean it, not just say it.

“I know…” Nate mumbled as he came stomping back down the hallway.

“But do you? Do you really?” I asked grabbing Nate by the shoulder in order to make eye contact.

“I know you know how to say ‘Sorry,'” I said. “But do you really know how to be sorry?”

After a few minutes of explaining the importance of sincerity and backing up words with actions, I decided to take a long hard look at myself, too. Was I being more than just saying sorry? Was I intentionally being different?

One of my greatest weaknesses is how I deal with stress. I know that God’s perfect rest and Jesus’ easy yoke is ready, available and waiting for me. Yet I do a very poor job of claiming it all. And for that I’m sorry. Of course I want it, but—honestly—my actions don’t reflect this. My heart aches for peace and rest, but my thoughts and choices tell another story. I’m still struggling to let go of worry in exchange for perfect trust in God.

I need to be more than sorry. I need to move from simply saying I have faith to practicing it, too. Experiencing God’s peace is as much a choice as it is a gift.

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James 2:26 (ESV)