Resting is one of the most difficult thing for me to do. I usually have a book in hand, design articles to peruse, photography tutorials to practice, or talking to whoever is nearby. If I actually rest, where I close my eyes and still my body and quiet my mind, I last for about 30 minutes. I call it my power nap and it is really effective, but the kind of rest I am pondering for the new year is a different kind of rest.
It is the first week of 2016 and I am surrounded by resolutions and goals and I have decided to rest. Here I have a new year at my finger tips to accomplish goals and I choose to rest? Is it really a code name for ‘lazy’? Is it a cop-out?
Just as desperation is my resolve this year, rest is my means of feeding that desperation.
Isaiah 30:15a ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’.
I believe that God is for me–he is for everyone who put their trust in him– and if I believe he is for me than I know that he says that I am an overcomer.
The thing is, when I hear the word ‘overcomer’ I don’t think of desperation and rest. I think of fighting and battling and not giving up. However, this verse talks to me of repentance and rest.
Repentance is one step to overcoming.
Repentance is turning from that which hinders my walk with Christ.
Rest is being confident that I cannot save myself, it is a gift of God.
Rest is a unencumbered trust in my Lord.
When I repent and rest in the Truth, I find my salvation. I find peace. I find that the everyday gunk of life is not insurmountable.
Rest is my strength.
I don’t feel strong after a session of worrying. I feel weak and hopeless. I don’t feel desperate for the Lord. I feel desperate to fix a situation that I have no way to fix. Worrying and fretting weakens the power of prayer and prayer becomes the last thing I resort to instead of being the first weapon I pick up.
It sounds a little like upside down thinking, but I have found that quieting my mind, will, emotions, and trusting God’s heart for me to be the greatest thing I can do to strengthen my soul.
2 Corinthians 1:9-10: ‘Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.’
If we ever question anything about our past or our circumstances, we merely need to read this passage. It is the universal answer to the question of ‘why?’. At one time I spent an inordinant amount of time asking pestering the Lord with my questions of ‘why?’. I was rather demanding. Then I grew petulant when all I heard was silence.
Most of my ‘why?’ questions have been about other people. For some strange reason (sin) we hurt each other. Some people hurt more easily and some people are quicker to throw the spear. I find it agonizing when it is a fellow believer. I find it heart wrenching when I realize I just threw the spear. I find it difficult when my heart runs straight to embracing an offense.
What a fine line we walk! People are given the amazing privilege of reflecting God to the world around us and yet we fail everyday. We are to look for ‘fruit’. We are to live at peace and in unity with each other. We put so much pressure on ourselves and each other.
I know this Christian life was meant to be lived out with people, but it is so hard and so distracting. For instance: People are way more visible than God. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t actually seen God, I see his people. Unfortunately, I don’t see them through the veil of the righteousness of Jesus—I see them through my own sin-scaled eyes that are slowing, painfully being made new. Oh, that I would have the eyes to see as clearly as he does. Unfortunately, I don’t. I really don’t. I think I see fruit. I think I see evidence of God working in someone’s life. But when tragedy comes, when betrayal comes, it is difficult to look at their lives and believe that I saw clearly.
‘But God? I ask, it’s people that prove that your plan works. It’s people committing their lives to you. It’s people growing in you. It’s people committing their time to their local church. It’s about the people, right?’
No. It’s about God and him fulfilling his purpose.
When I am hurt by people I can run to this verse in 2 Corinthians and transfer my hope in people to hope in him.
It’s about setting our hope on God. Setting my hope on God. He has said he will deliver us. Do I believe it? Do I look for it? Do I believe that he raises the dead—not just raised the dead, past tense, but raise the dead, present tense? Do I really believe that he is powerful to take any situation and make it into something that brings him glory?
I have to or I would throw in the towel of following where he leads and where he goes. It’s the only answer that makes sense–it’s the only answer that satisfies the perpetual ‘why?’.
It’s about God—setting my hope on him—the author of my faith and the finisher of my faith.
People disappointing me does not have to finish my faith. It only does if my hope is centered on people.
Our human nature is bent towards compensation. We screw up and try to fix things by doing more or giving more. Our kids are mad at us for a decision made and we try to ‘make’ it up to them through various ways–whether it’s a gift or privilege or event. We hurt our spouse and try to compensate by buying them something or taking them somewhere. We feel inadequate in our jobs or volunteer position so we work harder or volunteer more and longer. It becomes a continuous cycle of do more, try harder then repeat.
The Israelites were great at offering sacrifices. There were numerous sacrifices and the priests were busy day and night presenting the sacrifices of the people to the Lord. And somehow, we, along with the Israelites think that is all that is required of us.
But what if it isn’t?
What if we have it all wrong?
What if it isn’t in our serving, our giving, our support of missions, or our doing the ‘right’ things? These are so important, but can easily distract us and deceive us into believing we are giving God exactly what he desires.
What if we are missing the mark in understanding what God really wants?
Look at what the Lord says in Psalm 50:7-11:
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.”
Do you hear the Lord’s cry? He is not rejecting all that we give and do for him in his name, but he is calling us to something greater.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
The three things He longs to receive from us are:
…fulfill your vows
…call upon Him
Thanksgiving. It seems too easy. It seems too hard. In the good times, thanksgiving doesn’t seem like it is ‘enough’, and in hard times, thanksgiving is too ‘hard’, so we think we need to ‘supplement’ thanksgiving by doing more and giving more and being more. To offer thanksgiving with a heart fully engaged does require sacrifice on our part. In the good times, we need to be satisfied that our thanks is enough and sacrifice our desire to do more on the altar of His acceptance. In the bad times, it is a sacrifice to give him our thanks because it hurts and giving and doing more doesn’t hurt as bad as standing before the Lord and telling him, ‘This is awful, I hate what is happening, but you are good and I thank you for your kindness and mercy and grace and greatness,’ and really mean it.
Vows. It seems as though vows don’t hold the same weight as they once did, it seems as though commitment is a choice based on the whim of the moment or what is best for ‘me’. But the Lord says to fulfill our vows to him. When we accept Christ’s redeeming and resurrecting work in our life, we enter into a covenantal relationship with the Lord to believe him, to be faithful to him, to trust him, to be made like him and to stand firm. That is fulfilling our vows to him.
Trouble. It follows us. We cannot escape it. What we do when trouble smacks us along side the head will show us where we place our trust. Do we ‘pull up our boot straps’ and dig in? Do we face it with a ‘stiff upper lip’? Do we try and deal with it in our own strength, which is so very feeble and inadequate? Do we call upon the Lord only when we have exhausted all other options? Look what the Psalmist tells us: ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you’. The moment we run into trouble or trouble comes running into us our very first response should be to call upon the Lord. Do you? Do I?
Three things the Lord counts as sacrifices offered to him:
commitment to him,
and dependence on him.
In this we will honor him and isn’t that what we want to do? Isn’t that what this life surrendered wholly to him is all about?
This is the key to making it through those days when you get up out of bed and want to crawl back into bed, throw the covers over your head because there is a big, hairy, scary monster out there called ‘To-Do’ that just might chew you up and spit you out.
Oy. I love where God has placed me. It’s hard though. and this year is a stretch. I’ve got kids stretched out all over the emotional need spectrum. I have two teenage daughters–one half way through those teen years and the other just beginning. Then there is my son who seems to be on the cusp of pre-teen, I just wish someone would have told me my son would lose his brain at the age of ten…oh wait, someone did… I just didn’t believe them. And then there is the baby, who truly is in the middle of childhood. I wish I could go back and tell myself that those years when I had four children under the age of 10 were the easiest years yet. (I don’t think I would have believed myself either).
But God is faithful.
And full of wisdom.
This is the deal: when I abide, when I rest in him, when I rely on him for my strength, my joy, and my knowledge, I am truly carried through the turmoil of emotions that I don’t even know how to deal with within myself let alone guide my daughters through. I am given wisdom on how to relate to my son in such a way that lets him know that I value him. I am given times of joy when I take the time to laugh with my 8 year old.
When I abide, I am able to be in the moment with my loved ones. I am able to embrace exactly where I am at while also recognizing the reality that I am stretched to what feels my limits in regards to time management, home organization, and being what my husband and kids need at any given moment.
Abiding. It reminds me of rest.
A virtual rest in a very real, very busy life. A perspective shift. Instead of searching for solutions to the busyness, I choose to abide in the Lord in the midst of the busy life.
If I remain in him, he will remain in me. John 15:4.
There is peace there.
There is rest there.
There is hope there.
So much love.
Love greater than our greatest need or biggest fear.
Fall is whispering its arrival in the cool nights and the turning of the fields. I have always thought the fall sky is a different sort of blue than the blue of summer or spring or winter. It takes on a brilliance that is emphasized with the myriad of colors in the fields, trees and lawns.
It’s a time to reap what was sown.
It’s a time to calculate the bushels grown and collected.
I watch the cycle of seasons as they unfold and with it I see the cycle of my spiritual life. Often times, in my walk with Christ, I go through quiet seasons, similar to winter where things seem barren, but life is there, it’s just hidden for a time. It’s a time where the Lord is revealing a hidden truth to me so I dig deep and mine it out and ponder and let it grow within and stir my soul. Sometimes I learn a hard truth, such as a pattern of thought that doesn’t please the Lord and sometimes it’s a healing truth, such as he chooses me. Me! The unchosen! (you know those playground games where teams are chosen and there is this one kid that gets picked last, but nobody wants her, but you have to pick her anyway? That was me.)
Then spring comes and with it there is mud, icy rain, and more mud, but eventually, because it alway does, life pokes it’s little head up through the muddy soil and reaches for the warmth of the sun. So it is with God’s life-giving truths in my spirit. As I accept those truths, they can’t help but poke their little heads up, looking around, trying the world on for size, trying me on for size. It’s the best part of God’s truths. They affect us and the world around us. They bring beauty.
Summer arrives and plants grow and flower and flourish. That ‘truth’ that God revealed to me in winter? Well, it begins to bloom and produce fruit, yet it needs to be protected from the weeds that will choke a new plant out. What are those weeds? My defaults. My knee-jerk reactions to people and circumstances. When that happens, I have a choice. I can choose to pull it out right then and there or ignore it and wait for another day more ‘conducive’ to ‘weeding’. The thing is…the longer I allow a weed to take root in my flower bed, the harder it is to pull out. So it is with spiritual weeds. Pull them while they’re little and your heart’s soil is soft.
My favorite time of the year. The colors are brilliant. The sky takes my breath away. The sunrises and sunsets are the most spectacular. It appears that plants are dying, but it’s this time when we can offer our fruits to others. We’ve grown and taken in nutrients from the soil and sun and we have produced fruit! The truths we learn, the hard things we face, the growth we experience are not meant for us alone. Everything we experience can be turned into praise when we allow the Holy Spirit into those places to be used for God’s glory and purpose in someone else’s life.
Then there is a season of rest–winter. And the cycle continues. We are not meant to live always in summer or on a mountaintop, but there are winter times and valley times and new growth times and muddy times and cold times and warmed by the sun times. Embrace it all and smile into the face of the future. God is there.
I write to encourage you that you can experience a vibrant, transformative relationship with God even if your past or your shame tells you otherwise. God invites you upward and onward, will you join me? You'll receive weekly devotionals straight to your inbox. By subscribing you'll receive my 7-Day Devotional, Kicking Perfect, as a thank-you gift from me!