Tuesday, October 21, 2014

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” ~ Mark 6:31

Well, I'm going to be honest. Taking time to rest is rarely my problem. My problem is probably taking too much time to rest. What I struggle with is using that time of rest to seek God and daily renew my relationship with Him. However, I have a lot of people in my life who I love dearly who struggle almost daily with the idea of rest. They have so much to do - good things usually, important things even - but they get bogged down by all that doing and feel ashamed when and if they ever allow themselves to rest. This post is for them...because I love them...and because even more than that - God loves them and calls them to rest.

“Lord Jesus, make my heart sit down.” ~ African proverb

“My soul finds rest in God alone;” ~ Psalm 62:1a

There are many things in our lives vying for our attention - work, school, family, friends, exercise, TV/movies, church activities, etc. Most of these are good things, things that we should be doing. Things that aren't harmful to us. The problem lies in doing any one thing too much, or letting everything we have to do overwhelm us. Our culture is a busy, busy, busy one and we all feel the push to do everything at once, to multitask, to schedule and reschedule and overschedule our lives to do it all. We think that doing all these things will make us happier, healthier, wiser or better in some way. And there is some good. But we've forgotten moderation and many of us have forgotten the importance and the beauty of rest.

“Remember, tho’ we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way around – we get afraid because we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?’” ~ C.S. Lewis

“Cease striving and know that I am God…” ~ Psalm 46:10

We all want to control things and to rest often means that we have to let go of the things we want or feel we need to do. It can be difficult to do that. We don't want to let others down. We don't want to look like a "bad" Christian. We don't trust anyone else to do the things we do. We think that rest is a waste of time, that it means doing nothing, that nothing = nothing good. However, because of the hectic lives we lead, we often are so overwhelmed and burdened that we need much more rest that we'd ever allow ourselves the opportunity to have. We get so emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually overwhelmed that we often find ourselves at a breaking point.

“We don’t have to think it’s funny when we feel like we need some extra comfort. I sometimes sing about that to children, but, as you know, I believe there’s a child somewhere in each of us. We all have times like that – times when an extra measure of care is needed. We need comfort and so does everyone else. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of.” 
~ Mister Rogers

“Under His wings you shall take refuge.” ~ Psalm 91:4

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” ~ Jeremiah 31:25

When we find ourselves at that breaking point, we can only turn our weary bodies and minds over to God and say "Help." If we can allow ourselves to let go of some of the things we "have" to do, allowing others the joy and privilege to come alongside of us and carry some of the burden. We don't have to feel alone - God is there to carry the burdens that no one else can carry, that we should never have to carry. And He's provided family and friends in our lives who can come alongside with a meal, a shoulder to cry on, a willing desire to be helpful, or the ability to take over those things that have to get done. It's scary to let things go, to not be in control, to be vulnerable. But there is also great joy and love and peace in letting go, in not being in control, in being vulnerable. It allows us to see how much we are cared for and loved - by God and by the people He's placed in our lives.

“‘God, the Master, says: From now on, I myself am the shepherd. I’m going looking for them…I’ll rescue them from all the places they’ve been scattered to in the storms…I’ll feed them…And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest. I’ll go after the lost, I’ll collect the strays, I’ll doctor the injured, I’ll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they’re not exploited.”
~ Ezekiel 34:11-16

“He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;” ~ Isaiah 40:11

God sees our struggles and He hears our cries even when they aren't spoken aloud. He loves us and wants us to depend on Him. He is our Shepherd - He will seek us and find us and call to us. We just need to listen to His voice and follow Him. To trust Him to take care of our needs - to rest secure in knowing that He is in control and we don't need to be afraid or worried. He wants us to snuggle into His arms and hear His voice speaking His truth and love into our lives. Unless we rest and be quiet, we won't hear Him. Unless we rest, we aren't able to quiet our minds and hearts enough to know what He wants to share with us.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
~ Matthew 11:28-30

“Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee, O Lord.” ~ St. Augustine

One of the things I've learned in the past few years is how to draw closer to God. Oh, I'm not perfect and I don't do it all the time. But I've learned the importance of sitting down with His Word and soaking up the truths He has given us. I've marveled at the height and depth and breadth of His all-consuming love for us - His people - His beloved children. I've been challenged to dig deeper and to learn more about what God says and how it impacts my life. I've been blessed by spiritual truths that calm my heart and heal the hurt feelings. One of the verses that really has spoken to me is this one:

“He will come to us like rain.” ~ Hosea 6:3

I'm not really sure exactly what it is, but it speaks volumes to my heart. I suppose it was as though my faith had dried out. It was there and I believed in God and trusted Him, but it was dry and lifeless. Until I was challenged and I felt passionate about what I believed and a deep desire to know and fight for those beliefs. As I read through God's Word in The Message, I could feel my heart and mind being watered by God's truth and love and grace. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. The words that I read seemed so fresh and clean and healing. I kept feeling this sense of exclamation and joy and my Bible has become filled with underlined passages, exclamation points, stars and notes proclaiming God's amazingness. I think that verse just kind of sums up what I've been learning and making me feel full - content - blessed in a way that I can't really explain.

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” ~ Exodus 33:14

“Christ, who loves us with an everlasting love, understands our struggles, and can be trusted to provide us with a rest we can never find on our own. His strength is enough for our weakness, making Him our “sanctuary for the heavy laden.” ~ Bill Crowder

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” ~ Exodus 14:14

We don't have to be strong all the times. We can put our trust and faith in God and lean on His strength which is far greater than any strength we might have. And in our times of weakness, if we choose to depend on His strength we can know we are safe and secure. I know I struggle with this many times, but in the times when I remember to trust Him there is a feeling of security that comes only from God. We sometimes worry that we need to try harder or work more to make God happy with us. But this couldn't be farther from the truth. God simply wants us to come to Him and admit that we can't do it on our own, that we are hopeless and helpless without Him and to place our trust and our hearts in His more than capable hands.

“That is the absolute truth. God loves you passionately, right now. He knows everything about you, your hopes and fears, your dreams and disappointments. There is nothing you can do today or tomorrow to change his love for you. Not only that, but he is in control. You don’t have to fight to make things happen. You don’t have to feel threatened when God blesses someone else’s life; you can celebrate it! You won’t miss a thing that God has for you. Because God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnipresent (with us all the time), we can rest.” ~ Sheila Walsh

“Be still, and know that I am God.” ~ Psalm 46:10

I have always been drawn to the beauty of God's creation. Amazed by the varieties of colors, scents, textures, and tastes of His beautiful world. When I am in nature, I feel closer to God. Especially when near the ocean or a peaceful garden. It's often in these times I can settle my mind, clear my thoughts and focus on the wonder of God and then I am able to more easily listen to what He might be saying to me. When I went on my mission trips over the summers of 1996 and 1998, during Training Camp we had daily hour-long devotion time. We were encouraged to find a small bit of nature, do our assigned Bible reading and spend time talking to and listening to God. I loved those times and know I could do better at doing the same in my daily life now. Also those summers, we spent a final few days debriefing in a beautiful coastal town called Cayucos. We stayed at a church very near the ocean and those few days were so restful and full of peace.

I've been back to that town many times since then, and for my husband and I, it is a place of deep peace and true rest that we are drawn to every year. Sometimes for only one night, and occasionally almost a full week. Each time we return refreshed and relaxed, but happily anticipating the next time we can visit. Our time with God should be like our times in Cayucos...or wherever it might be that brings you feelings of rest and peace...a place where time slows down, there isn't much that "has" to be done, and there is time to feel the rest and recuperation that we all need. And at the end, there is joyful anticipation of the next time you can be in that place or in His presence.

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.” ~ Nahum 1:7

“…but what joy for all who take refuge in Him!” ~ Psalm 2:12b

We all need rest. We all want rest. God created us this way. He does not need rest, yet He chose to rest on the seventh day. There are many things He could have been doing, many good and noble and important things. The fact that He chose to rest should say something to us about how important God feels rest should be for Him and for us. You don't have to be afraid to let some things go. You can choose to delegate or allow someone to come alongside and assist you. If you feel yourself at the end of your rope, feeling overwhelmed and burdened by life's stresses - settle in God's embrace and have faith that He will see you through. We can trust Him for He is faithful. And even if you don't feel overwhelmed or stressed...rest is just as important for you. Setting aside time to focus on God and your relationship with Him is a vital part of our lives.

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him;” ~ Psalm 37:7a

This time with God doesn't need to become another burden or another thing to add to your list. It should be something to look forward to. Like a vacation that you've been anxiously anticipating all year long. But it's something you can enjoy at any moment. Revel in God's creation - a beautiful sunset, a delicious meal, a good book, the scent of flowers, the kindness of a friend, anything that makes you feel thankful to God. Choose to take that moment and enjoy it, thank God for it, rest in it. No, it isn't always easy. But it is a choice and I'm fairly certain that once you make the choice to rest in Him you will discover the joy that comes from His presence and love.

Thank You, Lord, for arranging the circumstances of my life so that I must stop and rest and sit at Your feet in quiet solitude. Thank You for the healing I find there. Thank You for the new truth and redefined purpose for my life. Help me apply the truths I find when sitting at Your feet. 
In Jesus’ name, Amen. ~ Girlfriends in God devotional 8/14/14

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for providing us with the benefit and privilege of rest. Help us to remember that choosing to rest in You is the right choice and not something we should feel ashamed or guilty about choosing. Help us to spend time resting in You and listening for the things You want to tell us. Be with those who struggle with letting things go and resting in You. Help them to find a way to let go and refresh their faith and their lives in You. Please provide them a place and a time where they can draw closer to You and feel the refreshment that Your love and peace can bring. Quiet their minds from the accusations of the devil who wants them to think rest is a waste of time. Help them to rest in Your love and grace and enjoy the rest that You desire for them. Help me to be of assistance to those who might need me to come alongside them in their feelings of being overwhelmed. Help me to not be lazy, but full of joyful willingness to help. Use my life for Your purposes God. Thank You for the opportunity to write this blog and please guide my words to be a blessing and encouragement to others. Thank You for loving us and we love you too. Amen. 

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