Archive for the ‘Rest’ Category

Recovering from Stress

I feel I have been under considerable stress for the past three months. First, I had emergency surgery and then follow-up tests. Two months later, I had to rush my wife to the hospital with a possible heart attack. The next day I began a three-week program in which I mentored medical students for over thirty hours per week. After the three months, I felt drained, anxious, and depressed and wondered how could I get my joy and peace back?

How Stress Affects Us

Stress is with us to stay. We can’t avoid it. We experience stress in the big challenges of life, and in the daily hassles. There is nothing wrong with being under stress. It’s the way God designed life. What is important is to allow ourselves time to recover from the stress and not keep going as usual.

Ways to Recover

First, we need to face the fact we are tired and need recovery. Our natural tendency is to stay busy.

However, slowing down is not as easy as it seems. Many of us will suffer depression when we are not accomplishing as much. Our positive feelings about our worth are often tied to how much we get done. We may remind ourselves that with God we don’t lose any importance by not accomplishing as much.

We may also endure various physical and psychological pains that were masked when we were on an adrenalin high from responding to the stress. These pains would include headaches and indigestion.

We can become a student of ourselves in discovering what activities restore and refresh us. I have found it enjoyable to experiment to determine what activities add to my well – being. One thing I discovered was a love for deep-sea fishing.

Another action to take time is to rest. We need to slow down and take naps as necessary, and we can practice a Sabbath rest once a week if possible. Even God rested from his work on the seventh day.

We should be careful in making new commitments. I prayerfully consider each new commitment while I am in a recovery period which helps in not becoming overly – committed and stressed.

It is important to monitor our adrenalin arousal and how much “fight or flight” energy we are recruiting to handle each problem. Often, we use too much emotional energy. I recently started stressing over simply making an appointment for a test and had to talk myself down from a high adrenalin arousal. Remember God is watching over us and protecting us from all harm (Psalm 128:8).

However, we will need to be patient with ourselves. We didn’t get burned out in a day and we won’t recover in a day either. Many years ago, I knew little about resting and recovery and continued to push myself to do more when I was tired and needed to slow down. When I finally realized how depleted I was, I was exhausted physically and emotionally. It took me three years to fully recover my health.

Let’s learn to pace ourselves. May we enjoy the thrills, excitement and distraction stress brings us. But let’s also cooperate with our bodies and minds in being restored. May God grant us the grace to practice the actions that will help us to recover from stress.

 

 

 

 

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Rest

Strange as it may seem, most of us have a hard time resting. We often feel guilty. Sometimes we even feel scared of resting. “What’s going to happen to my world while I rest?” we think. Yet, resting is critical if we hope to reach spiritual maturity. For in the resting, we have the opportunity to get to know God and ourselves better.

In the last month, I took a 15-day vacation. In general, I don’t do vacations well because my worth and security are anchored in being busy and productive. However, I have come to realize that I need breaks for physical and emotional rejuvenation and to gain God’s perspective. And my worth and security are not threatened when I rest.

On this vacation I did relax. I got distracted. I rested. I had my routines disrupted which freed me to gain new perspectives and make some commitments to take some new actions.

 

We rest when we rely on God to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves – like feeling content (Philippians 4:12-13). Things like being important enough, feeling safe enough, and being ourselves and feeling comfortable about it. David rested in God’s care when he said, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places (Psalm 16:6)” as he reflected on his life. He wasn’t striving for more.

What Will It Cost Us?

But it will cost us to rest from our labors. We will have to face the fact that we are not in control. It is God and not us that determines our influence, prosperity and length of days as we do our part to cooperate with him.

We will have to shed the lie that many of us have had from childhood that there is no caregiver we can trust to watch out for our best interests. We will need to learn to rely on God’s unlimited love for us – quite a difficult challenge for those of us from abusive backgrounds.

We will also need to find our identity as a “new creature in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That’s tough for a lot of us. We have invested many years in cultivating a false identity that grounds its worth and acceptance in achievement, what people think, and good circumstances. We don’t turn away from this false identity easily.

To lose this identity can be terrifying. We must learn to trust the worth of our lives and our eternal destinies to God as we rest in his promises. We must rest in his promises like “You have been perfected for all time (Hebrews 10:14)” and “You are precious, you are honored, and I love you (Isaiah 43:4).” We would almost rather work for a false identity that would make more sense to us. But God wants us to rest in our new identity and to “cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

He says,

  • “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 10:28-30)
  • “It’s vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors. For I will meet your needs.” (Psalm 127:2)
  • “In resting in Me shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

So, let us learn to rest from trying to run our lives. Not just taking a break from the grind but an on-going break from trying to earn worth, love, and acceptance as we trust God to meet these needs in partnership with him.

 

 

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One Day at a Time

I’ve considered taking it a day at a time a wise thing to do for a long time. Why try to solve tomorrow’s problems today? I may not have enough energy left to tackle today’s problems if I do. Yet, I often try to do just that.

In the last two weeks I have been undergoing a variety of scans, x-rays and blood tests as part of my annual check-up. I find myself tempted to worry about the results. What happens if they find this or that? Then, I begin to problem-solve if they find this or that. But they may not find this or that and then I’ve wasted all this energy problem-solving. I’m not taking it a day at a time.

I once had a job in the Air Force that was so challenging that I had to take it a day at a time. Each day had so much challenge in it, I didn’t have time to worry about tomorrow. This got to be a problem sometimes when I didn’t start a project soon enough to get it done in time. I remember once putting together a $25,000,000 annual budget in my room one night for presentation the next day.

Dove in the air with wings wide open

What Does It Mean to Take It a Day at a Time?

Mark Twain wrote, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” We tend to use our imaginations to “see” problems that will never exist. God tells us to take it a day at a time so that we only tackle real problems, not anticipated ones. He reminds us that we are very limited, and don’t know if the problems we “see” today will be challenges tomorrow (James 4:14). “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34).

This doesn’t mean that we’re not to start solving today a problem that needs a solution by next week. God praises us if we look ahead to see the deadline looming in front of us and take action (Proverbs 22:3). It just means that we need to wait until it’s the proper time to start problem-solving, when the facts are available and we still have the time and energy to focus.

One day at a time means waiting for God to provide. He promises that “as your days are, so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25, NKJV). As God provided manna a day at a time to Israel in the desert, he gives us the strength for today’s problems. We often wear ourselves out trying to fix tomorrow’s imaginary problems in today’s strength. Instead, he wants us to lean on his help for tomorrow and not our ability to figure it out ahead of time.

How to Take It a Day at a Time

It’s tough to take it a day at a time. Trusting in God has always been a challenge for me and I tend to be a good problem solver. As a result, I tend to take on more than one day at a time and worry a lot. However, these are a few things that have helped me take it a day at a time:

  • Pray–This often works to cut down on my anxiety but more often it results in God intervening in miraculous ways.
  • Continue to grow in my faith by knowing and applying the Word of God in dependence on the Spirit.
  • Grow in living in the reality of who I am to God–his son! I am deeply loved, precious and totally acceptable to him, just like a child is to a loving father. I can trust a loving Father who happens to be God Almighty to take care of me a day at a time.

In closing, Pastor Rick Warren writes to us:

“God solved your biggest problem — getting into Heaven — when he sent Jesus to die for you. If God loved you enough to send Jesus to die for you, don’t you think he loves you enough to take care of all these other problems?” (Romans 8:32).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think we all long to be happy. We want things to turn out so that we feel good. We want to enjoy life, and anything that blocks getting what we want is bad.

This week I was reading a book about people who have major flaws in their character and, as a result, hurt people around them. It wasn’t hard to see three people from my past that did this to me.

My first response was anger at God for putting these people in my life. “What were you thinking God? Aren’t you supposed to love me? What good thing could you possibly bring from the wounds they did to me?”

These people robbed me of a lot of happiness. How much happier I could have been if they had been different! But they weren’t.

And so goes life. “For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). God warns us that life is often not happy. Our days are full of trouble.

Happiness depends on good happenings. So, how can we be happy when so many of our happenings aren’t happy?

God says a better goal for us is contentment. Contentment is wanting what we get (Hebrews 13:5). In contrast, happiness is getting what we want.

When we accept that God is the one who watches out for us, we trust that whatever bad things happened to us really had good purposes buried in them – although we may never understand what they were (Proverbs 3:5-6).

What Contentment is

The dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being mentally and emotionally satisfied with things as they are.” “As they are? How can we be satisfied with physical pain we experience everyday!” we may say to God.

It’s rare to find anyone who is deeply content with his or her life. We are a frustrated people. We worry, desire, fret, and act impatiently. How do we calm and quiet our self, like a weaned child with its mother – and be content (Psalm 131:2, paraphrased)?

How We Can Become More Content

The only way we can become more content is to grow spiritually. Otherwise, we stay the same and are frustrated by life and all the bad things that happen to us. “Human desire is never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20, NLT).

But how do we grow spiritually?

One thing Paul did was to consider that the hurts of life would be used by God to make him godlier than he would have been without them happening. Listen to him – “I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

These bad things drove him to God in desperation. He allowed God to help him in ways he never would have if he were complacent with the circumstances of life.

Paul further explains his secret to contentment. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do it by depending on God’s strength” (Philippians 4:12-13, paraphrased).

So, what are we going to do – seek happiness in our human strength and fail? Or, seek contentment through depending on God’s help and growing spiritually? I choose seeking contentment.

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Have You Learned to Rest?

I learned a long time ago how valuable it was to rest. I had burned out physically and emotionally when I was forty and needed to learn how to better pace myself to operate within my limits. It was a long journey that took years to be in a much better place.

I sense I am now going through an intensive time of learning to rest in God and his promises in certain other areas. But in several areas I already rest deeply. For example, I rest in God’s promise to guide me. After looking to God for guidance thousands of times over many years, I can state with confidence that he has always guided me wisely according to his promise,  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go” (Psalm 32:8).

However, I struggle to rest in his promise, “You are precious, you are honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4, paraphrased). Because I don’t rest in this promise, I try to earn what he has already given me – respect, honor, and love.

I do that through seeking achievements, impressing people, being strong, and depending on good circumstances. But these don’t satisfy and I don’t rest!

Do you rest?

Now, resting in God and his loving care doesn’t mean we do nothing. But what does it mean?

What It Means

One thing resting means is not striving. The battle is over! Like it or not we are important to God and will never be more important. Like it or not God loves us now and will never love us more- even when we are extra good.

We may say, ”But earning God’s love and respect seems to make more sense. It was the way I was raised.”

But God is different from those who raised us and the society that formed us.

He says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He further says, “You don’t have to solve all your problems by yourself. I will do most of the work and show you what you need to do for me to help you” (Matthew 11: 29-30, paraphrased).

But we may say, “I don’t need God’s help. I can become important, loved and accepted on my own.”

Oh really? How long will we allow Satan to deceive us into trying to be good enough to get to heaven, impressing people to the point of feeling deeply loved, and accomplishing things that will bring us honor and last forever?

Yet, with God, we can learn to rest in the reality that he has already given us acceptance, love, and honor as gifts – not things we have to strive after. But can we rest in these truths?

How to Rest

It helps to rest if we focus on who God is. “I am the Lord, the God of all flesh, is there anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).

“But my problems are too complex and my faith so little that you won’t help me,” we may say to God.

But he says, “If you have just a tiny bit of dependence on Me, I will help you” (Matthew 17:20, paraphrased). Our focus needs to be on our great God, not our great faith.

I have found resting in God and his promises an agonizingly slow process. My feelings and “common sense” often hinder relying and counting on his help and protection.

Yet, as I have dared to rely on his guidance, his love and his acceptance, I have grown to rest in them more.

May we have the courage to take God at his word and rest. He is faithful to help us even if our fears threaten to overwhelm our tiny faith (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 

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Do You Need to Rest?

I didn’t grow up thinking that rest was all that important. In fact, the less I rested, the better. I could get more done.

Then, one day I burned out when I turned forty. I became exhausted physically and emotionally. One thing that had caused the burnout was that I had ignored my need to rest.

So, I began a three- year journey to learn how to rest, along with learning several other things. I learned the value of having a hobby that I enjoyed and relaxed me, which for me was deep-sea fishing.

I also learned that many of us struggle with resting. And there are good reasons why we struggle.

So what’s up? Why do so many of us struggle with taking time out to rest?

Why It’s So Hard to Rest

One big reason that many of us struggle with resting is that we are trying to be God. We are busy trying to become important, safe, approved of, and loved. It is hard for us to trust that God is taking care of us when we rest.

So, we stay on duty 24/7 persuing our needs, instead of relying on God to meet them. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:41). That one thing is to trust in God to take care of us.

Resting also drives home the sometimes-scary truth that who we are depends on what God thinks of us and not on how well we can earn our identity. I often feel more secure in depending on my achievements to feel important instead of God’s gift of importance (Isaiah 43:4).

A third reason we often struggle with resting is that we try to figure out what God is doing instead of trusting that whatever he is doing, it is good. God warns us, “Trust in Me with all your heart and don’t rely on your understanding, acknowledge your need for Me and then I will guide you the best way” (Proverbs 3:5-6 paraphrased).   When we trust God, we can rest from trying to figure everything out.

How To Rest

So, how do we rest?

One thing we can do is to rest one day a week. It’s one of the commandments (Exodus 20:8-11).

I started doing this after my crash. I ceased striving for achievements on that day and did things that rejuvenated me, like resting. I chose Sundays to rest after going to church.

Another thing we can do to rest is to pray. We can’t rest when we are anxious about a number of things. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Probably the most important thing we can do is to rest in who we are to God. We are his children and he greatly loves, respects, and protects us (our identity). We have nothing to prove to others or our self.

Let’s ask God to increase our faith to accept the rest he promises (Hebrews 4:9-11). Not only can we rest from trying to earn our salvation, but also rest from trying to earn our identity.

 

 

 

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A Time to Rest

A Pastor at my church recently asked me if I wanted to work with him in the fall to bring a new ministry into the church. I felt excited about it, but at the same time I felt tired. I thought of all the extra work I would have to do.

Then another person in the church asked if I would help out in another ministry. The commitment would be just a few hours once in awhile.

At the same time, I began to notice physical signs of being stressed. I began to ponder what might be causing these feelings. I then thought of the many challenges I have had to face in the last few months. Several of them have yet to be overcome.

I decided right then that this summer needed to be a time for me to rest. I needed to pay attention to the stress within me and care for my soul. I can’t give much when I am exhausted within.

But I hate to rest. I hate to experience the painful feeling within when I slow down and pay attention to them. Often I would rather run from my feelings and stay busy. Therefore, I struggle to rest.

Yet, God says that there is a time for every event under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1). This means that there is a time to rest. God does not want us to work all of the time. This rest could be for a few hours a week or a slowed-down summer.

Yet, we often resist rest. We often resist rest because we can’t conqueror and earn the praise of others and acceptance by ourselves.

I read a book several years ago called When I Rest I Feel Guilty. The author felt that he had to be busy all the time to be a worthwhile person. Many of us feel the same way. So, we don’t rest.

God encourages us to “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It seems that some of us resist the idea that we need his help and refuse to face our limitations. We choose to try to muscle our way through life in the illusion that we can make life work without God. So, we don’t rest.

We would be wise to follow God into his green pastures and quiet waters (Psalm 23). We would be wise to allow him to restore our souls as we rest.

So, how do you feel about rest? Do you think it is a waste of time or a little scary?

Ask God to show you if you need more rest. If you do, ask him to give you the courage to rest and how to best do it.

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