Courage to Restby Cynthia Jennings on December 15, 2021
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake (Psalm 23:2-3 ESV).
I leaned in close, the surrounding sounds nearly muted my confessions: “I’m exhausted! I need a hiatus to rest and heal.” I’m deciding for now, I’m just not doing anything.”
Whew!! I said it. I thought back to the moment in June 2021 when I told my husband while sitting in Portillo’s restaurant and my daughter while sitting in the living room how exhausted I was and that I needed time to rest.
I’m usually the type to keep pushing even when I don’t want to or feel like it. I often say yes when I should say no.
But at that moment I practiced saying no. I heeded the voice of The Holy Spirit telling me it’s time to rest. My body, mind and spirit were in agreement but my flesh wasn’t. My thoughts were bombarded with what if someone needed me?
During that time of exhaustion and finding the courage to rest exposed some of my own habits and attuited. I asked myself some tough questions:
Why do I work so hard to be available to others?
Am I ashamed of my hurts and limitations?
What am I using to numb my pain and stress?
Who am I working too hard to please?
Do I depend on my own strength or abilities to get by?
Am I brave enough to share my struggles?
The answer to the questions wasn’t deep. The truth…my focus and perspective had been tarnished by my flesh. Thus, asking questions looking for a fleshly answer, thinking that would make me feel better. The Lord scolded me and had to reconfirm He created me to be a nurturer and he created me to have the gift of exhortation. Not only do the gifts come from God but the execution of the gifts come from Him and not from within myself. You see when I listened to my flesh and operated from within myself, I found myself exhausted! I found myself seeking strength from within and not from God thorough Jesus Christ. I found myself asking questions to get fleshly answers to soothe only what God could soothe.
The Lord wants and needs me to have courage to take a rest so that I’m in a place to be used by Him and not out of my own self.
I also realized, at that time, as women, we so often have grace for others’ weakness but little for our own. We want to “have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16 ESV) but His loving compassion is difficult to apply to ourselves. In dark times of hurt or loss, anxiety or being overwhelmed we struggle to rest in His love (1 Peter 5:7ESV). We power through the pain until we’re in danger of coming apart.
In Psalm 23, God offers himself as the healer of our stress and fatigue:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake (Psalm 23:1-3 ESV).
What a beautiful invitation to receive all we need from God’s hand. Our anxiety can give way to peace. Broken bodies and hearts can be restored. Our feet can turn from self-destruction to “right paths” of wisdom and obedience to His will. Instead of wearing ourselves out to be all things to all people, we can develop to rest in our God who is everything for us.
Yet you and I can easily ignore God’s gift of rest. We act more like the stubborn nation of Israel in the book of Hosea. Instead of depending on God for their needs, they put their trust in useless idols for provision. They “rejected knowledge” of God’s Word in favor of corrupt leadership and human wisdom. (Hosea 4:6ESV) Their hard hearts refused to follow the loving Shepherd who could guide and “pasture them like lambs in a meadow” (Hosea 4:16 ESV). We may not have the same useless idols as did the nation of Israel. But what idols do we turn to, to numb pain and stress? Or to mask hurts and limitations?
Israel’s efforts to go it alone made a wreck and ruin of their lives. They found themselves suffering instead of safe and secure in God’s love.
Are you depleted today? Do you feel crushed by the weight of others’ needs and expectations? Does the world have a greater voice than the Word in your life? Perhaps you’re putting on a brave face to mask your fear. Or sin feels too powerful to resist. You feel alone in your pain. My sister say “yes” to your Shepherd. He is calling to you right now, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
Prayer: Lord, you are not impressed by my grit or self-sufficiency. You don’t despise my weakness or tears. Today, I’m exhausted from trying to solve my problems and handle life on my own. I’ve reached the end of myself, and I want to follow You into rest. Forgive me for pride that depends on my strength instead of yours. Teach me to be still and know You are God (Psalm 46:10). Restore my soul as only You can. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
PEARLStoPONDER: Find courage to rest without guilt.
Psalm 62:1-2--For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
Psalm 73:26--My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.