If we value experiencing internal peace and being at rest in our spirit, it is a good idea for us to often ask ourselves this question:
Are there any areas where I am resisting God
working in and through my life?
Why is this an important question? Because there is no better way to forfeit our internal peace and rest than to resist our Maker.
To illustrate the unrest that accompanies resistance, let’s take a look at the prophet Jonah - a resistor who received an assignment from God -”Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it…” (Jonah 1:2) God said “Go!” and Jonah responded with “No!” as he resisted God in three major ways.
Jonah Reasoned “Oh Lord, is that not what I said when I was still at home?” (Jonah 4:2)
When Jonah received the command from God to go to Nineveh, he tried to reason it out before he even left home. The Ninevites were an enemy of the Israelites and well known for their evil behavior. The God who was sending Jonah to them was, in Jonah’s own words, “…a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2). That God would send Jonah to them to preach rather than destroying them outright was probably a mystery to Jonah. How could that be rational and how could that be right? Jonah’s failed attempt to reason and make sense out what God was asking him to do led him to his second act of resistance.
Jonah Ran “That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.” (Jonah 4:2)
Rather than obeying God’s command, Jonah bought a ticket and got onboard a ship travelling in the opposite direction of his assignment. God responded by sending a storm so violent that it threatened to break apart the ship. The inevitable result of his resistance came when he admitted that his disobedience was the cause of the storm and he was tossed overboard and swallowed by a big fish which brought him to the point of desperation at the bottom of the sea. Jonah cried out to God and God responded by putting him back on dry land with a second chance – “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’” (Jonah 3:1). The king of Nineveh responded to God’s message delivered through Jonah by acknowledging and repenting of Nineveh’s collective sins. He commanded the people to “…call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (Jonah 3:8-9). God responded to the Ninevites' repentance with compassion and “…did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened”. (Jonah 3:10). But rather than being thankful that the Ninevites had responded to God's message, Jonah instead moved on to his third act of resistance.
Jonah Raged “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” (Jonah 4:1)
Jonah was angry. In fact, he was “angry enough to die.” (Jonah 4:9)
When looking at the story of Jonah, it is safe to say
that Jonah, the resistor, was not a man who was at
peace with God or at rest in his spirit.
To Jonah’s credit, he did resolve one of the areas of his resistance – running - which is a temptation that many of us also encounter as we walk with Christ. A turning point came when he cried out to the Lord for help and decided to no longer resist. His prayer from the bottom of the sea contained the following important words, “What I have vowed, will make good…” (Jonah 2:9) What did Jonah vow? We don’t know for sure, but given that he was a prophet, we may speculate that he probably made a vow that may sound familiar to many of us who are devoted followers of Christ: “I will go where you want me to go, do what you want me to do and say what you want me to say” But just like Jonah, we have our own Ninevehs – those things that God asks of us that go against our sensibilities. Like Jonah, we also have places where we don’t want to go, things that we don’t want to do, people that we don’t want to serve and words that we don’t want to say. Still, Jonah chose to stop resisting God and fulfill his assignment.
But, at the end of the story, Jonah’s unrest continued as he still struggled with reasoning and rage, as his thoughts and emotions were not in line with God’s plans and intentions. Jonah saw the Ninevites as a group of evil people (120,000 people, to be exact) to be wiped off the face of the earth. God saw the Ninevites as a group of people to be concerned about. In God’s eyes, they were a group of people doing evil things, but they could not “tell their right hand from their left.” (Jonah 4:11) Jonah saw a group of people in need of judgment. God saw a group of people in need of warning and correction.
We can burn a lot of precious energy, waste a lot of time and suffer a great deal of inner turmoil when we resist the work that God is doing in and through us as we reason, run and rage rather than cooperate and trust.
I’ve always enjoyed a good sermon about Jonah because his story makes me feel better about my own. That is, until I realize that my story is not as different as his as I would like to believe. I, too, have been a resistor by reasoning, running and raging. In fact, the blog that you are reading and the website that has been created to house it are all the result of someone who finally decided to stop resisting. And one of the primary motivators of getting back in line with God’s working in my life was the internal and external unrest that inevitably follows the one who resists trusting in and cooperating with her Maker. I have found that aligning my thoughts and behavior with God’s plans and intentions does not answer all the questions and does not erase all the uncertainty, but it does give internal peace and spiritual rest.
How about you? Have you ever considered that your lack of peace or feelings of unrest could be a result of resistance? Are you expending available energy, wasting precious time and experiencing inner turmoil as you try to out-reason, run from or rage about the work that God is trying to do in and through you? Is there any area of your life where you are resisting by putting your own ideas, thoughts, feelings and decisions above God’s wisdom, guidance and instruction? Is it possible that acceptance and obedience may be the place where you will find the peace and the spiritual rest that you desire?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
In our family, we often critique each other’s driving skills. My daughter once came up with an interesting description of my driving style. She said that I am a “natural nudger.” It has been a joke in our family ever since. She observed that I have my own way of “helping” other people on the road become a little faster and more efficient on their journey to their destination.
Despite my protestations, I had to smile and admit that there is a grain of truth in her observation. There are days when am on the road facing the stress of having things to do, places to go and people to see. When my life gets demanding, my natural tendency is to switch it into high gear and expect that others will do the same.
Contrast my response with that of Jesus:
He was a man in high demand
Yet the news about him spread all the more,
so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.
But His response was to retreat to seek God rather than to run harder and faster to meet all the demands, requests and expectations and then nudge others to do the same.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
He had things to do, places to go and people to see, yet his response was the opposite of a “natural nudger.” When under pressure, He often withdrew to lonely places and prayed, even as he faced the many requests, demands and expectations.
When we face the pressure of many demands - things to do, places to go and people to see - we have the choice to try to work faster and more efficiently and nudge others to do the same or we can allow ourselves to be nudged by the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit as we frequently retreat to a quiet place to pray.
When I am in the mode of a “natural nudger,”
I am operating from a sense of panic –
there is so much to do in so little time.
But when I stop, withdraw and pray,
even if only for a few minutes,
I begin to operate out of a sense of peace
which enables me to clearly and correctly think and respond
physically, mentally and emotionally.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
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.
In my driving, I have no doubt that I could create a much more peaceful and safe experience for myself and others on the road if I were to replace my tendency to be a “natural nudger” with a short prayer in a nearby parking lot to gain perspective and wisdom rather than reacting to the pressure.
In my life, I know that taking a few minutes away to pray would allow God to give me His perspective on a pressure-filled situation and respond out of sense of peace rather than panic.
How about you? Will you follow the example of Jesus and take the time to retreat and pray even when facing the pressure of multiple demands, requests and expectations? Will you choose to run faster and harder or will you retreat and find wisdom and rest in God’s presence?
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I have noticed that when I am feeling short on rest, I often turn to blaming the people or circumstances in my life for my lack of physical energy and for my mental and emotional exhaustion. But when I really examine my life carefully, I am embarrassed to admit how much energy I have expended and how much rest I have forfeited simply by getting involved in problems that were never mine to solve.
When it comes to relationships with the many people in our lives, there are, in general, four different verbs that best describe our roles and responsibilities:
Comply – Those to whom we must submit because they have a position of authority in our lives and we have the responsibility to comply, cooperate and conform to their directives: bosses, governing authorities, guardians, parents (of minor children)
Cover - Those over whom we have a position of authority where our responsibility is to care for, correct and cover them with our protection: minor children, adults under our guardianship, those below us in the chain of command of an organization.
Coach – Those over whom we have influence and have a responsibility to coach, counsel and challenge in order to help them to be successful: students, colleagues, anyone who is a few steps behind us on a common journey.
Collaborate – Those with whom we have intentionally chosen to coexist – we choose to share our lives with them at home or at work in a spirit of encouragement, cooperation and collaboration.
Of these four types of roles, in which one do we have the unquestionable responsibility to find and implement the solution to a problem? Only one! In the role of covering we have both the responsibility to find solutions to problems for those under our care and the authority to implement those solutions. In all of the other roles, we are participants who can be part of a solution to a problem, but only if our contribution is desired.
My husband, Bob, is a man who works hard, but also experiences a great deal of peace and rest in his life. I think this is because of one very simple rule that he lives by; outside of his covering roles at work and at home, he only gives advice and gets involved in the problems of others when he is invited to do so. Yes, I know – it sounds so simple, but, in reality, it is very difficult. But he actually does live by this rule that he has set for himself. As a result, he not only experiences rest and peace in his life, but he is seen by others as a person to be respected and one who is worthy of being listened to.
I, on the other hand, tend to think that it is my duty to get involved and try to help, even when my help is not directly requested. Perhaps it is because I am concerned, compassionate and caring. Perhaps it is because I am prideful, fearful and unwise. Most definitely, it is because I have not heeded the wise advice from scripture that I should mind my own business!
“Now about your love for one another…we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders….”
1 Thessalonians 4: 9-12
“Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.”
As I have thought about it, I believe that, many times, I am exhausted for one of two reasons:
1. I am expending my energy to solve problems that do not belong to me and into which I have not been invited.
2. I am expending my energy trying to solve problems into which I have been invited, but the person who invited me is not really all that interested and invested in really finding a solution. There are times when all of us are not quite ready to solve a problem as we are processing some of the issues and emotions around it. In other words, what looks like an invitation to help solve a problem is really an invitation to be attentive and listen.
When I am feeling like I have a lack of rest and an abundance of exhaustion, there is a long list of questions that I can ask myself regarding getting enough relaxation and sleep, taking on too many commitments and taking good care of myself in general. But I have a very important set of questions to add to my list:
Am I expending energy and forfeiting my rest by getting involved in trying to solve problems where…
How about you? Are you involved in something that is draining your energy where it would be wise for you to ask yourself these questions?
Sometimes my relationship with God seems a bit strange. Take this morning, for example. The Lord woke me up in the very early morning with more than enough time to pass before witnessing the first light of the day.
I prayed to get back to sleep, but sensed that I was to arise and go downstairs to the quiet and dark living room. Then, as I was inquiring to the Lord about this inconvenient circumstance, I heard that still, small voice that simply said, “Rest in my presence.”
Huh? I have to wake up to rest in the presence of God? That can’t be right! But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. You see, my daily time with the Lord is often a very productive time because there sometimes seems to be much I must do - a prescription, of sorts, to enter into His presence and engage in our relationship.
Think about a close relationship. Being still in that relationship is an important part of that relationship. When we are with someone we are close to, we can let our guard down and feel no need to fret or take action. We can go for hours with no words spoken or tasks done and yet feel close to them just because we are in their loving presence
We can be still and still be engaged in the relationship. We can relax and just “be” because we know them. We know that their intentions towards us are good and that they will have our back. We know them, and because we know them, we know we are safe. And because we know we are safe, we can be still.
Could it be that being still before God and resting rather than actively seeking His presence is sometimes a part of our relationship with Him of which He wants us to partake? So much so that He will wake us up in order to experience it?
In Psalm 46, God declares:
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Everyone (child of God or enemy of God) will be still before Him once they are faced with the true knowledge of Him - that He is exalted over all. The arrogance of God’s enemies and the anxiety of God’s children will be stilled in the face of who God is.
My Bible reading, prayers, confessions, worship, thanksgiving and desire for daily strength and guidance are all good and God-honoring things. But early this morning, I was encouraged to cease the activity and be still before God – to remember who He is and rest (as in sit still in God’s presence taking no specific action) in light of that remembrance. I can be still and still be engaged in that relationship.
Oh, how I needed this revelation given some of the out of my control circumstances on the verge of collapse in my life today. The brief time to remember and be still was the best prescription of all.
There is a time to seek and there is a time to be still. When was the last time that, upon remembering that He is exalted over all, you were still before God?
Many people find rest and renewal by taking a few days away from the regular routine and going to a far off destination. I did just that last week and it truly did feel good to “do something different somewhere else.”* I went to visit my dear friend that I have known and been close to since our college days.
We had a great time talking, relaxing, laughing, seeing the sights, shopping and eating. And the warm Arizona sunshine made it all the better! But as great as all these things were, I have to honestly say that the most restful and refreshing part of my time away with my friend was the opportunity to be real.
Like everyone else, I have a list of “shoulds.” External “shoulds” that come from society, my community, the media and specific people, most (but not all) of whom are considering my best interests. Internal “shoulds” that represent what I think I should believe, feel, desire, say and do, especially since I am a Christian.
My “shoulds” sometimes don’t match my reality and that causes some unrest in my life. In fact, the pressure to try to be what I “should” be can be exhausting. So, there is rest to be found in “getting real”with a friend who will:
I believe that being real promotes health and healing because it:
In fact, a recent study called The Science of Honesty found that a group of people who were instructed to “…speak honestly, truthfully, and sincerely—not only about the big things, but also about the small things…always mean what you say in situations where your statements are to be taken seriously…” had fewer physical health complaints than the group in the study who were not given these specific instructions. Similar studies have shown mental and relational benefits as well.
In many places in scripture, we are encouraged to be honest and real with each other (Ephesians 4:25), but I wonder if we sometimes forget that God wants us to be honest with Him as well. David is described as a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), so it seems that God was not put off by how David found rest and hope as He got real with God as seen in the Psalms.
Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked. You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?
Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Perhaps the writing in this Psalm seems hard to relate to in this day and age. For a modern-day glimpse of this kind of expression of getting real with God, take a look at an excerpt from the lyrics of a psalm writer from a more recent period of time:
…You who live in eternity hear the prayers of those of us who live in time;
We can't see what's ahead and we cannot get free from what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screamin' in my ears -
all these words of shame and doubt, blame and regret
I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here; to where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so You've been here all along, I guess; it's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get
(Rich Mullins - Hard to Get- The Jesus Record, Word Entertainment, 1998)
When we “get real” with God, we open ourselves up to His comfort, counsel and correction because His stance towards us as His children is that of a loving, compassionate and merciful Father.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14)
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
When we “get real” with trusted friends, we experience the healing that comes from allowing ourselves to be ministered to by the godly insight, gifts and prayers of others.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
“…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
When was the last time that you allowed yourself to “get real” and express yourself authentically to God or to a good friend? A great way to start is to simply reflect on this question: “What is something about me that I keep under wraps because I fear that if I brought it to light and shared it with others, I might feel embarrassed or ashamed?” Maybe a secret future dream or desire? Maybe a secret past experience? Maybe a secret current thought, feeling or behavior?
I appreciate a good vacation as much as anyone else.
But nothing can come close to being more restful or valuable than having a relationship with God and good friends with whom I can “get real” without fear.
If you have been exhausted lately, then it is important to get some rest. Aside from adequate sleep, it may be wise to determine the kind of rest that you need. Maybe it is time to throw out the non-stop daily routine for a few days and “do something different somewhere else.”* Maybe it is time to re-examine the list of “shoulds” and “get real” before God and a good friend. Whichever it is, may the door of health and healing be opened for you!
*Jim Wann – Vacation - Pump Boys and Dinettes – Masterworks Broadway - 1988
This week, I am experiencing the consequences of failing to assign proper priority of rest in my life. And the worst part is that I should have known better!
Last Sunday, our pastor's wife gave an excellent talk on the importance of rest. She chose this topic because she felt that God led her to speak about this to our Sunday School class in particular. I heard it, but I didn't receive it. For years, my husband has been telling me that I don't place a high enough value on rest. In fact, a few days ago, my husband wanted to talk to me. He had been praying for me in regard to some of the very strange, unexpected and somewhat disappointing situations that I am experiencing right now. He told me that, as he was praying, God impressed on him that one thing that He wants me to learn during this season of life is how to rest. I heard it, but I didn't receive it.
I went about my usual week which included working on a very challenging project that is important to me. So, I worked during the day, for part of the evening and then burned the midnight oil, staying up much later than I should have. Then, after an inadequate amount of sleep, I dragged myself out of bed and to my exercise class where I gave it all the energy I could manage to expend. Is it any surprise that I have spent the past few days feeling exhausted, achy and fighting off my first illness of the year? When, oh when, will I learn the value of investing in rest? I have discovered that God often speaks when we have been humbled enough to actually listen. The other day, I opened my Bible and came across this small, but very powerful commandment that was given to the Hebrews in the Old Testament: "For six days you are to work, but on the seventh day you are to rest; even during plowing time and harvest you are to rest." (Exodus 34:21, emphasis mine).
Do you notice that this verse goes beyond the commandment from the Big Ten - "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." (Exodus 20:8) The Jews received a clarification on the commandment about the Sabbath. They were to observe the Sabbath by taking a day of rest even during plowing time and harvest time. For those who make their living by cultivating the land, plowing and harvesting are important and time-sensitive activities. They do not plow and harvest whenever they feel like it. Rather, they consider all the variables and determine best time to plow and harvest in order to get the best return for their investment of resources. But the Jews were commanded to take a day of rest even during the time when their most important and time-sensitive work needed to be done!
As Christians, we live under the new covenant and are no longer obligated to live under the strict customs and commands of Jewish law. Instead, we live under a higher law, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength...Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 30-31)
Still, we can't ignore the example that God set for us when He rested after six days of creative work (Genesis 2:2-3). And we are wise to remember that God's commands are for our benefit (Psalm 119:35). While we are not obligated to observe the Sabbath as one under Jewish law, it would be wise for us to deliberately take time to rest so that we can enjoy the benefits of the principles behind the Sabbath:
As a woman who values her health, I admit that I have often spent more time talking about rest than actually resting. And I realize that, in order to truly reap the benefits of rest,
I need to be willing to deliberately take the time to rest even during times when my work is important and time-sensitive.
Rest even during the race to meet a deadline at work. Rest even during preparations for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Rest even during the near completion of a high value home project. Rest even during final exams week. Rest even during the completion of the tasks you are crossing off your "To Do" list today. While a day of rest a week is best, even smaller amounts of intentional rest can help us to refresh our body and mind, remember our God and reconnect with others.
May God give us all the faith and discipline to "rest even during" for the benefit of our physical, mental and spiritual health. And may God help me to listen and take to heart the wise instruction of others so I don't have to learn the hard way next time!
About the author:
Hello! My name is Ginger Hill and I am a Christ follower and a wellness professional. Over the years, I have personally and professionally seen the benefits of healthy living and I have also seen the hardships of struggling to practice good health habits in the midst of a busy and sometimes stressful life. I am passionate about helping myself and others to live a healthy lifestyle and I believe that good health is essential in helping us to do the good works that God has called us to do. Because I am a work in progress, I write these blog posts to encourage myself and I share them with others in the hope that they may be encouraged as well.
Psalm 92:12,14 (NLT)
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