Stressed? Time to Rest!
By Mary Southerland
We cannot negotiate the existence of stress. We simply have to learn how to manage it, and one of the most important steps in managing stress is learning how to be still and rest. As parents, how many times have we issued the command to “be still”? My children have been the recipients of that decree more often than I care to remember. The truth is, they take after their mother when it comes to being still – or should I say not being still. Furthermore, I have inadvertently conveyed the message that to be still is to be useless and unproductive, a truth that was recently brought home to me by our nineteen-year-old daughter, Danna.
To say that I spend a great deal of time at my computer is like saying that the sun usually comes up each morning. In my defense, a great deal of my job and ministry responsibilities are done through our home office. Every writing assignment and bible study is done on my computer. Online bible studies, newsletters, resource orders, prayer requests, responses to emails and website updates make up a great deal of the day-to-day management of Journey Ministry and are all orchestrated from my desk.
One of the things that I love most about Danna is her desire to share the minute details of her life with me. When she hits the door, she always has a story to tell and heads straight to the sofa in my office to find her audience. I am usually there. However, last week, the walls of the office began to close in and the whining began pouring out of my mind and heart. "I am never writing another book!" I promised myself and God. "I am sick and tired of putting words together in sentences!" I moaned. "My back hurts from sitting at this ridiculous desk." Enough! I needed a break and headed for our screened-in porch to play with kittens and watch the leaves change colors.
I heard Danna come in and knew exactly where she was going - to the study. Silence – followed by the sound of footsteps across the living room, through the kitchen, through my bedroom and into my bathroom. More silence. I wondered how long it would take her to find me. I then realized just how sad it was that the first two places my daughter thought to look for her mom were the study and the bathroom. As I pondered that pathetic realization, Danna burst through the door, a look of relief on her beautiful face. "Mom, are you OK?" she gasped. The look of concern on her face slammed a fresh realization into my mind and heart. My life obviously preached the loud message that rest is sin and that if I am sitting still, something must be wrong. I tried to dress that realization up and make it look and sound better, but the ugly truth blatantly remained. Obviously, I am not an expert when it comes to the subject of rest. In fact, I have met few people who are. It is time for me to surrender, sit at His feet and rest.
A friend recently told me the story of a young mother attending church with her five-year-old daughter. As the congregation stood to sing the chorus, “I exalt thee, oh Lord ...” the mother glanced down at her daughter standing beside her to see her little arms up in the air as she sang, “I’m exhausted, oh Lord ...” I can relate!
Let me be perfectly honest. So far, I have spent more time on this chapter than any other part of this book! There is a very good reason. I am terrible at this "rest" thing, forever walking the thin line between being productive and my life spiraling out of control. When I asked friends and prayer warriors to pray for me as I worked on a manuscript entitled “Escaping the Stress Trap”, they would invariably burst into laughter. I did not appreciate their attitudes!
I have repeatedly tried to defy my God-given need for rest, thinking that I am somehow "above" both the occurrence and consequences of exhaustion. Some urgent task will always call my name as will that person whose life will absolutely disintegrate before my eyes if I do not do something right now! Stress shouts, "Get busy! There is so much to do!" Stress applauds and dances with delight as I keep on "doing" instead of "being".
Stress can make us sick and, according to medical experts, is deadly. Between 60-90% of all medical patients complain of stress-related symptoms. My doctor tells me that stress can be good or bad but either way, stress takes its toll. The psalmist writes, "He lets me rest." Do not allow that gentle statement to fool you. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible says it this way, "He makes me lie down in green pastures". I can personally testify to the fact that the word "makes" holds a world of possibilities from God's hand in our lives and have come to the conclusion that, make no mistake, we will rest - one way or another.
Through the years, God has gently grabbed my attention with an illness that drove me to bed or a crisis that drove me to my knees. He is a persistent, loving Father and is well aware of just how much we need to rest and how much rest we need. The loving hand of God tucked the need for rest into our physical being during the creation process. Jesus even