The past few months have been crazy in my world. I have been working crazy hours at work, and also working on several things at home. There were many times that my to do list has made me feel like I was drowning. I have ran when my tank was long past empty and I have laid awake in bed late into the night worried about my to do list.
Over and over again, friends and family have encouraged me to slow down and take time for myself, however it felt impossible. I would quickly laugh it off, “Oh, I will rest when busy season is over.” Dan told me to go get a message and I actually turned him down. I told him we could spend our money in better ways and told him I was too busy anyway (yeah, I am fully aware how crazy that sounds).
I kept telling everyone that I knew I needed to rest, however I had no idea when I could squeeze it in. In my mind, staying busy is a sign that I am really awesome at juggling. My constant movement means that I must be really good at taking care of my husband, managing my job and all the other things that need my attention. All the things I have been doing are good. Working hard, volunteering, crafting, encouraging friends, leading a small group. How could I give up any of those good things? Rest was something that could be scheduled for when life slowed down a bit.
As my work schedule has slowed down, I have found that I am even more restless. My to do list is growing smaller and smaller by the day, but my ability to stay still isn’t improving. I find myself anxiously looking for something to do.
As I have shared before, my worries don’t like to be alone. So when I get anxious about one thing, that anxiety starts to spill into other areas of my life. Over the course of the last several weeks, I have started to feel consumed by fear and worry. I started to feel like the walls around me were caving in.
Two weeks ago, before getting up for the day, I was laying in bed scrolling through Instagram while running through my to do list in my head. Suddenly, a scripture stopped me in my tracks. Psalm 127:2 says this in the Message Translation:
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?
I don’t remember who posted it, but the verse bounced around in my head all day. The verse didn’t make sense to me. How is it useless to work? Isn’t my work ok because I’m doing good things? I tried to push the verse out of my mind, because obviously that one wasn’t for me! However, over the course of the next several days, every book I picked up and every person I chatted with mentioned rest.
That still wasn’t enough to get my attention! I continued to allow myself to spin deeper into worry, stress and anxiety. I kept telling myself that I could outrun it. I just had to keep busy. Then, a few things happened this past week that forced me to slow down.
The forced rest was terrible for my mind. I immediately assumed the worse in all the situations I found myself in. Suddenly, I had no capacity to deal with hard days. I was seconds away from tears at all times. Then, Dan told me he had been more anxious than usual. Friends, one of our cats even had an anxiety attack. (Who knew that was a thing!)
It wasn’t until others in our house mentioned their anxiety, that I realized my restlessness – my need to stay busy – was pushing those around me to feel more anxious.
So, I started to think about the times the word “rest” had come up in the last several weeks. Most times when I think of “rest”, I think of sleeping for 100 years or going away on a vacation for months, but did you know that the dictionary also defines rest as “a peaceful state of mind”.
After reading that definition, Matthew 11:28 has taken on a whole new meaning. The verse says this:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
As a person who tends to choose anxiety (fear, worry, or stress), this is a verse I have quoted several times, however it wasn’t until this week, when I realized that “rest” can be defined as “a peaceful state of mind” that this verse really changed my heart. This verse may be saying “come to me when you are tired and I will give you sleep”, but the idea that this verse could mean “come to me when you are anxious and I will calm your mind” is encouraging my heart.
But guess what, something encouraging my heart is completely different than walking in freedom found in the encouagement. Even though I knew that all I had to do was run to Jesus for peace. I continued to spin. 2 Timothy 1:7 says:
For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.
Again, this is a verse that I have quoted nearly my entire life, but this week it hit me in a knew way. I do not have to listen to the spirit of fear. When I made the decision to confess and believe that Jesus is Lord, the Bible says that God adopted me. God chose to love me as His child. He not only brought me into His family, but He made me an heir to all His authority under heaven. That means I have the power and authority to choose to not listen to the spirit of fear but to walk in the power, love and good mind that God gave me.
I wish I could tell you that I have become a pro in letting go of anxiety and walking in rest, but I can’t. What I can tell you is that I am actively working to stop listening to the spirit of fear. How am I doing that? First, I have reached out to several close to me and asked them to pray a hedge of protection around my mind. I am not meant to be an island and I am not meant to do this alone. Second, each and every time fear, anxiety or restlessness creeps into my mind, I am stopping and quoting scripture. Fear, anxiety and restlessness are not from God, and I have the authority to tell them to leave. Third, I am actively working to reduce my to-do list. I am delegating more, and saying no to good things, so I can say yes to the best things. This is incredibly hard for me, and it is for sure a process, but I know it will be beneficial.
One last thought, I did a couple polls on Instagram as I was drafting this post. I assumed there would be several people who could relate to feeling restless, but I was shocked at the large amount of people who felt like stress was just another thing to add to the “to do” list. As I watched person after person, answer the poll, I realized our peace of mind is one of the easiest things for the enemy to attack. When we feel restless, it’s easy for us to begin to feel like our life is spinning out of control. We are spinning out of control, it’s easy to forget who we are in Christ. When we forget who we are, it’s impossible for us to walk in freedom. The enemy doesn’t want us walking free.
Let’s go back to that verse in Psalms. It doesn’t say work is bad. It says worried working is useless. That verse also says “He loves giving rest to those He loves”. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Bible reminds us several times that the Jesus is were we find our ultimate rest. He loves to give His children a peaceful mind.
So today, if you are feeling worried, anxious, and restless take a breath. Remember you are a child of God. You have the authority to walk in freedom. I encourage you to take a long look at your to-do list, and start taking the good things off, so you can make room for the best things. I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust and ask them to pray for you. Finally, I encourage you to run to Jesus… He loves giving peace to His children.