If you know me, I am the kind of person who knows what she thinks and knows what she needs to do, but I rarely can pinpoint how I feel.
I leave that for later and I hit the ground running.
For those of us who went through 2020 (so everyone who is alive on this planet) it was a stressful year to say the least. I think I’m still uncovering all of the layers of what I learned from this past year.
One of the things I learned the hard way was how to rest.
Let me paint you a picture of where I was last year around this time of the year.
From March to October, I went from graduating with my master’s degree in my living room to starting my first teaching job on Zoom. In the midst of all of this, my sister had open heart surgery after being very sick with no answers from the doctors for almost two years. I started dating someone during this time, only to have a break-up the day my first day of my new job. I wasn’t going to any particular church at the time, so even though I loved Jesus, I felt spiritually homeless.
I felt wildly unprepared for the challenges I was about to face, and I felt like no one really understood what was going on in my life.
Instead of turning to the Lord and asking him for help, I kept piling things onto my plate.
I felt like I had to keep it all together so I would smile and pretend I was fine even though I was so exhausted mentally and emotionally. I threw myself into work to numb the pain, lesson planning late into the night and crying on the way to work. I started to not recognize myself and I got mad at my family even though they didn’t do anything wrong in particular. It got so bad that I was admitted to the ER with severe chest pain because I thought I was having a heart attack. Thankfully, after all of the tests, they found nothing wrong and sent me home to rest.
Looking back at last October, I realize now that I could have saved myself so much grief if I would have taken rest seriously.
Not sleep, but rest--actually taking a break from my busy life for at least a day or a few hours during the day. God takes rest so seriously it is a part of the ten commandments.
In Exodus 20:8 it says to honor the sabbath by keeping it holy. Holy means set apart. God wants us to set one day of our week aside to rest.
It seemed pointless to me at first, but once I learned to rest, it changed my mental health and my relationship with God.
When we rest, just like when we sleep at night, we are saying, “I am human. God, I trust You.” Rest, for me, is the most vulnerable way to trust because most times when you are resting you are laying down. You have surrendered.
This is the posture that God wants us to live our lives in.
We are loved not for what we do, but for who we are. When I need a reminder of how to rest, I often turn to Psalm 46 that says,
God, You’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge!
You’re a proven help in time of trouble—
more than enough and always available whenever I need You.
So we will never fear
even if every structure of support were to crumble away.
We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes,
moving mountains and casting them into the sea.
For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves
cannot erode our faith in You.
No matter what is going on, earthquakes, floods, global pandemics, we don’t have to fear. We don’t have to strive. We are not in control. God is.
The best part of this psalm is in verse 10 when it gives us direct instructions. In some translations it says, “Be still and know that I am God.” I love how The Passion Translation gets at the heart of the message:
“Surrender your anxiety.
Be still and realize that I am God.
I am God above all the nations,
and I am exalted throughout the whole earth.
Here He stands!
The mighty Lord of Angel Armies is on our side!
The God of Jacob fights for us!”
Another way to say it would be, “Let it go! Relax! I have it all under control. I am the one fighting for you.” This is obviously easier said than done, but I know it is possible because I have lived it.
After my trip to the ER, I started to take my body’s warning signs seriously. I made a pact with one of my best friends to get serious about my mental and emotional health. I started seeing a Christian counselor and went to get inner healing to deal with all of the stress. I reached out to my close friends when I was having a hard day. I found a new church and met new people even though it was scary to start over in a new place. I started scheduling when I would rest for a full day at least once a week. I stopped answering work emails late at night. I deleted the Instagram app off of my phone whenever I felt like it had too much of a hold on me for weeks, sometimes months at a time.
And with each small step I took, I started to feel like myself again.
One of the things that helped me the most during this time (and something I still do today) is having a specific cozy spot that I would meet with Jesus in every day. For me it’s a yellow armchair and a fluffy grey blanket from Costco. In this spot, I can just be me. I don’t have to read a certain amount of chapters of the Bible to earn His love. I don’t have to journal a bunch of pages. Sometimes, I just sit there and ask Him questions. Sometimes we have a conversation back and forth. Sometimes I listen to music. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I dance. Sometimes I sleep. Sometimes we sit there in silence.
But always, every day, I invite Him there to be with me.
Obviously, I am not perfect. I have days that go by in a blur and sometimes I forget to spend time with the Lord or lose track of taking care of me. But, guess what?
He is perfect so I don’t have to be.
He is strong, so I don’t have to be.
And if I would just be still, He has everything I need in His presence.
He’s right next to me, just waiting for when I will return into His loving arms.
I want to tell you today how much He loves you. How much God is not asking you to measure up and pick up the pieces of your life. He wants you. All of you. Even if you feel like you are unraveling at the seams. He has time for your healing. He wants to pick up the pieces. If only you would be honest and tell Him how you really feel.
The God of Angel Armies, your safe refuge, is waiting patiently to lavish His love on you.
~ Soquel Filice