Often, I look at my life and can’t see any evidence that I am growing in faith. It is when I’m not focused on it, that God chooses to give me a glimpse of the work He is doing in me. In the midst of my anxiety, stress, and depression, this past month, I had a moment of clarity. I have always been a person who is positive about the short-term, the little things, and the day-to-day, but I tend to be negative about the long-term, big-picture of the future. This is one of many paradoxes in my personality. I know that as a believer in Jesus Christ, I need seek to have an outlook that reflects my faith, hope, and trust in God, regardless of the tendencies of my temperament.
My marital status has long been one of the most difficult areas for me to trust God. The long-term outlook always seems bleak, and it is challenging to trust God when His plan seems to run counter to my desires. Recently, I was in a situation where I perceived that a woman, younger and prettier than me, was getting attention from men. My initial reaction was jealousy and cynicism. I thought, “In the rare case that any single men were around, I would just end up watching them go after someone else.” It is a standard response for me. What was new, was that when I reflected on it, I realized that I didn’t care. I had peace inside, knowing that if God has someone for me, I don’t need to worry about another woman winning him over. My initial jealousy was gone, and I was resting in my trust of God’s plan for my life. My peace with my circumstances took me by surprise. Intellectually, I know that I don’t want to be with a man who isn’t completely convinced that I am an awesome catch. I don’t want to settle for someone who is settling for me. Even so, it is generally irksome to feel overlooked and second best. But suddenly, I wasn’t feeling that anymore.
[Jesus said,] “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
It is strange that during a month when I was struggling with a high degree of anxiety and stress over the day-to-day demands, I discovered that I have peace about the future. It was as though the wind was causing waves on the surface of the water, but underneath everything was calm and undisturbed. That is a big change for me. Depression is affecting my moods and my responses, but I have a strong foundation that is keeping me increasingly grounded. Depression is no longer able to shake my confidence in who God is or who I am as His child.
My Christmas day was quiet and restful. It was just what I needed to regain my energy. It was also a good way to celebrate the Savior. Jesus came to give us rest by removing our burden of sin. We could spend our whole lives striving to be righteous, but we would fall short. Jesus gives us rest from this striving by offering us grace and the opportunity to have His righteousness as our own. Further, we gain rest when we surrender our lives and our will to Him. When we believe that God is trustworthy, and place our lives in His hands, we receive freedom from worry about the future. I think that I have come to a better understanding of the connection between peaceful rest and faith. As my faith increases, so does my level of peace.
“Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”
God knows that we need rest. His design for a Sabbath was exampled by Him from the very beginning. It wasn’t an arbitrary rule. The law of the Sabbath wove together the idea of trusting God with the human need for rest. God created man to work. In the garden, God had work for Adam, even before the fall. Still, man requires rest. In the fallen world, the temptation is to either be consumed by our labors or consumed by our idleness. As with so many things, we tend toward the extremes and sin enters in. It is difficult to balance work and rest, and true rest requires that we trust God.
I am certainly not a workaholic, though I do use some of my leisure time to write this blog, which requires discipline and work. On days off, there always seem to be household chores and errands that demand attention. I know that I have it easy compared to my peers who have children! But every once in a while, it is nice to have a day without too much ambition attached to it. On my Christmas Day, I did have plans to do some small things, and at one point I was a bit frustrated that I hadn’t accomplished more. Yet, I did achieve something: I was refreshed. On Thursday morning, it was easier to get out of bed and get myself off to work. I thank God for His provision of spiritual rest, which gives peace to my heart, as well as physical rest, which refreshes my body and mind.