“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.” –Psalm 62:5
I don’t exactly know what it is about this verse that makes me so angry. Perhaps it is the clear command for my soul to find rest. Why? To what end? I could blame my need for constant activity on a society focused on accomplishment. The pace at which almost everyone I know lives their lives is enough to send someone to their grave at an early age. It’s no wonder so many people have unidentifiable diseases and conditions: our bodies are under constant stress to the point that it seems we have no control anymore. We live our lives enslaved to obligations and basic human needs are left in the dust.
I don’t know how many meals I’ve skipped over the years because I’ve either forgotten to eat or run out of time. I lost count of how many weeks I’ve worked all seven days. Even though the entire time I’m doing it I am thinking about how much I hate being so busy, it’s like an addiction; it’s a drug. I can’t stop. Why do I feel that I need to maintain an impossible pace in life? At which point am I going to crumble into a million pieces?
When I look deep inside, I think a lot of this is driven by fear. I am afraid of being lazy. I look at people that have not amounted to much in their lives because they are couch potatoes or settle for a menial job for their entire lives when they could have done so much more. I don’t want to turn out like that. I am afraid of wasting time. I feel that in order to be an accomplished person, I must be with people all the time, building relationships and working toward something meaningful. I am afraid that if I said “no” to an invitation to a social outing that I would be considered a recluse and, for lack of a better word, anti-social. In the times that I have managed to say “no”, this is exactly how I have felt. I am afraid that if I say “no”, they’ll stop asking me. I’m afraid that ultimately I will end up alone. Part of me longs so desperately to be a part of something; the other part of me is so exhausted it doesn’t know which way is up.
Another trap that I have found that has contributed to this endless cycle involves having a lot of interests and wanting to pursue them all. I am a dreamer, and I have so many ideas and plans that I can’t afford to stop for a moment in my crusade to truly live. We only live for approximately 100 years; 20 of those years we are growing up, and the 20 or so at the end we are not able to do very much because physically our bodies start to shut down. Therefore, that leaves 60 years to experience it all and change the world. We’d better get started. I like music, art, movies, writing, travel, etc. and I must do it all. What on earth is the Bible talking about in finding rest? I don’t have time to rest. I’ll sleep when I die.
Perhaps this has contributed to the worsening of my ADD symptoms and occasional twitching. I realized yesterday when I was in Starbucks that the cashier had ample reason to believe that I was psychotic. My eyes wouldn’t stop darting from one place to another quite rapidly, and I could not maintain eye contact or carry on a basic conversation. I was so incredibly tired that my body had gone into hyper vigilance mode. It was such a weird feeling, but I’m sure it’s a natural defense mechanism. Hot chocolate brought me out of it temporarily, but the true problem lies in the fact that I cannot relax.
Find rest, my soul. Where are you hiding? I sit down to spend time with God, and so many thoughts flood through my head, I cannot even carry one to completion. I become so overwhelmed that I have to walk away. I escape into my imagination where my mind is just as busy. Rest? I hardly understand the concept anymore. I can sometimes sit down and watch a movie all the way through, and once in a while I can pick up a book that helps slow down my heart rate, but not for long and I am not truly resting. I sit on my patio and watch the sun rise while the birds chirp away and the moment feels wonderful, but I cannot stick to it. Something inside of me is terrified. I must leave and go do something. Do what? I don’t know…but something.
I wonder if maybe the Enemy of our souls has us in the palm of his hand. He doesn’t need to convince us that God isn’t real or that He doesn’t want what’s best for us. All the Enemy has to do is keep us so busy and worn out that we don’t have time to think about it. It’s like showing a dog his tail and encouraging him to chase after it. By the time we realize that we have been spinning in circles and going nowhere, we don’t have anything left and our tails hurt because we just did it to ourselves.
The church is a great place to witness this. Especially for women, it is considered spiritual to be on every committee and to be as involved as possible. We must be at all the luncheons and Bible studies. If we can sing, it is expected that we be on worship team and in the choir, and on top of that we must teach Sunday School for the first graders. The most unnatural thing I have ever done is to attend my church and only be involved in Sunday School. I felt like such a heathen. I felt guilty. Even though I was ultimately taking care of myself and protecting my sanity, I viewed myself as an undedicated Christian.
Busyness is bad enough, and then we spiritualize it. We say that God desires everything from us, so therefore we must sacrifice ourselves for His Kingdom. We must spend all our time doing all we can for Him. When we find we cannot go at full-speed all the time, we conclude that we are weak and that we don’t have enough faith. We pray for strength to do all that we think that God is asking of us, when what He really desires from us He never gets from us because we are too busy doing things “for Him”. We are never fulfilled. By the time we realize what has happened, we find that we have constructed our own idea of who God is, but the real One we do not know. Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Wouldn’t that be the worst thing that could ever happen to a person? A woman spends her life slaving away in the church, wearing herself out for all the programs and activities it offers, and when she finally stands before Jesus, He tells her that He never knew her? To us, that is the most angering thing that could be said. She earned that reward! She deserves to be praised, not sent away in shame. What kind of loving and gracious God could do that? Surely He is rational and understanding and will let her in.
However, God’s grace isn’t something someone can earn. The well-known passage of Scripture we usually quote with this concept is Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” The passages we often miss are ones like Matthew 6:26, 28: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?…See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” We read this passage and know that we should not worry, but do we understand that God lavishes His love and provision on His children, not because we have proven ourselves to Him, but simply because we have great worth as His creation? Simply because He loves us?
God knows us inside and out. There is no need for us to prove ourselves to Him. There is no worth that we can earn that we do not already have in His eyes. He loves us with an incredible passion and He calls us to live in the presence and fulfillment of this love. 1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” In other words, it is meaningless! All of our striving, all of our work, all of our sacrifice…for nothing. One of the sweetest passages in the Old Testament is Hosea 6:6, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me<sup value="[b]”>more than I want burnt offerings.” God wants us to KNOW HIM. We cannot give God anything that He does not have; all that exists is His. We cannot offer Him a service that He needs, because He has everything He needs. Our lives are about His desire for us to be in relationship with Him and our deep longing and desire to be in relationship with Him too. He desires us, and He created us to desire Him too.
I know that God desires for me to do great things, as He has a purpose for each one of our lives. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” However, I cannot follow His will for my life if I do not know Him. I can read the Bible and all kinds of spiritual books all day long, create my own idea of what God wants, and put my everything into seeing it through, but if I do not know Him, then everything I do is meaningless. How can I know His will if I do not know Him? Life is not about what we do; it is about who we are and how close we are to Christ. Do we know Him? Do we stop our busyness long enough to know Him?
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone…” Until I can live my life in response to God rather than an obligation to Him, nothing I do will matter; and I cannot live in response to Him if I am not close enough to Him to hear His voice. I don’t want to wear myself out for Him, giving all my time and energy to a program or another good thing. I don’t want to be sent away from His presence at the end of my life, having sacrificed it all for nothing. Like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, can I rest in the knowledge that my hope and faith are secure in Christ? Can I settle down long enough to see that God delights in my blessed unproductiveness as I soak up His presence and drink the living water of His love? Can I lay down my expectations and my desire to be admired long enough to see that I mean everything to God? Who else’s opinion of me matters? I don’t need to accomplish anything for my life to matter. The truth has already been spoken: “…my hope comes from Him.”