Below is a guest post by my friend, Dr. Michelle Bengtson as she shares her Sacred Rest journey to learning to trust God enough to rest.
“Exhausted.” I remember giving that as my answer when someone asked, “How are you?”
As a neuropsychologist, I recognize that sometimes sleep disturbance and fatigue are the problems and other times they are a symptom of an even greater problem.
My to-do list was longer than the hours in the day. And with every item I crossed off, it seemed two more were added.
He whispered to my heart, and yet, in my frantic hurried pace, I ignored His gentle plea, figuring I’d come back to listen when I could spare a few quiet moments.
That’s the funny thing about God. He loves for us to be in His presence, but He won’t force us to stay there.
I hadn’t felt well, my spirits were low, and my heartfelt disconnected. He had been beckoning me for quite some time…through the gentle words of friends, lyrics in songs, and even through my own physical state. And yet I pushed, and put off, the very thing I needed most.
Do you ever do that? Do you make everyone else and their needs a higher priority than your own needs? Do you ever put off the thing you need most?
I could hear Him beckoning, and yet I bargained.
I just needed to:
-book plane tickets for an upcoming trip
-write thank you notes for the meals brought during my husband’s cancer treatments
-get caught up on patient reports
-finish my manuscript my agent was waiting for
-clean off my desk
-answer pending emails
Friend, if I’m honest, the list would never be completed. There is always more that needs to get done. I think that is why scripture encourages us not to worry about tomorrow, because each day has enough worries of its own. Isn’t that the truth?
Why do I always think my way is best? And if I don’t, then why do I act like I do?
My way looked nothing like He spoke of in the Word. My yolk certainly wasn’t easy, nor was my burden light. And yet I persisted. I continued doing things my own way.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.’” (Isaiah 30:15)
He was right…I would have none of it. I continued to push myself until my body could literally do no more. Then I had no choice but to engage in forced rest. Prolonged rest. Bed rest while attached to I.V. hydration and nutrition.
If we don’t rest, our body will demand it. We will become physically ill, or emotionally ill. We become more susceptible to colds and illness, as well as depression and emotional upheaval.
I was there. Physically I became so run down and depleted that my body rebelled and forced me to rest. Then depression quickly followed, and with it came true sleep disturbance.
Yet trouble resting is often an early sign of the real problem. Sometimes we need to ask the hard question: what are we really running from? Or perhaps who are we running from?
What would happen if I just slowed down and heeded His call to rest? Perhaps I would be renewed and restored, ready to face the worries of tomorrow. Or, I would come face to face with the very one I feared would see me as I was, in all my messy brokenness, and who might disapprove of all my scars.
And yet, Jesus died for my brokenness and He gave His life for my scars. Because of His sacrifice, when God looks at me, He doesn’t see broken. He sees redeemed and righteous.
Still, I feared Him. I feared Him knowing I haven’t been all I could have been in or for Him. I feared Him seeing that I’m not really the strong, independent girl others see, but rather a scared and weak young thing who longed for love and acceptance. I feared Him seeing all my mistakes and the shame that kept me bound to them in silent misery.
That’s the interesting thing about staying busy. It serves as a mask. In my busyness, there was little time to think about such things or admit my fears. Yet taking time to rest would mean stilling the chaos of my mind and hearing what He had to say. If I was being honest, that’s what I really feared.
I had a choice to make. Would I continue to listen to the lies of the enemy that shamed me everywhere I turned and condemned and accused me not only to myself but also to God? Or would I believe God’s word that encouraged me to take refuge in Him for the very thing I longed for most…His peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
I had a choice to make.
What the enemy offered would never provide peace, only more pressure. Hiding and running and doing were exhausting. What God offered was peace.
Could I risk the to-do list?
Would I trust Him to help me get done whatever He deemed important to finish?
Could I risk facing Him and myself?
Would I trust Him to love me anyway, despite my mistakes?
Could I risk letting go of my attempt to control?
Would I trust Him that in surrendering my ways and my notions, that His plan for me is good? It is to prosper me and not to harm me?
I had to first repent of my fears and my disobedience, and then I had to be willing to embrace rest (“In repentance and rest is your salvation…”).
Then I had to surrender my mind and my heart to sit quietly in His presence and trust His way is best (“in quietness and trust is your strength…”).
What did I have to lose? Anxiety, worry, stress, the heavy burden of control, the weighty mask I had grown weary wearing, the tears that ached to be released from my heart, and so much more. It just might be my saving grace.
But it all comes back to one fundamental question: Do I trust Him enough to rest?
What do you need to let go of, to embrace His rest?
Dr. Michelle Bengtson (PhD, Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of best-selling “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.” She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years. She is in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of 30 years have two teenage sons, and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com
For a Free eBook on How to Help a Depressed Loved One, click here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/how-to-help-a-depressed-loved-one-ebook/
For more helpful information about what you need to know when you have a depressed loved one, read here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/10-things-to-know-if-you-have-a-depressed-loved-one/
For more about what not to say to a depressed loved one, read here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/what-not-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/ while here are suggestions about supportive things you can say to a depressed loved one: http://drmichellebengtson.com/what-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/
Oh wow, Dr. Bengtson! I felt like I was reading my own life story!! I find it so hard to just rest in Him for the variety of reasons you mentioned. Thanks for your article, it really blessed me!