Rest Assured--But How?

So, do you feel at rest, or are you too stressed? According to The American Institute of Stress1, 77% of people experience stress that affects their physical health; 73% of people have stress that impacts their mental health2; and 48% of people have trouble sleeping because of stress. These statistics were updated August 5, 2021, and I would dare to posit that the numbers may be even higher today. So WHY are we so stressed? I have a few ideas of my own, but let’s look at what the research says. According to a study done by the American Psychological Association (APA), the top causes of stress are:
  • Work
  • The economy
  • Family responsibilities
  • Relationships
  • Personal health issues
  • Housing costs
  • Job stability
  • Family health problems
  • Personal Safety3
Though this list seems all-encompassing, I’d like to bring your attention to what isn’t mentioned as a source of stress. Not mentioned are prayer, church, Bible reading/study, or singing/listening to music, among others.
A few weeks ago, I was challenged in a Sunday morning sermon to make Christmas this year a time of rest. What? But it’s the busiest time of the year! How could I truly find rest? Then, I started searching the Scriptures and saw clearly how the  biblical worldview of this holiday season has been so skewed by the secularism and expectations of our culture (yes, even within our churches). Here are some examples of how God spoke to me through His Word to show me that rest is so needed and provided by the Lord if we seek Him.
As God has been teaching me how to be more of a Mary than a Martha (Luke 10:38-42), I came up with a handy acronym using the word "rest" to remind me how to make sure “all is calm” during a normally tumultuous season. I hope you will find encouragement through this now and as you go through the coming year.

Respond to God’s Voice.

Something I have learned along the way is that it’s hard to listen when it’s noisy or chaotic. When too much is going on or causing a distraction,  we will be distracted and may be unable to take in what is most important amidst the cacophony.
Here’s a case in point: A few years ago, while working in a local school district, I heard, not surprisingly, about one of our 8th grade girls spouting off insults and other mean verbal barbs in a classroom towards her teacher and classmates. Our assistant principal was contacted to intervene when none of the tactics used by the teacher worked. Susie (not her real name) was escorted to a quiet room near the administrative offices and left there to think about her behavior and choices, since she claimed, in her words, “I didn’t do anything wrong!”
After spending two and a half hours alone–eating lunch alone, no peer interaction, no computer, no cell phone, and nothing to touch except a table and chair–she became very contrite. When the assistant principal walked in the room 150 minutes after leaving her there, he was greeted by humility and remorse, and received a heartfelt, “I really behaved badly, and I’m so sorry. May I also apologize to my class before dismissal?” What changed for her? I believe that her solitary situation with absolutely no distractions and nothing to do but think allowed her to “hear” and face the truth about herself. When was the last time you had two and a half hours of silence?

Expect distractions, BUT don’t give into them.

Without question, we are all prone to being distractible. Isn’t it so much more enjoyable to think about anything other than our stress, our problems, our obstacles? One of the main reasons we continue to be stressed is because we are not dealing with the cause(s) of our stress by listening to our Lord’s solutions. This can only happen if we're focused on Him.

Set your affections on things above. (Colossians 3:1)

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21). Did you notice that all the items on the “stress list” shared earlier are also the things we tend to put before God in our lives? Hmmmm … didn’t He caution us in His Word about the consequences of misplaced loyalties (Matthew 6:19; 1 John 2:15-17)?  Truly, it is only when we take everything to Him and trust Him to take care of it that we will truly experience God’s peace and rest (Philippians 4:6,7; Isaiah 26:3,4).

Trust His Heart.

Who is the only one that knows us completely and thoroughly, and still loves us more than anyone else? Yes, God (John 3:16; 15:13). And who am I to think that He needs me to fret and worry over things that I literally have no control over? With that being said, I feel it’s appropriate to share the lyrics to a song that the Lord has used many times in my life to remind me that God’s got this--He always has and always will, and He desires to show His love in ways we cannot imagine.
“Trust His Heart”
By Babbie Mason

All things work for our good
Though sometimes we can't
See how they could.
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth.

Our Father knows what's best for us;
His ways are not our own.
So when your pathway grows dim,
And you just can't see Him,
Remember you're never alone.

God is too wise to be mistaken.
God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don't understand,
When don't see His plan,
When you can't trace His hand,
Trust His Heart.
I encourage you to find this song on YouTube, so that you, too, can be blessed not only by the words but by the music as well.

Jesus, with His unfailing love and amazing grace, wants to remind us in the midst of stressful and uncertain times that we can find “rest for our souls” (Matthew 11:29).   Let’s make a commitment (not a “resolution”) to seek Him daily and practice the principles of REST.
Notes:
The American Institute of Stress (https://www.stress.org/daily-life)
2See https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/
3 See https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america 
To encourage and equip you in better understanding the magnificence and compassion of our great God, we encourage you to order our newest resource, Did Jesus Commit Suicide? And 27 Other Questions Teens Are Asking About the Bible (that adults want to know, too). To access our online store for this and other books, click HERE.
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Holly Varnum, Director of Curriculum Development at Reasons for Hope* joined us September 2021 to launch curricular materials to support many of our media resources. With degrees in education, curriculum and instruction, and educational administration, she comes with over three decades of experience in working with teens and adults in camp ministry, teaching and administration, and curriculum writing (A Beka Book, Focus on the Family, and Answers in Genesis to name a few). God has provided her with a well-rounded educational perspective through service in Christian schools, charter schools, public schools, Christian camps, and local church ministry. She has been a classroom teacher, instructional coach, administrator, camp counselor, Sunday School teacher, ladies’ Bible Study teacher, and conference speaker and looks forward to using her passion for God’s truth within the context of RforH*.

Her hobbies include cooking and baking, hiking, camping, travel, and working on do-it-yourself projects. Holly and her husband, Paul, (RforH*’s new Director of Media Content) also enjoy any time they can spend with their three grown daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren (so far!). They live in the beautiful state of Maine, and yes, eat lobster (properly pronounced “lobstah”) whenever they get a chance!

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