I have a few questions to ask you:
—Do you feel stressed, tired, worried, or frazzled much of the time?
—Do you feel your life is moving by too quickly?
—Do you feel like you have much to do and not enough time?
My answer to those questions is yes. I have certainly felt all those feelings. My commitments can stack up on top of each other; my unread email inbox is out of control, I am driving hurriedly from one appointment to the next, and I misplaced my grocery shopping list. Can you relate??
I crave an escape where I can slow down, rest, and recharge. I recently had that opportunity. A few weeks ago I returned from a wonderful weekend women’s retreat at Redwood Christian Park. I have been going to retreats there for about six years now and come home blessed every time. I have had the privilege of teaching a few workshops there, and this year I chose the topic, “Rest.” Rest is almost a bad “four-letter word” because our society equates rest with laziness. However, rest is essential to our well-being. So many of us struggle with knowing how to slow down and taking the time to do it. Do you struggle with this??
I want to share an excerpt of my workshop with you in case you need tips on how to slow down. (Please keep in mind this message was written for women, but men can certainly adopt the same principles.):
A.W. Tozer wrote this in his book, The Pursuit of God, “Quietness of the soul, the fruit of truly seeking God, is seldom found in twentieth century Christians. Far too many have come to accept turbulence of the soul as the norm and have ceased to seek God with their whole hearts. Some have fled the cities to retreats in hope of finding this quietness, only to discover their hearts still restless.” The turbulence of soul seems common these days. We live in a fast-paced society where we want everything quickly- fast food, instant messaging, Amazon Prime 2 day shipping, microwave meals, and the like. We are also overcommitted. We have deadlines to meet, email to answer, ministry obligations, bills to pay, parties to attend, homes that seem to need constant cleaning, and a host of a million other things to do.
We run at a pace that allows for little sleep and little downtime. Even our vacations can be exhausting, and we come home tired. Does your life feel like a whirlwind where you never have a chance to stop for a breather? So many of us are frayed from going through the motions of our active lives and hardly ever slow down. We certainly don’t rest very well. We sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others and push ourselves until we are so exhausted, and then we keep going! Why do we do this???
I began reading Shauna Niequist’s new book, Present Over Perfect, where she writes about leaving behind a frantic life for a simpler, more soulful way of living. She writes that while she loved her life with her husband and two children and her writing, she felt like she was pulling a little red wagon, and she pulled it along; she filled it so full that she could hardly keep pulling. That red wagon was her life and the weight of pulling it was destroying her. She wrote that there was something that kept driving her forward- a set of beliefs and instincts that kept her pushing, pushing even as she was longing to rest. How many of us can relate?? How many of us have too much in our “wagon” and it feels so heavy?
Here’s the thing, as godly women, we are to model Jesus, right? There is little evidence God was ever in a hurry. Instead, there are signs of patient purpose, planning, working, and waiting. Jesus didn’t labor and labor to the point of utter exhaustion and then keep on going. Jesus worked hard but also found times of rest. Six separate times the Gospels tell us Jesus withdrew to pray. We don’t ever find Jesus all frazzled because He lived a life of balance. He accomplished everything He set out to do without ignoring those crucial times of rest. If that is the way Jesus lived, it makes good sense for us to live that way, too.
Busyness kills us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It makes us stop caring about the things we care about. Busy lives can harden us, numb us, or leave us feeling empty. Mark Buchanan, in his book The Rest of God, wrote, “We have an inescapable need for rest. The rest of God is not a bonus for work well done; it is a sheer gift. It is a stop-work order in the midst of complete work.” The “Rest of God” he is referring to is the Sabbath. God cares deeply about us and knows we need rest. He created the Sabbath so we would take a day of rest and worship. The Sabbath is the rest we take right in the middle of all our obligations without guilt because God told us we could. How do we develop a Sabbath heart where we find rest, and practice a slower lifestyle?
I have five suggestions for you:
1. Learn to Say “NO!”
The staff at my church began a practice last year called “NOvember,” which meant they would say No to any extra things on the calendar: no weddings, no special events, etc. for the whole month. While that may not be practical for us as individuals, we can learn to say “no.” Priscilla Shirer of Going Beyond Ministries calls this the “NO Anointing.” She writes, ‘You know how you get the invitation to participate in that book club or organize that event or lead another ministry group, oh it always sounds so good, so encroaching, so unique an opportunity that we cannot bring ourselves to pass it up. Not when we might never get an opportunity like that again, so our ego tells us. So, despite the slight pause that we feel deep down in our gut, we say “yes” anyway. And it seems fine… at the time. Then the day/meeting/appointment/party approaches and it feels like an oncoming truck approaching at a terrifying speed. We feel like we are suffocating.”
Guess what? You don’t have to sacrifice your family, your soul, your marriage, your joy or your spirit on the altar of ministry or work. Just because you can do something does NOT mean you have to do it! Learning to say “no” is hard at first, but gets easier with practice. Some people may be frustrated or angry with you because you said no to an offer, but that is OK. Only you know your limits, and only you can protect yourself from going outside those limits. Let’s face it; we cannot say yes to everything. We have to filter what we say yes to and what we politely decline.
When deciding to accept or decline an offer ask yourself two questions: Is this what I need to do (or can it be handed off to someone else) and is this what I want to do? Don’t say yes to something out of guilt because you will regret it later.
2. Make Time for Breaks
~Insert daily pauses in your life to be still in the Word and prayer. Psalm 46:10 says”Be still and know that I am God” but how can we know God better if we are never still??? Schedule time with God if that is what you need to do to make it happen. I read this quote recently in one of my favorite devotionals, “Give God the fresh blossom of the day. Never make Him wait until the petals have faded.”
~Honor the Sabbath. Go to church regularly, fellowship with other Christians, worship the Lord.
~Find time for silence. Mother Teresa said, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in the noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature–trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” It ‘s hard to move toward a deeper relationship with the Lord without prolonged times of stillness and silence. It takes discipline and practice, though.
3. Simplify your Life
Begin to cut out the non-essential things in your life. Is it necessary to belong to five committees or attend 3 Bible studies a week? Do your children need to play every sport every season? Do you have to say yes to everything you are invited to attend? Learn how to streamline your calendar. Simplifying may mean menu planning, scheduling laundry days, or hiring help. It may mean blocking out days where you don’t commit to anything. This book was instrumental in helping me decide what to pursue and what to let go.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Why do we think we only earn rest after we have hit a wall? We need to plan for periods of rest and downtime. We plan everything else, so why not this? Block off little bits of time on your calendar for rest. This self-care could mean taking a 5-10 minute daily catnap, taking the time to journal daily, exercising regularly, listening to your favorite podcast a few times a week, reading a novel during your lunch break, giving yourself a facial, getting a manicure, or going for a walk. Self-care looks different for each one of us so yours may be none of the above, but figure out what it is and schedule it! You are not any good to others when you don’t take care of yourself.
5. Make Time for Leisure
Leisure is a free activity where we do what we like whereas with work; we do what we must. Incorporating relaxation into our lives allows us to gain perspective, to do what we find fun, and embrace that which gives us life. What brings you joy in your leisure time? Some people recharge by gardening, running, road tripping, knitting, having Netflix marathons, going to the movies, playing board games with family, and such. I find renewal by reading, going for a hike, baking, traveling, and writing. How can you change your routine to regain some sanity? Find some time to include leisure in your life whether it is weekly or monthly, just do it. Silence the guilt and have some fun!
I am pretty confident that the Lord does not want us to be so hurried, worried, busy, and anxious. We have permission to rest, to take a break, and slow down. I pray you find ways to integrate some of the suggestions listed above into your lives. Please let me know if you incorporate any and find that they help 🙂