How to Rest in Turbulent Times

How to Rest in Turbulent Times
By Shane Idleman

From the COVID crisis to financial burdens, and from fear and isolation to a divided nation, millions are lacking “peace and rest.” But I believe we can find rest if we look to the right source. As one theologian said, “Rest is desisting from exertion.”

Expending energy has a time and a very important place in our lives—we were created to work. But we were also created to rest. The problem for many is that they never stop and rest. They are always wound up, so to speak.

In a helpful article on the reasons spiritual leaders need rest, which all of us should read, author Cary Schmidt says, “Pastors and ministry leaders don’t ever really ‘clock out.’ It’s a part of the call. The needs are incessant. The only means of real survival is to pull away from the demands long enough to restore. Everyone must come up for air eventually or die.”

Nowadays, most of us never “clock out.” Whether it’s running the kids back and forth seven days a week or working frantic hours, we are busier than ever because we often measure success by busyness. The busier I am, the more successful I am, so we think.

Schmidt adds, “The primary reason we struggle to rest is that our identity is tied to the things that keep us running at a breakneck pace. We have anchored our sense of self to what we do for God—therefore we can never do enough, and if we stop, even for a short time, we feel a loss of self and fear His disapproval.” 

Could it be that God wants most of us to “slow” down? Absolutely. We are “glued” to screens, “addicted” to phones, and “enslaved” to sports and entertainment. We scurry around every day looking for the “next” thing to do, but we never find the rest we need. We go to bed exhausted and wake up exhausted. Something must change.

What many need is a spiritual reset. Reset means to take something back to zero or to renew. Rest prevents “burnout” and breakdown and provides “clarity and peace.” Resting allows us to remove the competing voice of busyness and hear more clearly from God. I believe that the Sabbath was designed to keep us from working too much, and instead, focus solely on God.

We would do well to follow that same model. Try turning your phone off and not going on the computer all day—take the day completely off and turn your attention to God. And just watch how quickly the stronghold of addiction tries to undermine it.

In the Hebrew language, rest means to be calm, wait patiently, lay down, and put aside. There is a clear ceasing of effort and a renewed focus on God that restores energy and enthusiasm. Schmidt made a great point here too: “A fatigued leader is discouraged, weary, and perhaps even angry or irritable. Rest restores emotional energy.” Parents, our kids need us to rest, and we need to model rest to them. Leaders, those you are leading will benefit greatly from your resting.

Isaiah 40:30-31 reminds us that “even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for [rest in] the Lord shall renew their strength.” We wait for what we value. Waiting on the Lord, or resting, shows how much we value our relationship with God and hearing from Him. Like a desert that waits for the rain or a bride waiting for her groom, our longing must be for God. Prioritize times in your day to pray and build intimacy with God. It won’t happen on its own.

Most restlessness comes from two primary sources—mental and physical. What your mind dwells on will determine your level of peace and rest. A constant mental diet of negative news, mesmerizing media, and ungodly, dark entertainment will surely lead to fear and frustration. This is exactly why Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

What you read, watch, and listen to is either fostering peace or fueling fear. Take steps now to remove things that are hurting you mentally. Procrastination is the great enemy of accomplishment.

Another key aspect of peace and rest from a physical standpoint is our diet. Yes, you heard me correctly: “what you consume is consuming you.” Did you know that God-given food brings life to the body, and dead food depletes it? A “poor” diet, followed by “inactivity” and weight “gain”, forces us to run on only two or three cylinders. It hurts “efficiency and productivity.”

Healthy food, think fresh and whole, not something in a box, raises the levels of the neurotransmitter “serotonin” in your brain. And guess what? This neurotransmitter is responsible for feelings of “peace, wellness, and calmness.” And then there are the damaging effects of “sugar.” Early Americans consumed nearly 10 times less sugar than we do today.

Most of our bodies are in a very “toxic state” because we are consuming dead “foods” and dangerous “stimulants”, so when we get sick, we struggle to fight it off. I believe that this is one reason why COVID was so deadly. Eating dead food hurts immunity—it doesn’t bring life to the body it brings demise.

Stimulants also play a huge role in anxiety and restlessness. If you’re gulping down coffee and stopping frequently for energy drinks, you’ll never find rest. But you may say, “I fall asleep just fine.” That’s because your body is exhausted and it crashes. Caffeine, along with alcohol and opiates, is why you can’t get a good night’s sleep and why you can’t wake up refreshed.

Addiction often fuels angry temper tantrums and explosive outbursts, and fuels irritability and a quick temper. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders even lists caffeine-related disorders. Did you catch that? If we believe we can drink a high-powered stimulant, or take a depressant, day in and day out and not have it affect our rest and peace, we are gravely mistaken. When we feed the body what it needs, everything works better.

Depressants may provide temporary relief, but you’re robbing, plundering, and beating Peter just to pay Paul. People who are addicted never have true rest and peace. You must wean off with your physician’s help. You may go through hellish withdrawals, but rest and peace are just around the corner.

All of this, however, will not lead to true peace until you know the Prince of Peace and commit your life to Christ. Take this step today and repent; there is no Plan B: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29).

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