Friday, April 3, 2015

Five Ways to Experience a Restful Soul

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
Psalm 116:7

The restfulness God has designed for our souls is intended for all personality types. It is for "Type A's" and "Type B's," extraverts and introverts, the talkative and the quiet, and every combination of Myers-Briggs.  A restful soul is not a spiritual gift that some receive and others are denied.  It is not relegated to monastic communities that live in isolation from the world.  A restful soul is a spiritual state of perfect balance and centering in Christ that all can experience.  It is a center, in which, we discover a continual communion with the Father designed for us since the beginning of time.

So why is a restful soul so elusive?  Why doesn't it just happen to us?  Like all of God's creation, restfulness must be cultivated and stewarded like a garden.  Neglect can lead quickly to overgrown weeds that, if not removed, will choke out its life-giving intent.  The following five recommendations will help you to enter God's rest.         

Cultivate a Passive Ambition
The internal drive that pushes us toward success is the same drive that can lead us astray.  Ambition can become like a runaway train, chugging us down some regrettable tracks.  When this happens our instinct is to either disavow ambition as all-together destructive or, conversely, attempt to ambitiously correct the mistakes on our own.  Neither one brings us rest.  The first reaction leads to boredom, and the second one creates more problems.

Passive ambition develops when God-given drive unites with God-directed steps. It's a spiritual sweet-spot that we learn to walk in, perfectly blending our actions with God's intentions.  What I mean by this is that we proceed with decisions and strategies but with the joyful realization that God's plans will ultimately unfold. This magnificent display of God's ability often goes uncelebrated by us, though it occurs regularly. God beautifully engrafts us into His sovereignty while preserving our ambition.  We act and are acted upon at the same time, and the resulting quality is a restful soul.  Rest is fully achievable in busyness when it is God-centered.

Disappointment does not go away in passive ambition.  We still experience periodic surprise or concern over plans that unfold differently than anticipated.  The difference is that disappointment does not linger around or take root.  A restful contentment actually emerges because God, not us, bears the responsibility of orchestrating life.  We do life with Him not for Him. Once our healthy ambition becomes insulated in His sovereignty, we are set free from self-induced pressure to be in charge. God takes His rightful place as Lord of all we do.

Forgive Yourself as Freely as God Forgives You
God is slow to anger and rich in mercy.  His continual nature to forgive is a constant reminder of His goodness.  God not only forgives but remembers our sins no more. He removes them as far as the east is from the west according to Scripture.

We, on the other hand, are the complete opposite.  Our nature is quick to anger and rich in judgment. We struggle to let the sins of the past drift away.  Though we cannot literally forget the past, we are fully capable of living free from its guilt and shame.  But, oh, how difficult it is to walk in that truth!

Clinging to unresolved forgiveness fatigues us in two ways.  First, we retain burdens that God wants removed resulting in an accumulation of layers that are too much to bear.  The burdens of today are plenty without the inclusion of yesterday's. And secondly, we deny, and therefore disrespect, God's promise of forgiveness. Rejecting His forgiveness is to give a historical nod to the cross while denying its power for today.  Jesus went to the cross to bring glory to the Father, and in the process, we receive forgiveness of sins.  Let's receive the full benefit of His death and resurrection, forgiving ourselves as God has forgiven, and living a life that brings glory to the Father.  

Say Good-bye to Envy
Every day we have reason to be envious.  There is always someone who is more attractive, wealthier, happier, healthier, more talented, "luckier," more successful, and so on.  Envy can go viral quickly, spreading through our entire soul and taking root.

There is a kind of deceiving energy that is generated by envy.  It gives us a raw, temporary drive like a performance enhancing drug.  Though eventually destructive we come to rely on it.  Ridding ourselves of envy can prove to be difficult, so we continue to cling to its familiarity.

Envy fatigues us because it causes us to chase relationships and over-function in situations that God never designed for us.  The resulting exhaustion prevents us from doing excellently the very things that God has designed for us.  Envy, literally, wastes our time and energy rendering us ineffective.

Chronically envious people never experience a state of restfulness.  They are so exhausted from their constant obsession with that which is not meant to be that they receive no benefit from that which is meant for them.  Envy is a thief that steals the rest God has created us to enter.  It's time to say good-bye to it.

Celebrate Small Victories
There was an occasion in Jesus' life where He celebrated with the disciples the small offering of a poor widow.  In fact, He said that her gift was greater than those of the wealthy because she gave out of her need.  Jesus placed value on the meaning of a moment not the size of it.

Life is full of a collection of small victories that far exceed the occasional watershed moment.  Their cumulative value is intended for our benefit, breathing new life into our weary souls.  To ignore them is to reject their timely, infused-with-hope, power. Small victories, when fully recognized and celebrated, return a smile to our face. They are small deposits of that which is to come at an appointed time in the future.

Chronicle the small victories that God provides.  Over time, the list will become a history of God's faithfulness in your life.  As you review it periodically, a restfulness will settle in your soul that can only come in God's presence.  God is big but He does not always choose to do big things.  We could not handle the Red Sea being parted everyday. God, instead, brings doses of goodness to us so that we might be able to digest each one.  Faithful rest in the small victories prepare us for rest in the big ones.

The health and wellness community tell us that there are multiple benefits from laughter.  It strengthens our immunity systems, boosts energy, lowers blood pressure, and limits the effects of stress.  God created us to laugh because it is good for us and even God laughs.  Psalm 2:4 anthropomorphizes God with the statement, "The One enthroned in heaven laughs."

I have a group of friends I meet with every Thursday morning for accountability and support.  We share our struggles and questions with one another over breakfast.  I was asked recently why I prioritize that time.  My answer came immediately, "We laugh together."  I don't how much they need me, but I need them because everyone needs a circle of people with whom they laugh.

When was the last time you laughed until it hurt?  Laughter rounds out the ingredients we need to experience a restful soul.  The troubles and hardships of this world are temporarily lifted in laughter. It's a foreshadowing of things to come in eternity where there will be no tears.  People who discourage laughter or never participate are foolishly hindering a restful joy divinely designed for us. Wholesome laughter has a spiritual quality to it because God's people have much to celebrate.  A soul at rest is a soul that laughs.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden