Recently I created a stressful situation for myself. I say, “I created it” because truthfully, it was only me that was demanding I meet a particular deadline. I was behind on a work project and I felt pressed for time and for finances. My experience produced significant feelings of stress. However, when I spoke to Rick about it, he remained calm and unmoved by the potential looming disaster I saw ahead if this deadline was not met. At first, I found his reaction comforting. It made me feel like everything would be okay, but as time went on… not so much.
As I look back on this situation, it is almost comical to me because it was not nearly as life-threatening as I was making it out to be. Except for the fact that the unsettling, not-so-pretty memory of it is still fresh in my mind. In the moment it was terribly stressful and though I was reminded that I could change my mind and perspective in how I was looking at it, honestly, at the time, it certainly did not FEEL like I had any choice at all.
Yes, I trust God with my future and my provision. Yes, I trust God with my work…every detail of it. Yes, I know that He has always somehow taken care of me. Yes, I believe that I can be content in almost any situation. Yet for these few days I worked furiously as if the world (and the future of my family) depended on me and my completing this project in the quickest amount of time possible. I looked at Rick who remained unperplexed about the whole thing and wondered if perhaps I had married an alien. How could he not, at the very least, CARE about this situation? How could he continue on, visiting with family and friends, going about his daily activities, while I carried the weight of this thing? Apparently all by myself!
I should’ve known then. But I stubbornly continued on in my justifications and stress for two days. What about God? Didn’t He know that time was running out? Didn’t He know this situation was dire? Hadn’t He known it for awhile, even seen it coming? Yet none of my prayers seemed to move Him. Especially the one where I asked Him to override my husband’s lackadaisical attitude.
Later, I was reminded of the bible story where the disciples were in a boat during a storm while Jesus slept (Mark 4:35-41). It was as if I could feel the frustration of the disciples. The storm was REAL. They felt their very lives were threatened! And Jesus would sleep peacefully into oblivion while they all died a horrible death by drowning! Didn’t he CARE about them? In fact they woke Him out of a peaceful sleep and demanded to know, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
Jesus’ calm and peaceful reality (rest) greatly contrasted with the disciples’ reality which resulted in anxiety and fear. Both the disciples and Jesus lived through a storm, but they had very different experiences of that storm. After Jesus woke and calmed the storm, He turned to his disciples and said, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Surely He could understand their concern. They were in physical DANGER! Yet Jesus seems to almost expect them to have the same experience He was having.
How is this even possible?
I realized the disciples were (and in my case, I was) giving more credence to the sight of our eyes, our worldly vision, than to the very words of our Creator and loving Father. I was allowing the dictates of the Kingdom of this World to trump the very TRUTH and REALITY of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is not unusual because we’ve all been born into and trained in the ways of the world’s kingdom. The key is understanding that Jesus came to give us a new and living way. So we would not have to be victims to the world’s system. Jesus said it best: The Kingdom of God does not come with ocular observation…the Kingdom of God is within you.
It’s not that our senses can’t give us an indication of what is happening in our physical surroundings. It’s that our relationship with an unconditionally loving Father enables us to overcome the stress and anxiety of this world. We humans don’t operate well in stress. We bring illness, unhappiness, and discontent into our lives when we are under intense stress. Jesus came to give us a better way, to give us abundant life – not stressful life, not self-condemnation life, not fearful or regretful life. It’s good news, not same-as-before-Jesus-news!
Another example of a story where Jesus was accused of not caring was when Mary was contentedly sitting at the feet of Jesus while Martha worked her heart out preparing a meal for Jesus and friends (Luke 10:38-42). It says that Martha was distracted and upset over much serving. So much so that she boldly tattled on Mary to Jesus saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” Martha’s focus was on the lesser thing (not because service or meal preparation is an inferior activity, but because her focus on those things proved to be a distraction to the better thing – seeing Jesus). Martha could’ve kept serving and yet had her focus on Jesus. When we work or participate in activities, we have just as much opportunity to focus on Jesus or the Kingdom of Heaven as when we are quietly praying.
The quality of REST is not being lazy or uncaring. It is TRUSTING more in the reality of Christ than in myself (which oftentimes is accompanied by anxiety, condemnation, or distraction). Being consumed with stress, anxiety, fear does not equate to taking a situation seriously. It reveals that you have taken responsibility upon yourself to fix the problem. How do we enter the Kingdom of Heaven? By FAITH – simply by believing that God is good, that He loves us unconditionally, and that He is for us no matter what we are facing.
I tried to invite Rick to share in my stresses of a missed deadline, but he wisely declined. He chose instead to continue about his life in peace and humility, experiencing the goodness of the Kingdom of God. We both went through a “distraction” or “storm” of sorts, but his was the easier way. In the moment, though it felt completely impossible to cross over into a heavenly experience, eventually I did just that. I know I am growing in this. A lifelong adherence to the world’s system isn’t let go of quickly or perfectly, but it is getting easier and my days of peace are outnumbering my days of stress by far.