If you are like me, it can be difficult to not only find to time rest and have solitude, but to justify the time I do take to usher calmness into my life. Why is that? We all have a good idea why. Society and culture today bombard us with the mantra that we need to be connected at all times to online streaming of up-to-the-second social media and news updates.
However, I want to look at this from a perspective that we may addicted to busyness simply because it strokes our sense of self-esteem and worth. I have spent the last several years in recovery addressing my trait of perfectionism. I have learned why I clung to it for so many years. Growing up in my family and church, involvement and busyness was viewed somewhat as a badge of honor. I internalized at a young age that my anxiety and fear could be managed by seeking to accomplish things for people to see and comment on. I did not know this as a child, but it was the way I went about things growing up. I was so filled with self-doubt regarding who I was to other people and to God. I knew God, alone, offered me salvation, but I felt it was my duty to give God a reason to not question his offering of grace and mercy to me. In that sense, I strove to be the best at everything I did…works for approval was my deal.
I memorized a great deal of Scripture growing up. Today, I am grateful for that as God brings Scripture to my mind frequently. As a child and teen though, it was all about competition at church or Vacation Bible School (VBS). I needed to be the one who had learned and could recite the most Bible chapters (yes, chapters) for the VBS award, or the one to win a free week at Bible camp for my memorization. It was lauded in my family and my church. Very little time was spent taking to heart what those passages deeply meant.
I have been spending much time in Bible passages lately that I have glossed over as an adult. I felt as if I knew everything they could offer. I now read these passages with a prayer that God would give me a tender heart to see what He wants me to take in when reading these well-known passages. I have been amazed at what God has gently taught me.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.
Psalm 23:1-3 NLT
This is a very well-known Psalm learned by many. I memorized it as a young child. It is a Psalm that as an adult I have glossed over, thinking that I had gleaned all that I needed. Recently, I have felt God prompting me to go back to this Psalm and let Him gently show me new things. The entire Psalm has proven to be full of things I have needed to see, but I want to focus on the first three verses.
I have been struck by the fact that by letting God care for me as a Shepherd does, gives me a fullness that I long for. He is the one who brings soul satisfaction and contentedness. I love how these verses talk about rest, renewal, and guidance. When I rest in His provision, I gain a quietness of spirit that this world cannot offer. To truly appreciate why this is like a soft sweet rain to my soul, one needs to understand the parched and empty heart I lived with but hid.
God began to do a work in that dry heart through my recovery journey. I lived with crushing anxiety, fear and shame. I used the demanding pursuit of perfectionism and striving to cover up the deep hurts buried inside. Rest is never an option when fear drives one to strive to be seen as enough. Shame does not allow peace and contentment because it does not feel as it is deserved.
As I have allowed God to heal my thinking and emotions, I savor the overwhelming quiet peace God has given me as I realize that in Him, I have all that I need. There is no need to strive for worthiness, wonder if I am enough, or wonder if I am relevant.
However, I want to point out what it is in these verses that struck me the most as I took a fresh look at this Psalm. As I take in all of the benefits of His care and leading, honor is brought to His name! This is a paradigm-shifting statement! This is astounding to take in for someone who prided myself in working very hard, even thinking that is what brought God the most glory. Resting in Him brings honor to His name. I’m reminded of John Piper’s famous line: “God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him” (Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist).
God wants us to rest. He does not want us to work as if our acceptance by Him and others depends on our striving. God wants us to be renewed in Him. Busyness will keep us from the quiet streams where our attention is able to focus on our Heavenly Father and His unfailing love. What can you do today to curb the busyness, create quiet times in your day, and trade in your striving for contentedness in the care of our Shepherd? It is there that honor is brought to His name.