Spiritual Rest: Letting Go of Trying so Hard in Our Work and Relationships

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She looked at me with a serious gaze and explained, “It’s not a matter of trying harder.”

Sitting in the doctor’s office after a surgery — a doctor in front of me with my charts mapping out my low iron levels — I knew what she said to be true. Plagued with a racing heartbeat, dizziness when I stood up, and fatigue when I walked the distance of a parking lot, my body was struggling to bounce back from a pregnancy loss.

I wasn’t functioning at my optimal level because my heart was having to work overtime to circulate oxygen through my body, and the doctor predicted that it would be several months before I regained my strength. Even if I wanted to will myself to get better, I could not get to the place I had been before surgery simply by “trying harder.”

Similar to the case of my post-surgery health crisis, I have found myself many times running on empty spiritually and not really understanding why I can’t get to an optimal efficiency level. Contrary to the messages of our culture, we were never designed to live in an achievement system where we go it alone in our own strength. We were designed to live in a place of dependence on God — created to live in a state of rest in our decision-making, interactions with others, and work endeavors.

Rest in God does not equate with lying around all the time — being at rest is a choice of believing that God is who He says He is and His precepts are true. Being at rest means taking purposeful steps in the direction we feel He has called us. We always have a choice, and if we choose not to walk in faith than we will not be at rest.

When we step out and allow Him to guide our steps, we have the blessing of peace in what we are doing. We have the confidence and assurance that we are doing the will of God and that He will protect us in the way we are going because we are relying on Him and not ourselves for guidance.

So many verses in the Bible emphasize this important point:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28)

Rest in Our Work

I first encountered the term “labor-rest” in a sermon by our senior pastor, Dr. Mark Walker. As he defined it, labor-rest is the idea that even in our work we are not frantic because we are not trusting in our own resources or decision-making abilities, but rather relying on God’s wisdom and resources, allowing Him to guide and help us in the important work we do.

An example of this rest principle was when I was working on the creation of this blog. I had received some advice from a friend and had managed to set up a blog on WordPress and buy a domain. However, when I attempted to change my layout and the format of my blog, I ran into some roadblocks. I couldn’t figure out how to make my pages show up under the appropriate menu tabs. I really was quite frustrated.

A few weeks into worrying about it, I prayed and immediately the name of a friend from my Break-time For Moms group popped into my head. I emailed her and set up a meeting, and she was able to quickly correct the errors in formatting and organize my pages under the appropriate tabs. If I had only prayed to begin with, I would have saved myself needless worry.

Getting to a place where we can rest takes a little effort because we have to let go. We have to trust that we are not the best ones to handle the situation. We may get by for a time on our own abilities and efforts, but we will not have the peace or the energy we will have if we decide initially to rely on the advice and wisdom of God.

On the flip side of labor-rest is achieving in our own power, and it creates damaging circumstances. As Steve McVey notes in Grace Walk: What You’ve Always Wanted in the Christian Walk, “Self-sufficiency always produces conflict … It is God’s purpose to bring us to the place where we rest totally in the sufficiency of Christ within us for every situation.” When we strive to produce in our own strength, we get burned out and may even compromise ourselves to get ahead. When we believe that we are the source for our income and well-being and leave God out of it, we may need to cut corners to maintain our status at work or get a promotion.

Suddenly, flirting with the married boss to get a raise, covering up a costly mistake we made in order to save face, or refusing to confront the wrong actions of a powerful co-worker begin to appeal to us because we are not trusting God for our sustenance but instead looking to ourselves, the people and systems around us as our supplier.

Rest in Our Relationships

Not only can we have rest in our work, God also wants us to have rest in our relationships. As Joyce Meyer argues in Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone:

We can even enter the rest of God concerning what people think of us and whether they approve of us. We can become so secure in Christ that as long as we know our heart is right, we know whatever people think of us is between them and God and not our concern.

The key to rest in relationships is resting our identity in God and not using other people to define us and help us feel good about ourselves. If we know that we are accepted and approved by God, we don’t have to find a relationship to make us feel filled and valuable. We don’t have to constantly worry that the other person may end the relationship or lose interest because our whole identity is not tied up in that person.

If the person chooses to move on — a friend stops calling, a spouse leaves, or a family member decides to not forgive after a conflict — it may hurt and we may miss them, but because our identity is resting in who God says we are and not on who those people say we are, we do not have to crumble and lose all sense of self when the other person is no longer a part of our lives.

A few years ago, I was devastated by the loss of a friendship with a very close friend. She was one of the first friends I made when I came to Georgia — our husbands got along, and we were at a similar age and life stage. However, I clung very tightly to that relationship because of my own insecurity. When she became close friends with another couple and flaked out on a few engagements, I got really angry.

In retrospect, I see that I was depending way too much on that relationship for fulfillment. I still see her from time to time, but we are not close like we once were. I am at a point where I have been able to let that relationship go because God has helped me to find healing in that area and not cling so tightly to that friendship.

A phrase Beth Moore uses to reassure herself when she begins to have fearful thoughts that her spouse will leave or a friend will desert her is simply “Then God.”  We can know that if times get really hard and we face a relationship fallout even when we’ve done everything we can to keep it together, “Then God.” We have the foundation of God to rely on to help us keep ourselves in tact through any relationship difficulty.

The reality is that even when we do all the right things at times, people will still betray us, abuse us, misunderstand us and forsake us. But we always have the comfort of knowing that God will never do these things to us.

Finding Rest in Our Identity in Christ

The interesting thing about finding rest in our work and relationships is that both involve being at rest with who we are in Christ. Once we have decided upon our identity and our ability to lean into His character and trust Him with all facets of our lives, our need to manipulate, control or act in ways that jeopardize our peace ends. As Meyer observes in Addiction to Approval:

Hebrews 4 teaches us that we can enter the rest of God through believing. It says we should be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter the rest of God. We should have knowledge of it and experience it for ourselves. Those who have entered the rest of God have ceased from the weariness and pain of human labors. They are not tied up in knots; they are relaxed, secure and free to be themselves.

I can honestly confess to you that I am not fully at that place yet of being “relaxed, secure and free” to be myself.  I am still working on letting go and allowing God to do what He wants with me. I do well depending on God for awhile and then find myself getting anxious about a project or a relationship, and I spend a lot of energy trying to figure things out. Many times the way He assigns doesn’t seem very logical to me.

Meyer is not advocating that we “strive diligently” by spinning our wheels futilely chasing and attempting to earn something from God. Just like the place I was in after getting out of the hospital a few months ago — “trying harder” doesn’t produce results. Rather, what Meyer is saying is that when we believe what God says and submit to His ways of doing things, there is an ease that we experience with which we can approach our work and our dealings with others. We find rest not only when we come and sit at Jesus’ feet (Matthew 11:28); we find rest when we take Jesus’ “yoke” upon us and “learn” from Him (Matthew 11:29).

Taking His “yoke” upon us means allowing ourselves to be led by Him and doing what He wants us to do. Although we are under his yoke, He encourages us and enables us with his Spirit to go down the path He has for us. There may be some difficult steps, but He walks them with us. He shows us how to do life better than we know how to do it on our own.

As Matthew Henry comments in response to this passage, taking Christ’s yoke upon ourselves makes it possible for our soul to “dwell at ease”; for as he notes, “The way of duty [spending time with Jesus and allowing His teaching to transform us] is the way of rest.”

Related Bible Verses:

Hebrews 4:1-3 (NLT): “God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news — that God has prepared this rest — has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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When God Says No

This past summer, after a miscarriage and surgery, I went home and immediately felt something wasn’t right in my body. I called up the nurse, and she rationalized that I was most likely experiencing side effects from the drugs administered in the emergency room.

But I still felt really funny.

My heart raced uncontrollably even when I was lying down. I felt so out of breath, foggy — I couldn’t think clearly, and my heartbeat pulsated in a painful way right at the top of my skull.

A few days later, I tried to make an effort to go out for my birthday — just pizza and shopping at a local outlet mall. “Something is wrong with me,” I told my husband as I struggled to walk the distance of the parking lot. I just didn’t feel good. My body felt so sluggish — my mind in a fuzzy cloud.

A doctor’s visit the next week revealed the problem: my hemoglobin levels had dropped very low, and my heart was working overtime to circulate oxygen. I couldn’t get out of bed without feeling like I would collapse. My doctor’s office wanted to set up a blood transfusion, but when I discussed it with my husband, he didn’t like all the risks.

We made the difficult decision for me to let my body heal itself in a slow process over the next few months. I rested at home for several weeks, and when I did finally get enough strength to go back to church, I was devastated. My first Sunday back corresponded with the release date of our church worship team’s first single.

My dream had always been to sing and write music. But I had walked away from the worship team a year before that to enroll in a Hope ministry training when God had asked me to give up music. Not only that, another opportunity had already shattered and fallen at my feet.

I had been asked to volunteer to serve on a leadership team for a brand new women’s ministry for young moms. Comprised of many of my close friends, the team was a perfect fit for me. Or so I thought. I had been praying for a long time that God would open a door for me into ministry.

However, the women’s event was scheduled just a few weeks after my surgery. I kept praying and hoping God would let me get well enough to help. But that didn’t happen. I was too sick — I couldn’t stay on my feet for long periods of time, much less go anywhere without the support of my husband’s arm. The avenue that I thought God was opening for me wasn’t really an avenue at all — my health made it impossible for me to take part in the event.

As I left church early that first Sunday back — mostly to avoid sympathetic friends and suffocating stares, I drove home and went straight up to my room, fell on my bed and cried.

I picked up the book I had been reading on my bedside table, Love, Skip, Jump by Shelene Bryan, and I happened to turn to a chapter in which Bryan describes the rejection of a pitch for a new show she had worked so hard to present to several prominent television networks. She relates: “I couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t help but ask God, ‘Lord what was that all about? Why did You have me walk into all those networks and pitch this idea that you placed on my heart if it was going to be a Big Fat No?’ ”

I didn’t like the passage I was reading. I wanted Bryan to provide me the answer I wanted to hear — that I was going to be well and all of the hopes I had were going to come to pass. But as if to further pound the truth that God was moving me into the background for a season, I opened my Facebook to these words by Nikki Koziarz: “Sometimes we look to follow someone else’s path toward our calling. But maybe today God is saying, ‘Don’t follow them, follow me.’ His way is unique and unstoppable” (Psalms 32:8).

To be honest, I was angry. What kind of a God would let me lose a baby, miss out on important ministry opportunities and stand on the outside while others lived out what I wanted to do?

However, as much as I could feel stuff breaking inside me as I experienced the pain of watching others get to joyfully participate in that which I wanted to be a part of, I felt some truths resonate in my heart:

1.  I don’t have the right to do anything but the will of the Father: Jesus often said that He only came to do the will of the One who sent Him. This meant that He was selective in the choices and decisions He made. He didn’t jump into every opportunity that came His way, and He didn’t make decisions to please Himself or achieve His own selfish goals. He even asked on occasion for there to be a different way when He knew the path would be difficult, as when He prayed for the “cup to pass from Him” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).

2.  What I give up, He may give back to me: There have been times that I have passed up on a chance when I felt a “no” in my spirit only to find that God gives me the very thing I wanted at a later time — in a way beyond what I could have imagined or planned. Even though Bryan had to give up her dream of her reality show idea, she realized after some prayer that God was asking her to still implement her village makeover idea without the cameras. He gave her a “yes” in a way that was different than she anticipated — and she would have missed it if she continued to plow ahead with her reality show vision.

3.  All promotion comes from the Lord. So many times, I am trapped into thinking that the doors are closed in my face because I am not liked by certain individuals, but God has continually shown me that promotion comes from Him (Psalm 75:6). If He truly wants me in a place of ministry, He will place me there in His timing, and He will show me the path He has for me to get there.

4.  When I’m stuck, I should do what’s in front of me. By looking only ahead at my goal, I may miss the obvious opportunity or step I am to take right in front of me. As Bryan concludes in her chapter: “Sometimes I can get so excited to do something that I’ll bust down a wall in the name of Jesus. Then God kindly points out the door that He already placed for me to walk through. Oops.”

If you’re anything like me, I can get so overwhelmed looking at how far away I am from my desired destination that I start to panic and forget what I can be doing in the moment. I can miss the assignment that Jesus has put in my lap for today in my anxious desire to get to tomorrow. As Sarah Young says in her Jesus Calling devotion:

When things seem to be going all wrong, stop and affirm your trust in Me. Calmly bring these matters to Me, and leave them in My capable hands. Then, simply do the next thing. Stay in touch with Me through thankful, trusting prayers, resting in My sovereign control. Rejoice in Me — exult in the God of your salvation! As you trust in Me, I make your feel like the feet of a deer, I enable you to walk and make progress upon your places of trouble, suffering, or responsibility. Be blessed and keep trusting!”

Young encourages me that when the promise hasn’t come true, when I am not in the place I want to be, I need to do the task that is in front of me right now. It may have nothing to do with my calling or may not even be what I feel is the future God has for me, but it is what God is calling me to in this moment.

And the other truth I know is this: Deep inside of me a little voice whispers that some of His promises, particularly about music, haven’t come true yet because I’m not finished. He wants me working on something I would rather not work on — a different project that I’ve left undone. I’ve skipped some steps, pushed off some things for another day. And I need to complete God’s assignment in order to obtain His blessings.

Consider George Matheson’s prayer from Streams in the Desert:

Dear Holy Spirit, my desire is to be led by You. Nevertheless, my opportunities for usefulness seem to be disappointed, for today the door appears open in to a life of service for You but tomorrow it closes before me just as I am about to enter. Teach me to see another door even in the midst of the inaction of this time. Help me to find, even in the area of service where You have closed a door, a new entrance into Your service. Inspire me with the knowledge that a person may sometimes be called to serve by doing nothing, by staying still, or by waiting. And when I remember the power of Your ‘gentle whisper’ (1 Kings 19:12), I will not complain that sometimes the Spirit allows me not to go.”

Related Bible Verses:

Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Luke 22:42: ” ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ ”

Psalm 75:6: “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.”

1 Kings 19:12: “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

Recommended Resources:

Love, Skip, Jump: The Adventure of Yes by Shelene Bryan is about knowing how to discern God’s will for your life and taking the plunge into the exciting future He has for you. Bryan talks about displaying the love of God to others, skipping conveniences to minister to others, and jumping into your calling.

Streams in the Desert is a devotional by L.B. Cowman that specifically speaks to and encourages Christians in tough spiritual desert places. Cowman includes her own writings as well as a compilation of excerpts from well-known preachers and writers.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Not Being Brave

Danee DeKonty

True confession time: I’m not brave. At least I don’t feel like it a lot of the time. That may shock some people who know bits and pieces of my story because I am someone who will pack up my life in a couple suitcases, sell my car, and move halfway around the world without much thought. But staying put is something you have to force yourself to do. Because when you stay put, people learn how to read you over time. When you stay put, you risk hurting people who you actually care about, or worse — disappointing them. When you stay put, you either live behind a protective wall with a safe, boring life or choose vulnerability and risk the pain but live a grand adventure.

I’m also the person who quit my job with benefits when I felt God was telling me it was time to go. It wasn’t scary. It was actually easy. I knew He’d bring another job — or more correctly, I knew I could get another job. I’m hard working and have loads of common sense. What I lack in skills, I can usually make up for in creativity and determination. But when God asked me not to look for a job, but to trust Him to show me one when it was time, that was hard. Common sense says I can work way more than the part-time I’m doing.

Faith for me says writing and finishing my dream is the right work for me, right here and right now.

Yes, to many people who know me but don’t know the secret places of my heart, I am brave. But to those who see me, I mean really see me, they know I am just wired differently. The things that scare other people don’t even cause me to sweat, but the things that terrify me are no-brainers for most of the people in my life.

Do it Afraid.

I heard that years ago when I was watching Joyce Meyer, and it stuck with me.

I may fail…

I may not be good enough…

I may not be enough…

I may miss God… again…

What is it that terrifies you? Is it quitting your job? Is it asking someone out? Is it going back to school? Is it downsizing your car to get something less fabulous so you won’t have payments? Is it stepping out to what God has told you? Is it stepping back to wait for God to show you the next step? Is it joining a small group? Is it leading a small group? Is it staying in your small group?

What scares you? What do you want to give up on?

To be honest, most, if not all of my fears boil down to not wanting to miss God. Did I really hear from Him?

When I was younger in my faith, God honored where I was at and filled my life with miraculous confirmations: the stranger in a store speaking comfort to me, the sermon that said what I needed to hear, friends sharing encouragement when they didn’t even know I was struggling. There were also the times of prayer where it felt like acquaintances had read my journal because their words spoke so deeply to my soul.

Then over time those became less of a necessity because I fell in love with the Bible. I didn’t need writing on the wall because I knew what the wise choice was. I still had wise counsel speaking into my life, but I had learned how to discern the voice of God. Something, by the way, no one can really teach you. From my experience, it comes over time from reading His Word, praying, listening, and just chatting with Him through the day.

Then He asks you to do something that scares you, and you’re so close to the finish line, but still it feels impossible. That’s when I start to ask for the confirmation. I now want the writing on the wall.

Did I really hear from You? Is this REALLY where You’re leading me? And in His grace, God confirms through someone giving you encouragement about your talent and using you in the way you know you were made for, and you again know deep in your knower that you have heard from God.

And that lasts for a bit before fear creeps in again.

And it’s in times like this that I look to what Paul said about maturity and realize that stepping out in faith is part of the process, and that means there are no guarantees. My job is to sit with Him, to be reminded of His love and His leading, and then go in His strength.

When fear gets to be too much, I have found that I’ve often forgotten to lean on Him and am trying to do it in my own strength. When fear throws its best at me, instead of white-knuckling my way through it, I sit with The One Who Loves Me Most and am reminded that He kicks fear in the butt every time.

When I know He is the One leading me, I can do it afraid because even if it doesn’t turn out the way I’m hoping it will, when God leads me in something, it is the best of all options.

Related Bible Verses:

Daniel 5:5 (NLT): “Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, and his face turned pale with fright.”

1 Cor. 13:11 (NLT): “When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Romans 8:28 (NLT): “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”

Interested in reading more of Danee’s thoughts about her faith? Get more of her spiritual musings by stopping by her blog. Post adapted from original version published January 16.

 

 

 

Danee DeKonty

Danee DeKonty

Danee DeKonty currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the years she has been able to travel and live in Eastern Europe, attend Bible school in Barbados and travel to several other countries. She is currently a nanny and is in the process of writing her first book "Scorpions, Scones and Solo Cups." Danee gets her fashion sense from Rosie the Riveter and Lucille Ball. She likes spending time outdoors -- taking random drives in her favorite possession, a beat-up, old jeep. Danee grew up in the church and is passionate about helping other people discover their worth and value in God.

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Spread Thin

Suzy Lolley

I taught public school for eleven years. During that time, these were just some of the jobs I had:

Relay for Life Team Captain. Who knew that volunteering to help meant you were the leader? Not a second-year-teacher, apparently. Reading Department Chair. Beta Club Sponsor. Academic Bowl Coach. Cheerleading Coach. Don’t you have to be able to at least do a cartwheel for this? Hospital-Homebound Tutor. Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Coach.

I’ve been involved in the same small church for twenty years, and the story there is the same. Worship leader. When-there’s-a-choir director. Sunday school teacher. Missions advocate. Wedding and funeral singer. Camp and retreat director. There are a million more, but I’m getting tired even looking at my own list…

I can’t even count how many times people in my life have asked me, “Suzy, why don’t you slow down?” Ironically, they are the same ones who ask me to help and appreciate my volunteer spirit.

I’ve tried slowing down. It’s almost impossible for me. I told my brother that I must have four times the average number of thoughts in a single day. Even if I’m lying down, my mind is running a constant to-do list.

You can see it. They can see it. I can see it.

I’m spread thin.spread thin

No one could possibly do all the things I feel I must do and still do them well. As the old adage goes, I often find myself being “Jack of all trades but master of none.” There was a woman in the Bible who I’m sure could have related to me. Martha.

She always gets a bad rap from those who would say to be more like Mary.

I appreciate worship. I love it and have led it for years. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has yelled at times, “Why am I the only one doing all the work?” Most times the rage has been pointed inward, but at other times, I’ve let it spill over onto those “Marys” sitting there hanging out while I cook or clean or break my back.

Maybe they’re worshipping or taking time for the important things, but all I see is one thing. Laziness. Was that too forward? No, hopefully you were hoping for some honesty and relatability in this post.

I’m not going to stop being Martha. My husband has earned the nickname “Crockpot” because it seems we can never leave the house for a function without my asking him to carry his namesake.

But if I am destined to be Martha, how can I use it to my good? What practical advice can I take away from the Martha vs. Mary saga? Let’s read their story first from Luke 10 (NKJV):

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’ “

Here are some practical takeaways I get from the story.

1. There are two distinct types of people in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I have very worshipful moments. My sister-in-law Rachel is a Mary, but she has some powerful serving moments. But we are not the same person. It doesn’t matter how I try to be a reflective, thoughtful, even-tempered Mary. I’m not one.

I’m a doer on most days. I just have to learn to do what adds to the kingdom, and over-extended busyness is not it. I can work and work, but I don’t want to get to the judgment seat one day and see that all of it amounted to no souls being saved.

2. It’s OK to be a Martha; you just have to temper your gifts. Martha is not a curse word. If Jesus hadn’t appreciated His friend’s cooking and serving, He wouldn’t have been in her house. But she was treating her Lord and Savior rudely. She wasn’t paying attention to Him at all, and she was asking Him to break up a fight of all things. And we are left with a Bible story that makes her look like a witch.

I wish I could say I didn’t relate to a lack of hospitality or putting my guests in the crossfire of my agitated mood. I wish that, but I can’t. Martha teaches me that I don’t want either of those traits to be my legacy.

3. The third takeaway is this. There are many good things, and then there is the best thing. Cooking is good. Cleaning is good. Planning and organizing and working are good. But worship is better. Not just better — best. When you and I lay down the tendency to be spread thin and instead embrace the arms that were spread out on the cross, all our work and all our plans will start to mean something.

I don’t want to be spread thin. I want to be a Martha Suzy with a purpose. As Psalm 127 says:

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Accept the gift of rest today, beloved. Let’s not do our work in vain.

Want more Suzy? Stop by and visit her brand new blog where she is taking a year to write about her journey from independence to Jesus-dependence.

 

 

 

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Why You Don’t Have to Be Enough

I was reminded of an important lesson this Christmas.

Elsbeth with her doll dressed up in new clothes.

Elsbeth with her doll dressed up in new clothes.

A family member sent me a series of frantic emails about a present she had made for my daughter. She had sewn a collection of doll clothes but had not finished all of the items. She apologized profusely in her emails and promised to ship off the rest of the pieces to Elsbeth as soon as she finished them.

I assured her that we had absolutely no expectation and were delighted that she send anything. When Christmas arrived, my daughter unwrapped her packages and discovered over 20 beautifully hand-sewn miniature garments.

While the family member only saw the clothes she wanted to make and hadn’t been able to finish — we saw a beautiful array of carefully crafted dresses, pants and shirts. We saw finished whereas she saw incomplete.

I get like that with projects. I see what isn’t done. I see the flaws. The ends that could have been tied up. The words that I could have said. The scenario that could have enfolded but didn’t.

Particularly with Christmas this year, I found myself in a stretch of days where there were too many things to do and not enough of me to go around.

Three days before Christmas, I was hurriedly working on a blog post I wanted to have done that wasn’t quite coming together.

I was wrapping presents and orchestrating last minute holiday details. My son was running around in underpants tugging on me every few minutes to use the bathroom (as we were in full potty-training mode). My husband was on and off the couch, complaining every few minutes about his head hurting, as he had just had a skin cancer spot removed and sewn up with stitches.

Christmas Eve I learned that we would be hosting Christmas and changing all of our plans around because of an unavoidable flu situation. All of this would not have been a big deal except I needed just a little more time to get my blog post out.

So, I typed and worked, finagled and edited. I snapped at my kids a few times and sighed in exasperation when my three-year-old refused to busy himself with anything other than the sleeve of my shirt. In frustration, figuring that I would not have more time to finish the piece, I published it even though there were still a few points I wanted to fine-tune.

After doing so, I felt a little sick to my stomach. This happens when I take my eyes off Him and make everything about me.

-When I think about the fact that people judge every minutiae of my writing because I used to be an English teacher.

-When I get overly grandiose plans for my posts when simple is enough.

-When I worry that the theology of my posts is not on-point when God has told me what to say.

And then I can’t write because I feel so much pressure. I can’t possibly do it all. I can’t be an awesome wife and mother; cook nutritious meals; house-train my son; doctor my husband; pull of a fabulous holiday — and write inspiring posts and launch a ministry.

If I let it, the “not-enough” message plays, and I start thinking that maybe God should choose someone else. I am forgetting that I am not enough apart from Him — but He has made me enough. I only can do what I do through Christ (Phil. 4:13).

On my own, I am a weak, blubbering disaster. In that pressure-cooker place, I need to spend some alone time with God, read His Word, soak up His presence and talk to Him. It is only in Christ’s enough-ness that I can get past the feelings of self-doubt.

Here are some reminders when I feel like I am not enough.

1. Extend myself grace.

In “Leave Room for Grace & Find Your True Voice,” blogger and author Bonnie Gray reminds me to extend myself grace.

I start getting tense and freeze up when I don’t give any allowance for making mistakes. When I go into a project with the mindset of “I’m going to do my best” vs. “It has to be perfect,” I feel more relaxed, and I do a lot better in that mode than rigid-stressed-everything-has-to-be-perfect mode.

When I write because I feel inspired and have something to say opposed to when I write to be impressive or significant, I do a whole lot better.

2. Make it about Him and not about me.

I ‘d love to say that I do this, but I sometimes (OK, all the time) have the tendency to make everything about me. I have had the same message delivered to me in a variety of ways the last few weeks: Make it about Him. I heard a sermon on it a few weeks ago, and then I read two other posts written by blogger and Proverbs 31 contributor Amy Carroll (“I Can’t Do Everything” and “Controlling Your Nerves: Part 3″) about times where she learned that important truth.

When I focus on me, I feel a ton of pressure.

I have been talking about launching a self-worth ministry for a few years now, and I feel an absolute crushing weight when I contemplate the sheer enormity of it. All of my experience, my training as a teacher, is not enough. I need Him. The task He has asked of me is impossible without Him.

I remember feeling stressed when I posted my first article. I told some friends at my mom group, “This is too big for me. There’s just me behind this.” After the group session, I went out to the playground with my son, and I felt God say to me, “No, Carol, there’s me.”

Sitting on a park bench with fall leaves curling around me, I got a picture of God standing behind me. And I remembered this is God’s project, not mine.

3. Accept that I don’t have to know everything. I just have to know the One who does.

Another source of pressure for me in launching a blog is that I feel like I have to know everything. And I don’t. I have two years of Bible school, a lifetime as a Christian in the church, a little training as a Hope minister, and a degree in English — but I still don’t know everything.

I get into the trap of feeling that I have to have a neat, pat answer at the end of each article I write, but sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I have unanswered questions.

And, that’s OK. Truthfully, the articles that minister to me the most aren’t always the ones that provide a 3-step formula or the ultra-profound observation. As Gray notes in “Leave Room for Grace,” your words can liberate others not because “you have the answer, but because you know their questions.”

Sometimes we have advice to give, but other times we can just voice our struggles and minister to others because our sharing helps people to know someone else is going through the same difficulty.

I feel that because I am starting a ministry, I can’t have doubts, or fears — I have to have it all together, and I don’t. I am human, and I sometimes expect myself not to be. I want to negate that I am fragile. I have to remind myself what God says in 2 Cor. 4:7 (NLT):

We now have this light shining in our hears, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

He still wants to use me even though I fail, fall down, and fail some more.

4. Realize that God is not limited by my failures. 

If I really think about it, me worrying about messing up is sort of silly and prideful because it’s assuming God is limited by me. And He’s not. Sure, I want to write effective posts, but God doesn’t need my feeble efforts to work in people’s hearts.

Several years ago, I sang in the choir at another church service. The pastor’s sermon was quite an oratorical wonder, but it was hard for me to follow all of the dramatic dips and turns of his message. Just as I was thinking that the service had been a failure, I was surprised when the pastor closed with a moving story and hordes of people came flocking to the altar for ministry. I felt a very strong presence of the Lord enter the sanctuary, and I started getting a little teary in the choir loft.

Despite what I considered to be a dry sermon delivered with more of a focus on the delivery than a connection with the listeners, this man still was used mightily by God. I have to remember this when I engage in writing. My tendency is to worry about the effectiveness of every sentence.

While I do want to be faithful and present the gospel in an accurate manner, God can speak through my words, but He can also speak beyond and outside my words. He’s not limited by me, and that reality frees me up to do the best I can in communicating His message.

Even if my writing isn’t as articulate as I want, He can still use it to reach someone.


Thinking back to just a few days ago, it wasn’t until I got alone with God and asked for help that things started turning around.

Christmas turned out to be a lovely day. My brother and sister-in-law came over and helped with the preparations. A fire crackled cheerfully in the fireplace. My children occupied themselves with their new toys and didn’t fight like they normally do. My turkey cooked to perfection in record time.

I laughed and played games with family members; we stayed up late into Christmas night reminiscing about memories.

The tight knot of anxiety in my stomach eased as the day wore on.

In reflecting over my almost emotional meltdown, I know that there will be times ahead in 2015 when I come to that place of “not enough.” But when I do, like the Hillsong song says, I want to say, “Christ is Enough.”

When I am tempted to think about my imperfection, I want to instead think about Christ’s perfection.

Like the apostle Paul, I want to say of my hardships:

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

Here’s why you don’t have to be enough — through Christ you already are!

Blessings as you enter a new year!

Related Bible Verses:

John 12:49,50: “For I do not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken … So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Philippians 4:13: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Proverbs 16: 3: “Depend on the Lord in whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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