Friday, October 31, 2014

The Power of Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

There is nothing more exhausting than pain that just won’t go away. The past few weeks, I have had more than my fair share of it, mostly in the form of migraine-type headaches. I say “migraine-type” because I’m not 100% convinced that they have all been actual migraines, but rather seriously intense headaches caused by a combination of joint inflammation, muscle tension, menopausal hormone fluctuations, and a bad tooth that has yet to be properly fixed by my dentist (let’s not even begin to talk about what a “headache” it is to have a crown botched to the point of needing it completely redone from scratch).

So … getting back to my story about migraines … I decided at one point to do a search for “RA and migraines” thinking perhaps that there might be a connection between my rheumatoid arthritis and the headaches. Judging from the other RA blogs I’ve read, I think many of us with chronic illnesses are “information junkies” and spend an incomprehensible amount of time researching potential causes and cures for our pain. We are willing to try just about anything to try and make it go away, right?

In this particular case, my research paid off. Yes, RA can cause cervical spine (upper neck) inflammation, which can lead to migraine-type headaches. OK, good. So I wasn’t crazy. There was a connection. But what about a cure? What could be done about it? I was at the end of my rope, tired of losing so much time and energy each day, as I struggled to even think, much less do all I needed to at work and for my family.

Finally, I ran across a video from a clinic, which was effectively a testimonial from one of their patients who had contacted them when she was diagnosed with RA and was experiencing frequent migraines. “Aha!” I thought, eagerly anticipating the answers that would surely come from watching the little 5-minute film clip. And so it began…

I waited and listened as the patient explained her initial situation and how dramatically different her life was now, after just four months of treatment. “Yes? Ok…and what was it you or they did?” I wanted to know. And here it was:

“Well, the first thing I did was quit my job,” she said. “I really needed to get out of all that stress and rest!” Other than losing a relatively modest amount of weight during that time, that was it. The solution to her healthcare issues boiled down to one word: REST.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the position to just up and quit my job or take a four-month leave of absence. Sounds like a nice idea, but it’s probably not very realistic for most people. So, what are we to do then?

I find it interesting that in our culture, extreme “busyness” is considered to be quite admirable, even though it accounts for the frazzled state so many of us find ourselves in, to the point where there are best-selling books with titles such as “Little House on the Freeway,” “Making Room for Life,” and yes, even “I’m Not Superwoman,” for women trying to do too much. I have owned every single one of those books and I am grateful for their message, because in the past few years I've given myself permission to trade in a very vibrant and yet crazy-busy life for a quieter, simpler one. I have learned that in order for me to be healthy and happy, I must have rest. Yes, even if it means saying “no” to activities and people I really enjoy.

Not everyone has the same idea about what “rest” is. To extroverts, spending quiet time alone may not make them feel “rested” at all, but rather even more drained. To them, socializing is what their bodies and minds need. Introverts take the opposite approach and find solitude to be their answer. I fall somewhere in the middle. I love my “peeps” but I wouldn’t trade my solo time for anything in the world. It doesn’t just happen, though. For me to find rest, I must be intentional about it.

The Bible is clear: we all need rest. Sabbath, setting aside one day a week to stop working, was designed by God for our benefit. We can’t be expected to go, go, go all the time and still maintain any degree of physical or emotional health. Even ministers need to be careful to take heed to that commandment. I know of one church where the staff is kept so busy that it’s off-handedly been nicknamed “The Fellowship of Exhaustion!” The type-A’s love it… lots to do, all the time … but others have burned out and left because they just can’t handle the pace.

Besides physical rest, there is another type of rest that is just as important: spiritual rest. That is the kind of rest Jesus is talking about when He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” There may be times in our lives when we just can’t control how much we have to do. I was a single mom for eight years and was frequently at the point of physical exhaustion. My illnesses, such as RA and migraines, can take me there too. But when I add worry and fear, or strife, into the mix, it is too much. I become weary from the stress of not only trying to do it all, but of trying to be it all. I become burdened by my troubles, from trying to figure out answers when perhaps there are none.

Just as my body is not equipped to operate without adequate rest, so my spirit is not equipped to handle all of life’s challenges alone. I need God. I need to enter His rest. And the only way for me to do that is to lay my burdens at His feet and to leave them there, to trust that He will take care of me and my circumstances, and to work all things for good. For me, my greatest time of rest is when I spend time with the Lord. Whether it is at my kitchen table in the mornings before work, with my Bible open to His Word; worshipping with others at church; or out in a forest where I can wonder at His creation, I find my rest in Him. It is there that I find healing for all the pain in my body and in my soul. It is there, I find the rest that makes me whole.

What does “rest” look like to you? Are you getting enough of it? Are you resting in Him or trying to handle life on your own?

The Power of Rest originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins.  Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.

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