So in my post on mental rest, I actually addressed worry, which is both emotional and mental. Emotional rest covers a wide variety of issues–just ask yourself if you ever feel like you experience an emotion that’s taking a lot of energy and you can find areas you need God’s rest in. I had a day a couple of weeks ago where I felt really energized and cheerful for most of the day, which is VERY unusual for me (I usually run out of spoons by about 10 a.m. :)). I was pondering why I felt so great and suddenly realized that I wasn’t in any pain (also really unusual). It really re-reminded me how draining/exhausting pain is.
Emotional stressors are like that. We carry around bitterness and shame, etc. without realizing what a toll it’s taking on us. I think one of the saddest things to see is someone who’s been lugging around the same emotional baggage for years and years. I don’t know about you, but I want to figure out what my baggage is and unpack it so I won’t be carrying the same junk 10 years from now. There are much better things to spend my time and energy on than baggage.
I’ve kicked around writing on shame or bitterness, despite having already written copious amounts on them in my book, but I keep losing my drafts so maybe God’s trying to tell me something. The emotional rest I’ve found in Christ is so amazing–more than I ever hoped for. By the time I reached college I had many, many pounds of baggage, and I just expected that I would have to manage life with it. And then God started working a miracle. I still have plenty of issues to work through, but I’m not carrying the acres of junk I started out with.
I think the first place I had to come to was understanding who God is. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth” (NIV). It was only once I stopped pretending my baggage wasn’t there, or trying to blame it on other people, or downplay the sheer amount of it, that I made progress. It was in just sitting with it before the Lord and admitting I couldn’t do anything to change the amount I had… in finally admitting I wasn’t God, that I was able to know God was God. And then the more time I spent in His presence and reading His Word, the more I came to know four crucial things about Him. And those four things ripped up all the excuses I had used to explain my baggage.
1) God is holy. There is no darkness in Him at all. And He can’t tolerate any darkness. Sitting in His holiness opened my eyes to the depth of my own sin… it forced me to take responsibility for my issues–to realize that I had developed sinful survival skills. Even though they saved me at the time, to continue in them is sin. And sitting in His holiness showed me that He is incapable of working evil in my life, which really helped with my trust issues (at least as far as God is concerned).
2) God loves me, and you. In the cross we see the embodiment of that love (Romans 5:8). Jesus died for me. Just sit with that for a moment. Re-read Matthew 26-28 if you’re a little fuzzy on the actual events. Jesus suffered and died. Yes, He did it to satisfy God’s holiness. Yes, He did it because God will judge sin. But, more than that, He did it for you. Hebrews 12:3 says that He did it for the joy set before Him. How much love would it take for you to die a horrible death for someone and consider it a joy because you were rescuing them from the hatred they had for you?
3) Because God loves me, He always wants what is best for me. I love how Lewis talks about God’s love: that it is a terrible love, relentlessly working to make the beloved more lovely, even when the beloved would prefer to remain as they are. Sometimes the things God has allowed in my life have quite frankly sucked. But then I see what He’s done with them and I wouldn’t trade them for anything–it’s like the transition from a lump of dirty coal to a valuable diamond. You don’t have to like the coal, but you can’t get the diamond without it.
4) God is God and I am not. I have no right to play God in anyone else’s life. I have no right to play God in my own life. I can’t judge or punish someone else, even just by refusing to forgive them. I can’t judge or punish myself. I am fundamentally incapable of distinguishing between truth and lies apart from God. My only safety lies in running back to Him (which I am willing to do because of #1 & #2).
Whenever I feel myself falling into worry or bitterness towards someone or resentment over situations or shame, I try to run back to God’s character and take refuge there, to be still and know that He is God. He will be exalted among all people. He will be exalted in the earth.