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Finding Emotional Rest

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.

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Taking God out of the Equation

Lately there have been several situations that seem difficult… nigh on impossible. I look at them and I can’t imagine any plausible scenario where things could turn out well. And I realized, despite what I would profess, my heart attitude shows I’ve taken God out of the equation, yet again. I’m not being expectant–at least not of anything good.

Andrew Murray said:
“In your prayers, above everything else, beware of limiting God, not only through unbelief but also by thinking you know exactly what He can do. Learn to expect the unexpected, beyond all that you ask or think. So each time you intercede through prayer, first be quiet and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, how He delights in Christ His Son, and of your place in Him—then expect great things” (The Ministry of Intercession: A Plea for More Prayer, [New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1898], 210)

Beth Moore tells the story of how her aunt would always ask what Beth wanted for her birthday and one year she asked for an elephant to ride to school. Obviously, she didn’t get it, but her aunt delighted in that request.

Expect great things. Maybe God will give me an elephant. Or maybe He’ll give me something better. As I told a friend recently, if someone would have come to me three or four years ago and said, “You’re going to get auto-immune disease and it’s going to be hard, but really good,” I would have a) been terrified, b) blown off the “really good” part (how can anything like that be remotely good?!).

But is anything too hard for the LORD? I’m the one with the lack of knowledge and imagination—not God. These limitations have opened up vistas of possibility I never would have dreamed. So my “something better” might not look like it on the surface, but at the heart, it’s better than anything I could have come up with.

Put God back into the equation: pray and expect more than I can imagine, O my soul.

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The Pre-Work of Prayer

So I’m doing Kelly Minter’s Bible study on Nehemiah and it is kicking my butt! I’ve never really studied Nehemiah–well, I’m sure we did some kind of overview of the book in my Old Testament Survey class, but somehow whatever I learned dribbled out of my brain over the past few years. Anyway, his life is so encouraging and challenging.

If you’re not familiar with Nehemiah’s story, basically he was in a position of power/prestige (and most likely wealth) as the royal cupbearer to King Artaxerxes when he hears that Jerusalem is broken down. His countrymen’s plight breaks his heart and he cries out to God (Neh. 1). Artaxerxes asks Nehemiah why he looks depressed and Nehemiah asks permission to go rebuild the wall. This is a big deal because back in Ezra 4:8-23 the king forbids the building of the wall. Instead of demoting Nehemiah (or killing him), Artaxerxes gives him permission and lavishes building materials and letters of safe passage on him (Neh. 2). Nehemiah becomes governor of Judah for 12 years (Neh. 5:14) and rebuilds the wall amidst all kinds of persecution (Neh. 2:11-7:1).

One thing that struck me was how perfect God’s timing is: Nehemiah 1 says that Nehemiah heard about Jerusalem and began praying in the month of Kislev. However, it isn’t until the month of Nisan that Nehemiah talks to King Artaxerxes. That’s about four months later. Nehemiah prays for four months before the timing is right. What if he had just blundered into the situation instead? What if the king’s heart hadn’t been prepared to give Nehemiah far above what he’d asked for?

Last week we ended up reworking the Scripture Index four times. It was extremely frustrating and stressful to be so close and yet to keep re-doing work for various reasons… not to mention computer problems and the stress of knowing we were past our planned date for getting the proof. But, in the midst of all the teeth grinding, I was reminded that this is God’s book and His timing is perfect. What if I could somehow force publication apart from God’s timing? What if I missed something amazing because I was so eager to be done?

I want to do the pre-work of prayer and finish in God’s perfect time. Please pray for us during these last bits of finishing: Pray that God will take out anything that ought not to be in Tales. Pray that He’ll add in what He wants added. Pray that He’ll continue to provide the right people to give feedback and the eyes for them to spot needed changes. Pray for perseverance on my part, especially in the midst of increased health challenges. Pray that God will delay/speed publishing so that Tales is published in His perfect time. Pray that the right people will read Tales once it’s published and that God will use it to change hearts.