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When Did You Last Stop for A Coffee Break?

A month and a half ago, I got a message from a friend who was newly married and in grad school. Life was busy, he told me, and asked how my husband and I managed our time when we were first married.

I gave him some sage having-been-married-for-three-years advice, which can be summarized as spend time with God and spend time with spouse. The truth was, I really wasn’t the best person to ask at the time. My husband was working full time and freelancing on the side, and we were smack dab in the middle of a trans-Pacific move.

Leading up to this decision, my husband and I had thought and prayed a lot about moving. Given our skills and passions, we felt that, not only would be good for our family to spend time in the area I had grown up in, but that there would also be unique gospel opportunities.

And so, for weeks I packed and cleaned, broke down in tears, watched my two-year-old toddler . . . and packed and cleaned some more. “Quiet time” with God was virtually non-existent. In the whirlwind of life, it was easy to forget why we were moving in the first place.

My husband and I got cranky at each other. I felt like I was doing more work than he was, and he thought the opposite. My toddler watched people come take away his bookshelves and furniture while his parents told him again and again, “I don’t have time to play right now.” No wonder he threw a few more tantrums than usual.

At one point, after exploding at the employees of a not-so-helpful network provider, we decided it was time for a coffee break. The toddler was at the grandparents’, and we escaped to a quiet corner of a coffee shop to re-connect.

As we talked over one by one the things that bothered or worried us, we realized that in the grand scheme of things, none of those things were that important. We could afford the small fee that came with not cancelling our internet properly. If we sold the car for less than we had hoped for, it still wouldn’t put much of a dent in our plans. If worst comes to worst, we could throw those extra bookshelves away instead of making the drive to the local second-hand store.

As my husband and I spent time processing our emotions together, we realized that God had already provided everything we needed. We had money in the bank (more than we had hoped for), we had a place to stay after the move (with family, rent-free), and we both had prospective jobs lined up (with people we really liked). Everything else was, ultimately, trivial.

We re-iterated the reasons we were making this move and the many instances of affirmation by trusted brothers and sisters in Christ. Both of us believed we were doing the right thing as a family. And if this move was for the sake of the family, it was silly to let the move get in the way of family.

After finishing our coffee, we prayed, asking God’s forgiveness for our negligence, thanking Him for His amazing providence, and asking Him for guidance as we moved forward.

It felt good to be on the same page again. My husband recognized and affirmed the work I was doing, and I did the same about the sacrifices he was making for us. We promised to hold each other accountable in terms of Bible-reading and prayer. And we decided that we would both consciously make time for undistracted play with our child, even if that time had to be shorter than one would like.

 

Setting aside time for God, people and coffee

Our coffee break didn’t necessarily accomplish anything on our “to-do list.” But it was so necessary and so good for us. Just like I told our newly-wed friend, even in the midst of life’s chaos, we need to make time for God, and make time for our spouses.

Ephesians 5:21 tells us to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It’s hard to submit when we are so caught up in our own ideas of what needs to get done that we don’t spend time with the other person. Making time even in the middle of a hectic schedule is sometimes a form of sacrifice, but one that often comes with its own reward.

The Bible also says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:4-5).

I had been stressed over the move and all the things I thought we needed to get done. Not all of them had a monetary value, but most of them were things the world expected us to accomplish. But God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Honoring our marriage took faith in that busy time. We had to trust that God would take care of us even if we didn’t finish everything on our to-do list, even if we made some drastic mistake or forgot something of utmost importance. We had to trust that God knew our human limitations, and that He would look out for us even as we took an hour here or two hours there to reconnect with our spouse, to serve each another, to see to our child’s emotional needs.

In the end, by God’s indescribable grace, we made the move. We’re still not entirely sure how everything worked out so well, except that God blessed us with incredible friends and families. And that He pushed us to take a blessed coffee break when we most needed it.

 

Are You Burnt Out, Bored, and Barely Rested?

When I began working full-time earlier this year, I struggled with the long hours and intense work. Having been a student pretty much all my life, adjusting to the transition of #adulting was—and still is—painful.

As a TV journalist working 12-hour shifts and weekends, I can go days without seeing my family; having any semblance of a social life is a privilege.

I constantly felt burnt out and exhausted from both work and having to interact with so many people on a daily basis. So all I wanted to do on my days off was to hide in my room and shun all human contact. I craved me-time—just me, my ice-cream, and Downton Abbey, that is.

Yet I felt guilty for neglecting those around me. So I would arrange meet-ups with friends and family, filling the remaining blanks in my calendar with more outings, gatherings, and dates.

When it came to resting, I tended to veer to extremes: either trying to squeeze in as many appointments with my family, boyfriend, or friends as possible; or not doing anything at all and binge watching Downton Abbey for the entire day.

But whether I spent my day off shut up in my room alone, or out and about with loved ones, I’d feel just as tired by the end of the day as I would have been if I had worked that day. It was as if the more “rest” I had, the more unrested and restless I felt.

I soon discovered that my perpetual state of exhaustion and feeling that I didn’t have even enough time came because I was “feeding” my fatigue the wrong way (by spending time on my Facebook or Instagram feed).

I wasn’t feeding myself with real rest—the kind of rest lavished upon us from the Shepherd of our souls, who alone gives true peace and abiding rest (John 14:27).

Over the last couple of months of trying to reconcile work and rest, I’ve learned two lessons on taking a break from our fast-paced lifestyles.

 

1. We were created and commanded to rest

Rest is a repeated refrain throughout Scripture, where we see God singling out getting enough rest as a command. From the very beginning in Genesis 2:2-3, rest was prioritized, as reflected in how God created for six days before taking a break—not because He needed it, but to set the standard for humankind to follow.

In the Ten Commandments, God commanded resting on Sabbath as a requirement of the Law: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).

 

2. Jesus alone is our rest

But lest we think this refers to mere physical rest, in Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus beckons: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Our ultimate rest is found in Christ alone, in whom we can cast our anxieties and burdens onto because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Unlike in the Old Testament where the Jewish Sabbath was strictly ordained and observed, we have Jesus, who is our Sabbath rest, and in whom we enjoy rest—not just once a week, but always.

We find complete rest in Jesus—anytime, anywhere (Exodus 33:14).

 

This begs the question: What does it mean to rest in Jesus?

The simple answer is to abide in him.

 Abiding in Jesus means being intentional about how we spend our free time (Ephesians 5:15-17). It means choosing to spend time with Jesus, and not wasting away our time on worthless and trivial pursuits (Psalm 101:3, 119:37).

Abiding in Jesus means dwelling, soaking, and lingering in His presence—be it as we turn to Him in prayer, meditate upon His word, or as we worship Him in song and praise (Psalm 27:4; John 15:1-7; Philippians 4:8).

For a while I struggled with feeling guilty about wanting, even needing, to watch the latest episode of Modern Family or Conan’s latest escapades in Israel. While there’s nothing inherently wrong or evil about watching our favorite show or surfing our favorite website, we must be careful that it doesn’t overshadow our time with God.

A good way of knowing whether this has happened is to ask ourselves: Do I desire to spend my time doing or watching this rather than spending time with God?

In his book, Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World, Teaching Director of Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka, Ajith Fernando, describes those who swap activity for their identity in this way:

“they become restless souls, afraid to stop or slow down their frantic pace and busy activity. They work without taking a break because they sense that stopping will force them to confront the emptiness of their hearts. To avoid this, when they do stop to take a break, they enter an imaginary world offered by TV or some other pastime. These experiences, though they can be good when experienced in moderation, are never a substitute for silence in the presence of God.”

If this describes you—as it did for me—it may be time to take a step back and do the following. Pray for your heart, asking the Lord to give you the desire to spend time with Him, and delight in Him as you do. If it helps, find a quiet place where you can spend with Him without distractions. Open your Bible and dive in. Meditate and journal about what the Lord speaks to you about.

These days, when I feel burned out, bored, or barely rested, I put away my laptop and phone, and pray. I put on my favorite worship playlist. I read His word, sometimes along with quiet time material. Other times, I read literature that points me to Christ. I ponder, and talk to and thank God over what I’ve learned.

I’ve found that an afternoon spent this way gives me more deep soul rest than an entire day skimming superficial entertainment. And interestingly enough, my desire for saturating myself in social media has decreased to the point that I actually feel bored when I do.

It may sound hard and almost counter-intuitive to read the Bible rather than binge watch BuzzFeed, but let’s not give up striving to enter into His rest. And when we do, we’ll find that Jesus indeed refreshes and satisfies our souls in a way no one and nothing else can (Jeremiah 31:25).

5 Ways to Get Real Rest

God created work, and it was meant to be good. But we often get so caught up with what we are doing that we race from one task to the next, forgetting how God had also instituted rest (Genesis 2:2-3).

When I do not get proper rest, I lose my ability to do my work properly. When I was in college, I used to spend days and weeks trying to keep up with school work (never mind the chores around the apartment!), and ended up wearing myself thin and paying the price emotionally as well as physically.

But how can we get proper rest when there is always another chore to attend to? Here are a few ways I’ve learned my own life:

  1. Attend to your physical needs.

Are you eating well? Are you exercising? Are you getting enough sleep? I don’t know about you, but I am often tempted to subsist on five hours of sleep and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I get busy. Of course, this diet only makes it harder to concentrate when I’m awake, and I get moodier and moodier until finally I have to put work on hold and deal with the emotional fallout.

Paul admonishes us in 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Getting quality rest is the first step in taking care of my body, and it’s a way to honor God in my life.

 

  1. Look at the big picture.

Take a step back and evaluate what you’re doing. Why are you doing it? What’s the larger picture? Are you fussing over the small details and missing the big picture? Back in college, I often found myself stressing over a test or an assignment, only to realize later that it was worth only 3 percent of the final grade.

Not really worth losing sleep over, is it? As one professor said during my freshman year, after graduation, no one will remember how many Bs or Cs I got in my classes. This does not mean that I should not aim to do well, but in striving for the best, I must not let the little details overwhelm me. A lot of things we may deem important now will be long forgotten in time.

 

  1. Take a break.

Stop what you are currently doing and pause for a little while, so that you can come back refreshed. And be wise in how you rest. Sometimes, it’s not sleep that you need, nor is it an afternoon scrolling through Facebook.

Instead, what you might need is a nice dinner, a jog, or an afternoon with a good book. Do something refreshing, something that can revive you. Even taking a minute or two at work to brew yourself a nice cup of tea can make a difference.

 

  1. Make what you’re doing more fun.

A messy apartment stresses me, but I also dislike cleaning. Since cleaning can’t be avoided, I blast music while cleaning with roommates. At the end of the cleaning spree, I might be physically tired, but I’ll be emotionally refreshed, because not only would I now have a clean apartment, but I would also have enjoyed listening to music and spending time with friends.

Ultimately, God cares more about the attitude we bring to our tasks than the results. Try different ways of bringing joy into your work.

 

  1. Surrender it to God.

Jesus said, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The work in this world will never be completed, and we will not find rest by trying to accomplish it all. God knows our worries and our fears, and He’s already accounted for them in His plans. Pray, pray, and pray again if you are stressed.

During one particularly difficult semester in college, I was up at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. every morning, reading the Bible, praying, and journaling. This was not because I had any great spiritual aspirations, but because that was the only way I could muster enough strength to get through another day. I had no choice but to rely utterly on God, the God who promised to let me lie down in green pastures, to lead me beside still waters, and to refresh my soul (Psalm 23:1-2). I clung to that.

God cares about you. He cares about you far more than He cares about the state of your apartment, your grades in school, or how well you did that work assignment. When the worries of this world weigh you down, remind yourself Who is in control, and how much He loves you. Rest in Him.

ODB: Solitude and Service

February 18, 2016 

READ: Luke 9:1-2,10-17 

He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

Luke 9:11

 

Comedian Fred Allen said, “A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well-known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.” Fame often brings loss of privacy along with a relentless frenzy of attention.

When Jesus began His public ministry of teaching and healing, He was catapulted into the public eye and thronged by people seeking help. Crowds followed Him wherever He went. But Jesus knew that having regular time alone with God was essential to maintaining strength and perspective.

After Jesus’ twelve disciples returned from their successful mission “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick,” He took them to a quiet place to rest (Luke 9:2,10). Soon, however, crowds of people found them and Jesus welcomed them. He “spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing” (v. 11). Instead of sending them away to find food, the Lord provided an outdoor picnic for 5,000! (vv. 12-17).

Jesus was not immune to the pressure of curious and hurting people, but He maintained the balance of public service and private solitude by taking time for rest and for prayer alone with His Father (Luke 5:16).

May we follow our Lord’s example as we serve others in His name.

— David McCasland

Dear Father, as Jesus Your Son and our Savior honored You in solitude and service to others, may we follow His example in our lives.


Turning down the volume of life allows you to listen to God.