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Resting in Him
By MARGARET FEINBERG
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2008 Margaret Feinberg
All rights reserved.
The Stress Test
I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest."
Have you noticed all the time-savers available at your local grocery store? Prepackaged food promises to save you preparation and cooking time. Cleaning products claim that with a few quick squirts you'll never have to scrub again. When you approach the checkout, you can choose between the standard lane, the express lane, and the do-it-yourself lane—whichever is fastest for you!
One of the great ironies of the twenty-first century is that despite all the technological advances of time-saving devices, many people feel they're more time-crunched than ever before. For many, it feels like the pace of life has been steadily increasing—and with good reason. A recent study found that the average American now works a forty-six-hour workweek, and more than a third of those surveyed work more than fifty hours a week. That leaves less time to do chores, spend time with family and friends, and of course, rest.
At the same time, many people are feeling the effects of the time-crunch: stress. A recent survey on iVillage.com revealed that only half the people feel they are coping well with multitasking their lives—the other half are not. In fact, 47 percent—a majority of whom are women—said they are concerned with the level of stress in their lives.
Without much warning, the "To-Do List" of life can get pretty long—work, meetings, activities, family, carpooling, friends, exercise, shopping, chores—and can even seem overwhelming. Sometimes the stress in our lives manifests itself in our attitudes and responses to daily life. Just how stressed are you? Place a check mark by all the statements that describe you:
___ I regularly feel that I have too much to do in a given day.
___ I don't have time to get organized.
___ I tend to get irritated when I'm kept waiting.
___ I frequently give up sleep in order to get things done.
___ I find it's easier to do things myself than ask and train someone else to do them.
___ I have a tendency to set really high goals for myself.
If you checked more than two of the statements above, then you may have more stress in your life than you realized. No matter how overworked or overscheduled you've become, God desires to restore you. In fact, your level of exhaustion and need for rest will never match God's desire to give you rest. He longs to renew you! He invites you to step off the treadmill of life and find your rest in Him. This is the kind of rest that goes deeper than a good night's sleep or an afternoon at the spa; this is the rest that renews the innermost parts of your being and reminds you whose you are.
1. What are some of your favorite time-saving devices or best practices for saving time?
2. Have you ever purchased a time-saving device that actually took more time than it was worth? Describe.
Despite all the time-saving gadgets and practices in our modern world, many women feel more time-crunched than ever. The result of being overworked and overscheduled is often stress.
3. On a scale of one to ten, how much stress do you feel you have in your life right now? Can you identify some of the sources of the stress in your life?
During Jesus' life He undoubtedly felt pressure and stress. Wherever Jesus went, people wanted something from Him—a healing, a teaching, a moment with Him. In the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, we get a glimpse into Jesus' busy schedule.
4. Read Mark 1:21–34. In the space that follows make a list of all the things Jesus did in a very short amount of time.
After all that Jesus did, His physical body must have been exhausted. Despite all the immediate needs, Jesus did something specific to handle the stress and pressure.
5. Read Mark 1:35. Why do you think this one activity was so crucial to Jesus' life and the impact He had on others?
6. Why do you think finding solitary time to pray is important to your life and the impact you have on others?
7. How does taking the time to get away to pray change you?
8. How does taking time to get away and pray enable you to handle the stress and pressures of life better? Is there anything that prevents you from getting away to pray more often?
On several occasions throughout the Gospels Jesus retreated to a solitary place. Read Luke 4:42–43. Why do you think Jesus chose a solitary place? One of the results of His time in this place was that He was more confident of His purpose (v. 43). How does spending time with Jesus make you more confident of your purpose?
Ponder and Pray
The opening Scripture for this lesson comes from Psalm 55:6, "I said, 'Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest." Have you ever wanted to "fly away" from a situation because of stress or exhaustion? Where do you tend to go when your soul desires rest? Are there any unhealthy places you're tempted to go? What kinds of healthy places can you choose instead?
Over the course of the next week, pay attention to any moments in which you feel stress. What are the causes? Are there any common sources of the stress you feel? Are there any areas in which you need to cut back, say "no," or make lifestyle changes in order to lessen the amount of stress in your life?CHAPTER 2
The Benefits of Rest
To whom he said, "This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and, "This is the place of repose"—but they would not listen.
During the Gold Rush, everyone wanted to get to California. There were two notable wagon trains that made the journey west. One was led by a Christian who believed it was important to stop every week to worship God and rest. The other leader took a different approach. He believed that the quickest way to strike gold was to go hard and never rest.
Though both wagons departed on the same day, do you know which wagon train arrived in California first? The one who chose to rest on the Lord's Day.
The power and benefits of rest cannot be understated. Everyone needs time to relax and recuperate. When denied this natural rhythm in life, you are more tempted to turn to unhealthy alternatives—including caffeine and sugar—for the energy you need. In addition, lack of rest decreases your ability to concentrate and increases irritability. You're more likely to be snappy or cranky when you're not well rested. When you're sleep-deprived, you're more likely to make mistakes and misspeak. Without enough sleep, your reaction time is also decreased—making you more susceptible to accidents.
On the flip side, rest may do more for you than you think. Rest is recognized to boost your immune system. Rest enables your body to ward off illness and disease. Lots of healing takes place when you sleep as your body detoxifies and focuses its attention on cleansing and restoration. When you sleep, your body regenerates itself. You body repairs blood and brain cells and regenerates muscles and even your skin. A good night's rest can go farther than an expensive skin cream to renewing your face's healthy glow. Rest is also noted to make you smarter—or at least allow your intelligence to shine when you're taking a test.
Like the two leaders of the wagon train discovered, taking time to rest can actually lead to greater efficiency, productivity, and speed. The idea may seem counterintuitive, but rest can actually enable you to go farther and get more done.
Rest also does something powerful within our souls. When we stop, we are in a better position to allow God to move in our lives. Rest is a physical reminder that we are not in control of everything and, at the end of the day we are not the ones who have to hold it all together. That is God's job. Rest reminds us of our place, not just in life, but in Him.
Indeed, the benefits of rest are greater than we can possibly imagine.
1. Have you ever had an experience like the leader of the wagon train where rest actually helped you get more done? If so, describe.
2. To what unhealthy alternatives are you tempted to turn when you're not well rested?
3. What benefits do you notice in your own life when you're well rested?
One of the many things that rob you of rest is worry. When you worry, it's difficult—if not impossible—for you to enjoy the peace and rest that God has for you.
4. Read Matthew 6:25–32. What things should you not worry about according to this passage?
Though we are not to worry about these kinds of things, they are still a part of our lives. We still need sustenance and clothing and basic provisions in order to survive. Yet these are not to become the center of life, because if they do, they can rob us of rest and distract us from what's truly important.
5. Read Matthew 6:33–34. According to this passage what is truly important? How does worry rob you of the rest God wants to give you?
Often our attitudes affect our outlook on life. The way we look at life affects the way we live life.
6. Read Psalm 131. How would you describe the attitude of the psalmist in verse 1? How does this result in rest for the soul of the psalmist?
7. What choice does the psalmist make in Psalm 131:2 regarding rest?
8. What does it mean to you to "still and quiet" your soul? How does having a "still and quiet" soul help better prepare you for the challenges you face every day?
When we seek and obey God, we find rest for our souls. Read Isaiah 32:17. Why do you think the fruit of the righteous is peace? How does living righteously—obeying God's laws—lead to quietness and confidence? Is it possible to be at peace and truly rest when you're knowingly disobeying God? Why or why not?
Ponder and Pray
The opening Scripture for this lesson comes from Isaiah 28:12, "To whom he said, 'This is the resting place, let the weary rest'; and, 'This is the place of repose'—but they would not listen." At what points in life are you most tempted to turn down an opportunity to rest? Are there any correlations between the times you turn down an opportunity to rest and the times you need it most? What changes do you need to make to be able to enter the resting place God has for you?
Over the course of the next week, let yourself take a nap at least one afternoon. Even if you don't fall asleep, take at least fifteen to twenty minutes to close your eyes, pray, and relax. Share how the experience affected your interaction with someone else.CHAPTER 3
Know Your Season
He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
—Psalm 1:3, NKJV
What is your favorite season? Do you enjoy the new budding life and beauty of spring? Do you prefer the long, hot days of summer? Do you love the wonder of a crisp, colorful fall? Or do you prefer the cold, still days of winter?
Every season is distinct. Spring marks new life. Summer displays steady growth. Fall is the season of busy harvest. Winter is a time of retreat and rest before the cycle of seasons begins again. Depending on where you live, the seasons may be subtly or significantly different from each other. But have you ever taken time to think about the seasons in your own life? Sometimes the speed of your life is connected to the season in your life.
There are seasons of busyness before big projects are due. There are seasons of transition when a move is in progress. There are seasons of celebration when a marriage is performed, a new life is born, a milestone in life is achieved. There are seasons of rest when you take time to retreat, vacation, or get away.
Just as every season in our world has its own distinct beauty, every season in life does, too! Some seasons are naturally longer than others. You may be in a season of being single, a newlywed, a parent, grandparent, or even great-grandparent. You may be in a season of immediate deadlines or a slower season when you can catch your breath. Whether you're juggling a dozen balls or only one, it's important to not only recognize but celebrate the season you're in!
If you're in a spring season, you may be experiencing new life in your relationships, your workplace, or even your family. There's probably a sense of excitement and even a little uncertainty with all the new things "budding" in your life. Spring can be an incredibly enjoyable season, particularly after a long, hard winter.
If you're in a summer season, you're probably working hard and enjoying the life that comes with long days. If you look closely, you'll probably recognize healthy growth in your life. The heat may be a little (or a lot) uncomfortable, and on some days, you may be tempted to begin counting down the days until fall.
If you're in a fall season, you're probably enjoying the harvest of hard work. Things you have waited, hoped, and prayed for are finally happening. The fruit of your labor is sweet. Now that doesn't mean the work is over—in fact, you may be busier than ever—but there's a sense that all that you've been doing is being rewarded.
If you're in a winter season, you may feel a little disconnected without the sense of new life and productivity of the other seasons. Winters can be long and hard. But never doubt that God is doing things deep within you, and before you know it, spring will be right around the corner.
The truth is that in every season of life God does things within us that can't be done in any other season. Whether springing to a new career or stage in life, growing right where we are, enjoying the harvest of our work, or laying fallow, God is present and at work in our lives. No matter what season we're in, there's something to celebrate when it comes to what God is doing in us.
1. When you think about the seasons—spring, summer, fall, or winter—which is your favorite? Why?
2. When you think about the seasons in terms of your life—spring, summer, fall, or winter—which is your favorite? Least favorite? Why?
3. What season—spring, summer, fall, or winter—would you say you're in right now in your life? What do you like about this season? What do you dislike?
The book of Ecclesiastes reveals that there is a time and season for everything under heaven.
4. Read Ecclesiastes 3:1–8. In the following space, fill in each of the pairs listed in each verse. Then, circle the word you naturally prefer in each pair.
5. Why do you think you naturally prefer some seasons over others? Are there any seasons in which God cannot work or redeem?
6. How does recognizing the season you're in allow you to trust and rest in what God is doing in your life?
No matter what season you're in, God desires for you to find rest.
7. Read Exodus 34:21. Why do you think the verse says, "Even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest"?
8. What are the "seasons" in life when you're tempted to overwork and skip rest? Even in your busiest seasons, why is it important to make time to rest?
Since the beginning, God has established seasons for the earth. Read Genesis 8:22. Why do you think God designed nature to constantly be changing from season to season? What does this reveal about God's desire to do something new in you?
Ponder and Pray
The opening Scripture for this lesson comes from Psalm 1:3, "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper" (NKJV). At what moments in your life have you felt as if this verse described you? What does it personally mean for you to be "planted by rivers of water"? Why is this so important for yielding fruit in its season?
Now that you've taken an inventory of the season that you're in, go ahead and celebrate it. Look at the calendar: what physical season are you in? How can you make the most of it?
Go to the beach. Head out for a hike. Make jam or jelly. Plant flowers. Enjoy an afternoon of cocoa with a friend. Throw a harvest party. Then think about your spiritual season. How can you make the most of it, as well?
Spend an afternoon in prayer and worship. Take a Saturday to volunteer at a local organization. Plan a family outreach adventure. Support a new charity. Write an encouraging note to someone who needs it. Whatever season you're in, do something to celebrate it!
Excerpted from Resting in Him by MARGARET FEINBERG. Copyright © 2008 Margaret Feinberg. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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