I know vacations are supposed to leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed, but there must be a different set of rules that apply when you have two or more children under five tagging along. While Esther, the kids and I did have a wonderful and adventure-filled camping trip at Lassen Park these past few days, I nevertheless find myself oddly fatigued today. Missed phone calls to return. Piled up emails to respond to. Meetings to attend. A house and office to clean. People that matter to me, with real and pressing needs in their lives that I know I should be re-connecting with. But I have a headache that feels like there’s a vice ratcheting closed around my temples, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve slept a few more hours last night, and my alone time with the Lord today wasn’t as long as I needed it to be, and—
The list could go on and on.
Do you know how I feel? There are just those days or weeks or months or seasons or years in our lives when everywhere we turn, everything we do, just seems overwhelming. Too many responsibilities. Too much on the ‘to do’ list. Too much pressure to perform. Too much to improve at, keep current with, master, pass on, live out. Too much! Where to start? Whenever I get like this, I have two choices: 1) I can take a deep breath and just start plowing my way through the eternal “to do” list without a second thought, or 2) I can make the time to get refilled. Way too often, we’re empty vessels still trying to pour something out. It’s time to get filled back up. How do we do that?
We stop ‘doing’ and we just ‘be.’ That’s how.
Which is very un-American if you think about it. We’re a very industrious people, for the most part. We value action, motion, progress, efficiency. “Just keep swimming!” is the cry and cheer and chant of the school of fish trying to escape the fisherman’s net in Finding Nemo. “Keep moving forward!” is the theme of another kid’s movie where a young scientist encounters problem after problem standing in the way of success. We’re not much different. We want to think and plan and keep working our way out of our problems, out of our weaknesses, out of our sin, out of our exhaustion, but in the end it’s like my solution at age four to the hole in our swimming pool- “Just cut the hole out!” All we succeed in doing is making a bigger hole, all we succeed in doing is churning up the mud of our lives as we plow forward, head down, dragging our burdens behind us even as we convince ourselves that motion = progress. Why don’t we stop? I think because we know if we stop, we’ll have to face all the accumulated stuff in our wake that has simply followed the leader. And we reason that it takes less energy to keep going than to stop and deal. But like the driver of the forklift I once watched frantically gunning the engine to get unstuck, we only sink deeper and deeper the more we gun it. Instead of fixing the problem, we make a bigger hole. The mud keeps rising higher and higher, and we just get ourselves more and more stuck—which means more to dig out of once we finally stop spinning our wheels.
So how do we get filled up?
We stop ‘doing’ and we just ‘be.’
How do we do that!? Well first, before we can get filled up, we’ve got to drain what’s in there now. It’s like changing the oil in a car; if you want it to run as it was intended, you’ve got to drain the sludgy black stuff before filling the tank up with the shiny new stuff. But you can’t change the oil in a car while it’s moving. So make a little time during your day and—
Step #1: ‘Be’ willing to let God carry your baggage – spit out what you can’t handle.
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalms 55:22)
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
God will let you struggle as long as you think you can handle your cares and your anxieties yourself. But if you humble yourself, stop churning forward and take some time to face and inventory what’s weighing you down in His presence (prayer), He’ll help you. He’s waiting for that admission of need, and the moment He hears it, He’ll carry the weight of your cares and concerns, as well as the outcomes, on His own shoulders. This leaves your shoulders—and your heart—free to be filled up with what God gives you in exchange: His power, transferred to your life, through His word.
Step #2: ‘Be’ willing to let God have the last word— Soak up what you can’t live without.
“The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Heb. 1:3a)
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jesus speaking in John 6:63)
Especially in Christian circles, knowing a lot about the Bible can feel like just another one of those burdens on the eternal “to do” list of life. While it’s always beneficial to know and claim the promises of God that apply to different situations we face, not knowing them or where to find them doesn’t mean there’s no hope of us receiving the supernatural strength and sustenance we need to make it through a day. That’s because the Bible isn’t just another book full of smart and wise facts that we need to learn and manipulate and regurgitate—It’s ‘living’ and ‘active’ (Hebrews 4:12)!—that means the living Holy Spirit of God waits to speak life into you through its pages no matter where you are emotionally or spiritually and no matter where you turn in its pages (2 Tim. 3:16).
Are you tired? Overwhelmed? Exhausted? Then please, for Jesus’ sake, stop what you’re doing and let God carry your baggage. Then, let Him speak LIFE into your heart through His word. Here’s a small sample of the 'shiny new stuff'; fill ‘er up!
“For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness. 30For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. 31This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
32"For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? 33This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. 34 He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. 35He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. 36You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great. 37You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip” (2 Samuel 22: 30-37)…