Rest (Psalm 91.1-6 (GNT))

Whoever goes to the Lord for safety,
whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty,
can say to him,
“You are my defender and protector.
You are my God; in you I trust.”
He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers
and from all deadly diseases.
He will cover you with his wings;
you will be safe in his care;
his faithfulness will protect and defend you.
You need not fear any dangers at night
or sudden attacks during the day
or the plagues that strike in the dark
or the evils that kill in daylight.

Psalm 91.1-6 (GNT)

If you have ever been on an extended vacation, whether on a cruise ship, hotel, mountain lodge, or the beach, there is a time when you relax. That moment when you sip a cup of coffee, look out into the blue ocean or at the mountain lake, take a deep breath, and for the first time, feel unhindered. Picture in your mind the place you last recall experiencing this level of peace. What ushered the sense of rest? The lack of family demands, work, or other commitments?

Why do we, as followers of Christ, struggle with a sense of rest? Mainly when the Word instructs us not to concern ourselves with the things of this life.[1] To not be anxious about anything,[2] cast our cares on the Lord, and He will sustain us despite the world’s demands.[3] Two significant reasons.

First is our horizontal focus, relationship, and interaction with people and the world. The small battles we face each day at work and with family. We experience the consistent struggle with the world’s chaos—the level of uncertainty, political and economic strife. It demands our time, attention, and participation. However, despite work and the world, Jesus reminds us that “life is not about an abundance of possessions,[4]” and the stark reality that this world is passing away.[5] As John Ortberg reminds us, as did the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, “It is all going back into the box.” [6] We cannot take anything or anyone with us.

Interestingly, we struggle to maintain the tangible. We surround ourselves with the things, activities, or accolades that, unfortunately, create the stress we seek to avoid. But we are still not at rest. Why? Because we fail to recognize that our most valuable possession is not tangible. It is time and how and with whom we spend it. Again, picture where you last experienced this level of peace. Wasn’t it the quality of time spent with people or time you spent alone with the Creator God?

The second, and arguably the most important, is our vertical focus. Our relationship with the Lord. Are we giving our lives to things destined to disappoint and disappear?[7] Where’s our heart? What does it worship? However, amid these daily struggles, we fail to realize that work, finances, and other things block our relationship with Him. Are these things blocking your connection? What, or who is the “center” of your life? Is it the Lord? He is the only one who can help us determine our lives’ content and the secret of contentment. What do we need? We need to sift things that cost valuable resources. We need to redeem the time. Redeeming the time necessitates redistribution and prioritization.

How? By learning to design margin in our lives.[8] Begin by change. Start simple and simplify. Prayerfully ask for wisdom to examine our horizontal relationships and our vertical relationships. Stop and take an honest personal inventory. Then analyze things, events, and desires through the lens of the Word. Are there weeds growing? Ask Him to show what they are and to give you the strength to change, adjust, and prioritize. Ask, and He will.[9] As you change, you downsize, synthesize, and prioritize. The result. Margin. More time to invest in your vertical and horizontal relationships matters.

Take the first step. There’s hope, not condemnation.[10] Pause, stop, contemplate, turn, and trust Him to show you where to change. Trust Him to strengthen your horizontal and vertical relationships through the expenditure of time. Will you trust Him? Can you afford not to? Stop, take a deep breath. Feel it? Turn around, and focus. Do you sense it? He is there.[11] Give it to Him. He can handle it.[12]
Take a deep breath. Now take another and slowly let it out. That was your first investment.

[1] Matthew 6:25-34

[2] Philippians 4:6-7 (See, also John 14:27; Luke 12:25; 1Peter 5:7; Proverbs 12:25)

[3] Psalms 55:22

[4] Luke 12:15

[5] 1 John 2:17

[6] John Ortberg, When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, Zondervan 2007

[7] Mark 8:36-37

[8] Richard A. Swenson, Margin, NavPress, 2004

[9] James 1:5-8 GW

[10] Psalm 34:22 (See, also 1 Corinthians 11:32; 1 John 3:21; Romans 8:1)

[11] For further reading. John Ortberg, When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, Zondervan 2007; Richard A. Swenson, Margin, NavPress, 2004.

[12] Matthew 11:30

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